Porsche Panorama Magazine – Norisring

Courtesy of Panorama Magazine – July 2013

Street course circuits. A mini playground made of concrete walls, catch fences, and tire barriers. One of my favorite aspects being the locals coming out to enjoy a weekend of motorsport entertainment, and having the chance as a driver to meet these locals is an even greater experience.

We’ve now arrived at Nuremberg, Germany for round five of the Porsche Carrera Cup and I was feeling right at home. “You should feel like you are in the USA, Connor. You come from the mecca of this street course racing madness!” said my engineer with his slightly funny accent during our Thursday trackwalk. Coming into this weekend I was very excited because with street course events, there is zero testing beforehand. You have to show up for the weekend, get the car in a competitive window and drive the absolute wheels off the thing. After walking the track for few laps, I began to develop some ideas I wanted to try in practice and the track was surprisingly smooth for a street course. As we began our walk back to our hotel, my teammate Robert asked me if I had any key advice for him since I’ve experienced several different types of street courses. And my answer that I replied with you may ask? It was quite simple actually. “The concrete wall always wins.”

Friday morning had arrived and it was finally time to get on track. The team and I had our usual 9am breakfast at the Porsche hospitality area, and then we wondered our way back to the trailer to go over the game plan for our one and only practice session. Bedding in brake pads was our first objective for the session due to the circuit being particularly hard on brake components, and then it was hammer down so I could gain as much experience as possible. Unfortunately, we only managed to check off one of the two boxes. Just as I finished lap number 4, we had a gearbox failure and our session had come to a premature end. Sometimes in motorsport you have tough luck like this, even when everyone is giving 110% effort. Its moments like these where our true team character is tested, but also our true raw ability and self-confidence as a racing driver.

An early morning sunrise with a swift 2-mile walk from the hotel to the circuit and now it was time to qualify. The crew worked hard all night to repair the gearbox and now it was all up to me to get us through Q1 and fight for the pole in Q2. “That lap just put you P8 Connor, great job. Pit this lap.” In the first 15-minute session I was very happy with my performance by making it into the top-15 and advancing to the second part of qualifying. The team put on our last set of new tires and sent me out for the final 10-minute shootout for our race 2 starting position. On lap 3, I went a little too far over the limit on the exit of the hairpin and slightly tapped the wall with my right rear tire. With our rear-toe now knocked out of alignment, the next few laps were a bit of a struggle. By the end of the session, 12th position was the best I could manage with the damaged car. Normally after a mistake like that I would be angry with myself, but I was actually somewhat satisfied that I continued to show aggression and push the limits. But once again, my statement holds true. The concrete wall does in fact always win.

Blistering heat, a closed cockpit and essentially zero air ventilation. This was my first event where the races were truly some of the most physically and mentally draining experiences I’ve had in my career. I knew that all of the training away from the circuit would definitely come into play and the chance of someone making a late race mistake would be far more likely. As we lined up in my grid box before race 1, my Porsche Junior coach opened my door and gave me some last second advice. “Take the outside in turn 1. Every year there is only one or two cars that go outside and you will be able to make up some positions. Now go have fun!” The red lights went out and I managed to have a really great start. Right away I passed two cars in the first corner and in the following laps I passed another two. By middle of the race I was up to 8th position, where I went on to finish in race 1 and race 2.

So after a rough start to the weekend, we managed some great points and finishes for our Roboscan machine. The team was happy, but we know if we can manage to have a clean weekend without any hiccups there are far better finishes to come. Saying that is one thing and executing it is another. Only time will tell. —Connor De Phillippi 

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