GRID WALK [1/2]
The camera starts rolling, and the clear blue skies above Germany are revealed, panning quickly down to our journalist. He’s young, a bit inexperienced, and just here to look at cool cars. He looks American, and definitely has the accent to match when he opens his mouth, beginning to speak through the microphone clipped to the collar of his shirt.
“We’re rolling? Good. Sound all clear? Nice, let’s start over here.”
They start walking through the paddock of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the day after practice and a few hours before the start of the legendary endurance race through the Green Hell.
“I’m Artie Packerman, thanks for joining us for our annual gridwalk of the VLN 24 Hours Nürburgring, where we look at some of the more interesting entries here at this incredible circuit. We’ve got a huge variety of cars here today, but before we get into some of the cars that look like winners, let’s go have some fun over by the scrutineering garage. We’ve been hearing rumblings all day about some pretty big names getting knocked out, so let’s get right to it.”
THE BINS [SCRUTINEERING GARAGES]
The cameras start rolling again, and Artie is standing in front of a rather dirty looking Hirochi Exatima TC1. The hood is open, and multiple crew members and marshals are looking at the engine bay.
“A cult classic here among fans, you’ve got to remember this thing tearing up British circuits in the 90’s. It isn’t running one of the more famous liveries that I remember from videos I’ve seen, but that’s not the main problem. This car dumped a ton of oil all over the track yesterday about halfway through practice. Apparently this had something to do with a rod bearing and the oil pan gasket, but they thought they got that fixed. If you want to annoy the marshals here though, you do it by dumping oil on their circuit, so they’re going over the car with a fine tooth comb today, and it sounds like they found a sizeable crack in the engine block. So yeah, I’d say we won’t be seeing this one take the track today.”
(Engine reliability far below 50, stressed engine internals, bin. More could have been done with the livery, but the visual design of the car itself is actually quite nice.)
The next car that Artie moves over to is a Pfiel Vogtland Breitbau on all four jacks, mechanics trying to work frantically on the car. Again, marshals are there. Artie grimaces a bit as the camera turns back to him.
“I know, one of the cooler entries here, a bit of a shed build with a nice livery, fabricated on that famous rear engined formula that has worked so well at the ‘Ring before. But even if they were running pretty squarely in the middle of H4, none of that matters if you can’t keep oil in the turbochargers… And uh, from the look of the puddle underneath the rear of that car they’re trying to get cleaned up, I don’t think we’ll see them out there. Shame, really.”
(Engine reliability below 50, bin. Neat overall and well executed. Livery could have used a few more realistic components like a proper windshield banner. One of the fastest cars off the line in the H4 category. I don’t know if German television would allow you to run some of those decals though, heh.)
This time, the garage for the Vernon Talisman VTR looks almost empty, with the crew members packing up parts and moving around an incredibly torn up chassis. They all looked ready to head home, and move on to the next race. The entire front right of the car looked to be missing, as well as a good chunk of the rear.
“If you weren’t with us yesterday for practice, then you missed the Vernon that’s currently behind me hit the wall hard at Tiergarten. All looked well as it was coming down the Döttinger Höhe, and then as it compressed at the bottom of the hill after the crest, something in the suspension gave way and shot the car right. The driver of the car is still in the local medical center, stable, but they’re saying he did actually suffer a broken rib. They were running a higher downforce setup than a lot of the cars here, and you just have to wonder if the suspension just had enough of being thrown over curbs with that much force pushing down on it. So despite having a beautiful livery, we’re definitely not going to get to see this machine hunting down a win today.”
(You went to emulate my favorite car, there’s so many little details that I love, the car in the picture you posted would’ve gone to the end of this challenge as a strong contender had you submitted that version. But in a challenge where I specifically said that lap times aren’t important, you slapped 18 canards on the front of the car, and duplicated the rear wing about a dozen times. I stopped counting after 8. So well done, you had the fastest car in SPX. But you have 0 trim reliability, so it’s a bin.)
The camera next pans over to a very detailed and very anime Tengai Fuji G8. There are marshals currently examining the front bumper of the car, as well as a few of them looking under the engine bay.
“Now, a few of you here may know that a little over a decade ago, this car was doing very well over on the other side of the world in the Japanese racing scene. Well, this isn’t actually that car, it’s a replica, but it still tries to pull the same tricks. One of the things that Suisei was investigated for in that 2008 season was the use of some pretty impressive winglets just in front of the radiator. It’s like what Ferrari has used in some of their supercars in previous years. The winglets get pushed around by the airflow at speed, and actually suck up closer to the radiator, helping reduce its effective area, which means less drag at top speed. However, when teams caught on, they tried to get the car banned. Most of the way through the season, they allowed the car to keep running and banned the element for next season. Here though, in Germany, I don’t think they’re going to be as nice. Some teams noticed the flaps in a TV camera as the car was coming down the Döttinger Höhe, and… He’s shaking his head isn’t he? Oh no. Wow, that’s heartbreaking for the team. Their tribute to their success in 2008 isn’t going to be allowed to run under the active aero rules.”
(Yeah, this one is pretty sad to have to do, I thought about even letting it slide, but cooling flaps are pretty clearly under the active aero section, bin. I really do like the design on the car, what you managed to do with just a few basic shapes is incredible to say the least. I hope I was able to at least give you some cool lore out of this.)
Artie is back out walking under the sun again, now in front of the main paddock building, moving between the crews in the pitlane.
“Now that we’re out of the scrutineering bay, let’s take a look at some of the entries that actually have made it to a grid spot today.”
THE GOOD 8 [MAIN GRID]
The camera pans over the rather sleek looking long nosed body of the Alba Project GT Mark 2, the driver standing near the hood talking to a few fans.
“Now, this is one of the more interesting ones. It’s a team and a manufacturer not too familiar with SPX as a category, and I think everyone on the grid agrees with me when I say it shows. The livery on it doesn’t really match the energy of the rest of the cars here, I’m not grabbed by it, and it has some frankly weird design decisions, mostly with that shark fin that has been painted up to look like the rear window glass. The tires are thin as well, looking around at every other car here in these higher classes, and the tires are just puny on the front of this car, as well as on the rear. But, the car did some nice long stints in practice, which hints at a pretty gingerly fuel consumption. It’s fairly fast down the straights, but it does suffer a lot through the corners. I don’t know. Maybe they’ll be able to work out something in the race with this thing.”
(I’ve already seen you talking on the Discord, you know what you could’ve improved on in the looks department. Your safety car concept looked a lot more focused and detailed. Overall though, it’s a good look for a first go at this kind of car. You did a very good job with the engine, it’s reasonably powerful while also being efficient. The gear spacing is long for a race car, which is a trend for a lot of these entries. Reliability is above the threshold, but not great on average. 240’s up front and 275’s at the back are WAY too small for this class of racing. You should’ve been pushing the size limit with this class.)
Further down the grid, the camera finds the 90’s curves of the Yorvik T-57. The mechanics seem to be doing a few checks under the hood, checking mixture, vibrations, and other things that could doom their race.
“Oh yes, now here’s a car with a story. I looked up that they found this chassis over in Bologna. It never ran that well in GT1, mostly due to the engine, but that should be sorted with some modern metallurgic magic. However, uh… Camera, follow me for a second, do you see that? That can’t be right. Uh… Well, looks like they’re going for a… Positive camber setup for this race. We’ll see how that works for them. Also, one of the marshals is going to come over here and tell them they’re missing something that they surely have. Their numbers are missing! Do you think they have one of those autocross magnetic numbers that we have in the States? Maybe they just fell off somewhere, heh.”
(It’s a good concept, using the Lister body style for a GT1 car, but its potential isn’t maximized here. On a design side, the fixtures look a bit slapped on, especially on the front and rear where it really looks like you took the “Speed holes make the car faster!” approach. The livery isn’t bad, but it’s fairly sloppy, especially in the rear where triangles are just kind of going any way they feel like. REALLY should have a number. GT1 stickers on the car are nice, but they probably wouldn’t be left on the car for VLN. As far as the car’s internals are concerned, you should’ve asked someone on the forums or the Discord to help you do a suspension setup, because positive camber, the top of the wheel pointing out of the wheel well, just doesn’t happen anymore. The engine and reliability are below average, but I like how you incorporated it into your lore.)
They walk past quite a few fanboys wearing Porsche clothing on their way to the next car, and the camera struggles to focus through the crowd on the next car, a Porsche 935 in its Group 5 trim.
“Hoh boy, you knew this one was going to get a lot of eyes, didn’t you? And I agree, it’s an interesting part of motorsports history, but something looks weird to me about this particular model. I don’t know if it’s the livery, or some of the parts, but it looks like the car had to be repaired front and rear, the headlights and taillights look glued on. I don’t know. Definitely not one of the best looking cars of the field even if it is a famous model. I was talking to one of the drivers earlier today, and they were telling me that this thing is going to be a handful over the course of the race. Apparently it’s still using the four speed manual gearbox from way back in its original run in Group 5. I’ll tell you what, if rain comes over the course of this race, I would NOT want to be in this thing.”
(Yeah, the unfortunate thing is that I’ve seen multiple people attempt a Moby Dick Porsche 935, and some have managed to pull it off far better than this entry. I don’t really like the colors, or the rims, or some of the fixture choices. There’s details missing that would really benefit the design, and the headlights and taillights are just monolithic, made of only a few fixtures that make the design seem lazy. There’s a lot of clipping issues as well at door and bumper seams. I don’t know if you ran out of time, or you ran out of willpower to continue trying to detail the car, but it just comes across as halfway finished. As for the actual engineering, you really pushed it close on reliability, and you have the worst fuel economy of the grid. One of very few entries with zero driveability. As harsh as I sound right now, I do really like that someone went for this concept. The execution just isn’t there though.)
Artie moves over towards a grey car with turquoise accents, nodding lightly. The Celestial BSR-10 was a pure modern race car, at least on the surface. There were a few other journalists by the machine, snapping pictures from various angles.
“Alright, so we get to our first SP9 entry, which of course is the category for any car homologated into FIA GT3 racing. Now, Celestial received a lot of flak when they announced this car, mainly because they were dropping that glorious roar of a V12 for a more efficient power plant in the shape of a twin-turbo V8. They’re here to try and show why they made the right decision. I have to say, I like the colors going on. It’s a bit basic, but I do like the Union Jack on the roof. Even as an American I can respect that. It’s sleek but… As I walk around the car, it does look pretty awkward from the side. The rims are massive, as are the actual height of the tires. I wonder if they’re doing that to appeal to the clout crowd. The drivers like the car though. It may not be as on edge as the other cars through the corners, but it looks planted and calm. It’s a good car to actually finish the race in.”
(Okay, this is a weird one for a few reasons. Firstly, because Borisu currently can’t post his front grill to the workshop, which is why I used his picture, and also because the wheelbase looks very short and awkward, even though it matches the Vantage’s wheelbase in real life. I think it comes down to how the body was molded, with the over exaggerated fender flares, and how tall the body in Automation is. The front bumper should also be pushed much further forwards. It just looks proportionally incorrect for the car it’s supposed to be influenced by. I discovered another factor that probably plays into this is the rim and wheel size. 21 inch rims on a GT3 car are nearing donk sizes. Pair those rims with 725mm diameter tires, and the look is pretty goofy. Plus, having larger brakes on the rear is just adding weight. I know you can do this to try and balance the weight towards the center of the car, but the brakes are too important to the unsprung weight of the car to do this for. It’s a good concept, I like the Vantage, nothing else with the car is really wrong besides my previous points. But as with a lot of these cars in this first gridwalk, it could’ve been done better.)
They can spot the next car a bit further down, past a ProStation display. The Delta Tantra X had roadster looks and race car performance. It’s currently jacked up by one of the crew members, fitting new tires to the car.
“If I called this thing a Radical entry, I don’t think I’d be too far off. It’s very exciting to see someone take this concept to the ring. We’ve seen KTM do it, but this takes that to the extreme going into the SPX category. The livery is good, but I think they got paid maybe a bit too much by SCH, given they have not one, but two of their very large stickers on the front of the car. Now this is another car that I’ve actually spoken to the driver on, and the poor guy looked like he had just escaped from a fight with an octopus. The car is all over the place, he said. And when you do get it under control, the brakes don’t give you the confidence you need for a downforce car like this. Hopefully they’ve made the right setup changes to the car overnight to actually remedy that.”
(Alright, I like the roadster aesthetic. It’s a chop-top Lotus body with a lot of good choices in the design, but still doesn’t pull it all off. There’s a lot of clipping, especially near the wheel wells, and the front of the car head on just looks like an extremely angry goldfish. Moving to the back, the skeleton frame look to the open rear is kind of cool, but pretty overdone and doesn’t look remotely functional. The double shark fin concept would work much better if you had lined up the posts of the rear wing with them. The engineering of the car, while less important, is pretty much a complete mess. Everything is just a bit weird. A 60 degree V8 with twin turbos that doesn’t use all of its octane, a first muffler resonator instead of putting the resonator on the second muffler, long gear spacing, and a completely untouched suspension setup that wasn’t even changed from baseline, giving it tons of oversteer. The biggest engineering problem though, has to be the brakes. Carbon ceramic, which is completely reasonable, but with default pads. This gives a rather light car a surprising sportiness brake fade rating of 6.8%, by far the most of the competition. The looks are a 6 out of 10. The engineering is a 2.)
There’s a bunch of commotion up ahead as people try to get close to the next car, people with various things held up for autographs. The camera eventually gets a good angle of the GMW 460 Hayek Spezial, and its team principal flooded by fans.
“So that’s really… Thomas Hayek. Wow, it’s really cool to see him here in person. I remember watching some of his “Art of the Ring” videos on VHS a while back, just watching him throw his car around this very circuit. I’m not really that surprised to see him swamped by fans. The car he’s brought with him today is fairly average for such a talented driver though, but I have heard of how it got here, and that it has a Super 2000 engine sitting low in the engine bay. I think he’s just here to get his son up to speed on the ‘Ring, maybe move on to a bigger and better series after that, who knows. I do really like the look of the orange and black on the car, as well as some of the serious aerodynamic modifications on an old car. The engineers in their garage were telling me the other day that Mike was complaining of some body flex when coming through some of the sharper corners, which makes me think that chassis may have been sitting in their garage a bit too long. Anyways, they got the welders out and fixed whatever the problem was.”
(Oh man, I really do like some of the smaller details with this car. The thing that bumped this car up a few spots had to be when I noticed the metallic decal used as a heat shield above the exhaust. I’m definitely going to have to steal that idea for some of my builds. What holds the design back though is that at the end of the day, it’s a modified E30/E36 BMW with a minimalist livery. There’s plenty of those in VLN, and compared to the ideas from this point on, this car just can’t quite compete. There’s a few things with the way fixtures line up that make me hesitant to push this car any higher. Trust me though, this car is on the sharper end of the field. Competition is tight past this point. I do like the story about the car and the driver and it explains a lot of the design decisions. Having negative body quality is slightly worrying, especially since that plays heavily into trim reliability for not much gain. The gearing is pretty reasonable, as is the suspension setup.)
The next car on the grid was barely visible until they got around the GMW. The diminutive Dabtushi Fodia '20 1.3 Turbo was one of the few entries in SP3T. A few of the mechanics for the team were amusing the crowd by demonstrating how easy it was to pick the small car up by lifting from the front wheel wells.
“I do love these little things. If I were in Japan, I’d probably be looking for one of these as a sports car. Small enough to toss around and hug the tight roads, but enough power to still have fun with. It’s nice to see they prepared a VLN entry. It looked pretty fast in practice, even competing with some of the GT4 entries over in SP10. It’s absolutely on edge everywhere though, a lot like the Tantra and the 935 from earlier. You want a small chihuahua of an underdog to root for this race, you definitely want to watch this machine.”
(I really don’t have too much to say on this car. It’s a solid entry, even if the livery is just a few stripes. I really like the feel that the design has, and all the engineering is pretty reasonable, except for the gears again being spaced out a bit too much. It makes more sense with this car because of the small power plant, at least. The turbo curve is pretty harsh, but pushing 350 HP from a 1.3L Boxer 4 is really impressive. It cuts reliability pretty tight though. The suspension setup seems pretty brutal on the driver, and reduces your drivability to a big fat zero. The one thing besides just polishing details that I would say about the car, is that the rear is overdesigned. There’s too much going on with different angles and directions, and nothing much is gained.)
The crew heads over to the next car in the line up, an entry into the growing H4 category, the Morton Gambol TA. The three drivers are all standing by the hood, just chatting about the car and their experiences on the ‘Ring.
“Right, so, this machine as far as I understand it, competed in Trans Am in the late 80’s. The livery is definitely appropriate for Trans Am, but here, surrounded by VLN cars… I dunno. It doesn’t really fit in. I do really like the looks of it, you have to appreciate that chiseled look to it. It’s that right amount of muscular design while still looking refined. Huh, if we come down here again though, I think you’ll pick this up… Yeah, looks like the same thing as the Yorvik from earlier. Maybe not positive camber, but they’re really not running that much of an aggressive setup on this car. A bit surprising considering the setups we’ve seen on Trans Am cars in the past. They really didn’t look that pacey in practice the other day, and the drivers were all talking to various news outlets saying they don’t really know why they’re that off the pace. It does look like a good car to drive though, plenty efficient and light on tires. I think we’ll be watching this thing do some pretty aggressive long stints when the race gets underway.”
(Very solid entry, I was struggling to look through and decide which car would have to take this last slot before the halfway split in the gridwalk. It mostly comes down to how the car isn’t really that well themed for the VLN, it just has racing stickers on it. There’s a lot with this car that is very nice visually, a lot of the edges and corners are handled really well, there’s some really good shaping going on with lips, and I love the way you integrated the diffuser. It works really well with the rest of the back end. The engine and the body are reliable, the only thing really holding you back is the meager suspension setup. At the very least, you could run more than 0 camber on the rear. I had to double check your car when I saw this, to make sure you weren’t running a solid rear axle. There’s so much good I have to say with this car aside from that, which should give you some indication of just how strong the final 13 are going to be.)
Artie looks up at the sun and then at the rest of the grid, wiping some sweat from his forehead.
“Man, it is… Not comfortable out here. Let’s cut for a bit, find a drink to cool down with or something, huh? Then we’ll look at some more cars on the grid. We still have a bit before they start.”
The camera cuts as the crew goes to relax for a little bit.