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Nuerburgring, Germany -- The new Volvo S60 2.4 has set the fastest time of it´s class during first timed practice prior to the prestigious Nuerburgring 24 hour race on Friday midday. German Ulli Andree tackled the 25-plus kilometre long track, a combination of the old "Nordschleife" and the modern Grand Prix circuit of the Nuerburgring, in 10.27,904 minutes.

Andree´s time, which meant an average speed of 148.764 kph, made the brand new car top the time sheets of the class "A4" for Touring Cars with an engine capacity of 2.5 litres for the first time since the German team of Bernhard Muehlner has entered the Volvo in a race. Muehlner had only started development work on the car as late as January and has worked in close cooperation with both Volvo Cars Germany and the British Prodrive team which has developed a race version of the Volvo S60 2.0 for the European Touring Car Championship. Even though the ETCC car and it´s sister outfit for the Nuerburgring differ in terms of aerodynamics, gearbox and engine, there are certain areas in which Muehlner and Prodrive could exchange knowledge and parts. The car has so far contested two rounds of the German Longtrack Championship which is held exclusively on the long Nuerburgring. It finished third in the first race but retired in it´s second outing.

Prior to the 24 hour race, the world´s biggest motorsports event with a massive grid of 210 entered cars and about 195,000 spectators, Muehlner had developed a sharper version of the 2.4 litre five cylinder engine. It´s latest specification delievers 255 bhp - and has enabled the Volvo S60 to be faster than the BMW M3 which have been the dominant force in the "A4" category on the Nuerburgring so far. "I don´t need to push the revs up to 8200 rpm as I used to do with the other engine", stated Andree. "Thanks to the new engine, I can already change gears at 7500 rpm." His team mate Andy Middendorf, who has driven Volvo cars on the Nuerburgring ever since the very first project with the Volvo 850 T5 back in 1985, noted during his only timed lap: "The new engine requires a totally different driving style. If you enter the turns slightly too fast, you´ll immediately get a huge understeer. But once you´ve gotten used to working with the new engine, you can feel an enormous step forward."

Andree´s time was no less than 9.9 seconds faster than that of the best BMW in the class, turning the Volvo S60 into a clear favourite of a maiden class win in Germany´s most prestigious race that will be started on Saturday at 14 hrs. "We have to take a close look at the reliability of the car", warns team principal Bernhard Muehlner. "It is very hard to make a brand new car go the full 24 hours on the hardest race track in the world without problems. We have shown that we have the speed to be right up there, which makes me feel proud. But given the shortage of time and testing, we could only estimate the full loads that some parts will have to carry over the racing distance of 3,500 to 4,000 kms. There is always a certain risk remaining, especially on a track as long and tough as the Nuerburgring."

Ulli Andree and Andy Middendorf share the Volvo S60 with Heinz-Josef Bermes, who tops the all-time record books with an unmatched eleven class victories over the last 24 hour races, and former German Karting Champion Joerg Seidel who has raced in the same Karting club as the Schumacher brothers have.

The second timed session will take place on Friday night between 19 hrs and 23 hrs. Lap times are believed to be slightly quicker but the Muehlner Volvo team wants to concentrate only on adjusting the car´s lighting system rather putting too much stress on the car by trying to go faster than during the lunchtime session.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Nuerburgring, Germany -- The new Volvo S60 had to retire nine hours into it´s maiden 24 hour race on the Nuerburgring in Germany. An engine failure forced the Muehlner team, that had started development work on the new car not until January 2002, to withdraw the car from Europe´s biggest car race. Until the silver car had to stopp, it showed an impressive potential - and entertained the 151.000 fans around the old Nordschleife and the stylish Grand Prix circuit with fast lap times and the typical aggressive sound of it´s five cylinder engine and the quickshifting sequential gearbox .

Ulli Andree had set the fastest time of it´s class in Friday afternoon´s first timed session. While Andree and his team mates Andy Middendorf, Heinz-Josef Bermes and Joerg Seidel focussed on preparing the car for the race distance, the BMW-team that had so far dominated the class tried in anger to claim pole in the second session on Friday night. With only 70 minutes of night practice remaining, the BMW squad bumped the Volvo S60 off it´s provisional pole.

Middendorf thus started the race from second place - but could never keep up with the pace of the BMW. "The engine felt a bit chewy as early as I entered the Nordschleife for the first time", he noted. "It just wouldn´t rev up as aggressively as it used to do in practice." A cable had come lose and effectively shut down one of the five cylinders. Middendorf came to the pits after two laps. The team replaced the entire wiring and sent the car back out after only little more than one lap. But some twenty minutes later, the Volvo´s power steering collapsed. Middendorf had to come in for a second time. The Muehlner crew not only replaced the leaking tube but also brought the first refuelling and driver change forward, putting Ulli Andree in the car.

The fastest driver of the four managed the same lap times as the class leaders but was already three laps down. He pulled out a few flying laps until the power steering gave up the ghost for a second time. "A barrel full of building bricks couldn´t be harder to handle than any car with a faulty power steering on the Nordschleife", sighed Andree who had to come in for another unscheduled stop. Once again, the mechanics replaced the leaking tube. Team principal Bernhard Muehlner believes the engine vibrations to be the cause of all three problems. "Each type of engine vibrates in it´s own unique way", he reckons. "We probably have to change the engine mounting to make sure the vibrations don´t affect the wiring or any othe tubes around the engine. That´s one of the problems we couldn´t address in advance because we were running so very late with the entire program".

Fitted with a new and strengthened tube, the Volvo S60 then managed two trouble free stints. Joerg Seidel pulled out four very impressive laps, matching the qualifying time set by Andree. "I didn´t even have to push the car to it´s maximum to achieve that", Seidel said. "This only underlines how big a potential this Volvo really has." Before coming in for the scheduled driver change, Seidel pulled out the fastest lap of the race so far. It should never be topped...

Middendorf took over, drove into the darkness and brought the car back into the top eight of it´s category. Heinz-Josef Bermes then tried to make up for more lost ground. But the man who tops the race´s all-time record books with eleven class wins could not finish his night stint. While approaching the famous "Quiddelbacher Hoehe", the engine suddenly let go. "There was no prior warning, not even the slightest indication that something could go wrong", Bermes recalls. "The engines just went when I was trying to shift up a gear." A conrod had broken.

Even though the team was disappointed not to make it to the finish on Sunday lunchtime, the Volvo S60 left a remarkable impression in it´s first ever 24 hour race. "We knew how hard it is to make a new car last the distance", Muehler said. "Of course we had hoped for more after our fine performance in qualifying. But to be honest, this race was always really meant to be the preparation run for a full assault in 2003." Andree added: "We have made an impressive step forward since the first two shorter races with our new Volvo. We have proven that we´ve got what it takes in terms of speed - now it´s just a matter of achieving the reliability. But I strongly believe in the theory that it´s always easier to make a fast car reliable than the other way round. We should be right up there in the following races of the German Longtrack Championship and of course in next year´s 24 hour race."
 

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Power steering in a racecar? But why?

As for the engine, it is apparent that they ought to have "jumped on the bandwagon" earlier on (like maybe a year prior to tackling the Nuerburgring circuit) and had had a chance to perform more exhaustive testing overall on the car, they may have had a better chance at keeping the car from falling apart. As for the connecting rods, I would have assumed from the start that all reciprocating engine components would have been cryogenically tempered so as to avoid such catastrophes, as has been proven time after time in the world of top-fuel drag racing.

Oh well, maybe next year they'll kick some ass and come out on top in their class. Hopefully between now and then all the bugs can be worked out. Maybe instead of having power steering, they could hook the drivers up with a personal trainer to get their arms all buffed up to help fight against the laws of physics through the turns.

...and maybe, just maybe, one day I'll make it over to Deutschland and the famous Nuerburgring circuit and witness or take part in some high-speed shenanigans.

-he who stacks pork
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm kicking myself for not going out of my way last year when I was in Germany to go by the track and do the ole pay by the lap method of racing. I hear it's quite an experience.
 
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