Women and an 24 hour off-road race go together as much as high heels and the Sahara desert. Thinking (n). I wanted to prove the opposite and went to the German Offroad Masters, GORM for short, with the lovely Autodiva Nicole in Jänschwalde at the weekend. Even the signs have already been translated into Polish and, a little further on, your own cell phone only speaks Polish to you. In short: we were in the deep east. When we arrived, our rented A-Class literally whistled from the last hole and so did we. With more than 35 degrees of heat and defective air conditioning, no wonder. We were well prepared for the GORM adventure because there was only heat, dust, sweat and dirt.
Welcome to the offroad scene.
We were already expected by Michael R. Podlogar, TV motor journalist who has already worked for n-tv Motor and n24 Motormotion and was the only one to drive 2x in the World Rally Raid Championship, his Suzuki Jimny in bright green and the rest of the team. The 24 hour race was to take place directly at a decommissioned airport on a 8 kilometer long rally track. 45 teams, including off-road greats like Ellen Lohr, the only female winner in the DTM race 1992, lined up to try and become off-road King or Queen. Heavy off-road vehicles, buggies, ATVs, side-by-sides or quads with up to 500 PS have started this time and tormented themselves at high speed through the forest and deep sand. Under this load, the track became more difficult, the holes deeper and the tree roots dangerous obstacles. The highest concentration and precise driving was the order of the day. A true martyrdom for tires, rims and shock absorbers. For the first time, all drivers and co-pilots were checked in advance by a doctor for safety reasons.
We started with our little green Suzuki Jimny 1,5 DDIS, which was supposed to be a miracle in the race. His standard 86 PS was pimped up on brisk 130 PS, which now squeezes a whopping 320 Newton meter of torque onto the wheels, which had been fitted with special off-road tires from Maxxis. The special chassis from FOX Racingshocks is perfect for uneven terrain. Additional headlights from Hella Xenon provided the necessary safety even in complete darkness. Since 2007, the little runabout is used in off-road rallies and even won 2009 together with actor Ralf Bauer the coveted GORM trophy in Schwerin.
I was allowed to get behind the wheel shortly before dawn because the crucial hours of the spectacular off-road adventure would take place in the night. As a night blind chicken I could only play as a passenger. Fortunately, I had Marcus at my side during my trip. He knew what he was talking about at the sign of his instructor at Mercedes-Benz Offroad and gave me valuable tips during our journey on how to drive the car and man safely through the rough terrain in one piece. My previous off-road experience has already benefited me, even if I haven't raced yet. Nevertheless, I took the deep sections of sand quite confidently and we made good progress. “In the beginning you steered too much and this caused you to stumble something that almost hit us against a tree. But gradually you have implemented my tips well. You also had a good view of the nature of the floor. I would definitely go with you again, ”Marcus told me. Well, that's a word. I didn't go at breakneck speeds, because under such circumstances it would have been foolish to overestimate your own abilities. Since it has already knocked over many ATW or Quad in the curve.
Unfortunately I had to cancel my tour prematurely when it got dark, after all I wanted to bring our 'Jimboy' back in one piece. Nicole was allowed to run after me. Unfortunately, the material no longer played along. Due to the increasingly difficult slope, the front axle suddenly broke on the passenger side. The race was apparently over for us, and the little green runabout was dragged onto our pitch under the sympathetic eyes of all the teams. The grief was written on everyone's face, the Suzuki Jimny had never been so badly affected.
Michael about this moment: “When we took part in the 24h for the fifth time, the motto was: 'Drive carefully and take no risks'. Because as everyone knows: 'If you want to finish first - first you have to finish'. But honestly, with this top-class and powerful starter field, we only had outsider chances with little Jimny. The route in Jänschwalde is particularly suitable for vehicles with large wheels. After a good 3 hours, the 8 km circuit was extremely extended. Deep holes and ruts are difficult to bear for the little Suzuki. Since the axis was broken, the race was actually over for me. It can happen. Anyone who drives off-road races knows that something can break on the vehicle. ”
All of a sudden, a Czech colleague emerged from the neighboring camp and examined the damage. "I'll fix it for you" came out of his mouth in broken German. "I love Suzuki Jimny, I heal." Suddenly, some 10 Czechs, including work tools and welders, arrived at our camp and joined forces. They had everything fixed within an hour and we could start our hunt again. Since they had to retire due to overheating due to an engine failure, they cheered on our green runabout with a loud roar every round. That's real camaraderie and neighborhood help.
We were all speechless with gratitude and joy. Even Michael, who, as an Austrian, has real waterfalls, was amazed: “I've never seen a repair like this. It was absolutely amazing. "
“It was fascinating to see how the different teams simply held together and helped each other. In such races, it is not necessarily the case that you support each other and do repair work for the supposed rival. Of course, our suspension could have been a little better tuned, but the axle has always been our little problem child, ”said Marcus, always called McGyver by Michael, who was just repairing the cooler with kneaded metal for another team. So we were back in the race and even won new fans and friends. It couldn't have gone better for us. Now it was time to make up for it.
The heat of the day had subsided, and so did the dust, which made it difficult to see. Despite the better visibility, the route became increasingly impassable and we feared further damage. After 9 rounds with drill instructor Marcus, we left the next rounds to Nico and his wife, also members of our team. I put myself down (attention, wordplay;)) in one of the tents to sleep at least a little. Unfortunately, this was made a bit more difficult by roaring engines and generators, but I was still reasonably fit when it should continue at dawn. It stayed with 'Should' for the time being, because suddenly the Panhard rod was torn out, a trailing arm was broken just like a frame arm that holds the car body. Another participant had carelessly crashed in while the Suzuki Jimny got stuck in a curve in the deep sand. Gone stupid. So we no longer had a chance to catch up with the race, let alone the 60% driving time that you have to have in an 24 hour race.
The constant stress, the struggle with the route and the fear of further damage and of course the knowledge that the time could never catch up had clouded the mood in the camp accordingly. Out of anger, the Czechs had already smashed the windows of their vehicle before they left early. Fortunately, they were just as good at repairing, because after straightening the steering axle we could at least do a few nice laps and take great photos.
In our class near-series cars (T2) Hartmut Möbus and Oliver Schwanke won with Mitsubishi Pajero DiD. In the T1 class, Ellen Lohr, together with her teammates Ingo Kaldarasch, Stefan Schneider and Markus Paas, took overall victory in their Polaris XP ASS. Michael Hinz, Michael Dziambor, Eike Hennies and Mario Giebel came second in the prototypes in their Mercedes 290GD Turbo. In the rookie class, which only drives 12 hours, the MBC Racing Team with Christopher Thaler and Maik Schlacht won with a Mercedes G36. Vehicles started by 43 only 24 made it to the end and thus to the finish.
Even if we didn't manage to go through the 24 hour race, we had a great time together that proved that miracles were happening and that two girls in a supposedly male domain also learned a lot and much more Can have fun. With or without high heels.
Here are a few impressions:
Photos: Simone Amores / Robert W. Kranz
Nicole also shared her impressions: I think I've got a bike off!