The second race of the German Endurance Championship proved that moving up into the 3-litre category for this year´s season was the right move. Ulli Andree and Stephan Herter brought the Volvo S60 home in second place - which was just what the team had anticipated prior to the start of the season when team principal Danny Berk had hoped to break into the top three on a regular basis.
Volvo´s long-time lead driver Ulli Andree expected before the start of the season that the going in the new class could be tough. "This year the SP5 category is a lot more competitive than our original SP4 class. At the second race, we even had former Audi factory driver Frank Jelinsiki amongst the starters, just like former F1-testdriver Marcel Lasée. We always knew that we will be in a disadvantage because we only use a 2.65-litre engine, which means we cannot reach the limit of the three-litre displacement limit as defined in our class with our 5-cylinder - thus we are lacking some 70 bhp at least compared to the top engines. But we deliberatly accepted that because the competition in the SP5 class is very hard and we wanted to prove ourselves there, since we won every important race in the 2.5 litre class in the last years and needed a new challenge."
At the second round of the season, the five-cylinder car from Gothenburg established itself firmly as a frontrunner in the higher division. Ulli Andree qualified the Volvo for second on the grid. Stephan Herter drove the starting stint but got pushed from behind in the first corner. "I reckon a Porsche hit me on the corner of my car and pushed me into a massive drift," says Herter. „I lost a couple of places due to this."
Michael and Ralf Schumacher´s stepbrother Sebastian Stahl, Ivano Guiliani - both on BMW M3s - and former Jordan F1 test driver Marcel Lasée in a torbo powered Seat Léon led from Herter. But since Lasée/Kenneth Heyer had to enter the pits twice before the Volvo came in for its mandatory stopp, Herter gained one position. After 12 laps, he handed the Volvo over to Andree while driving in third place even though a Porsche managed to get by but dropped back soon again.
"I only took fresh front tyres and rejoined. Then, Stahl had to retire and I earned second place. But the leading BMW of Guiliani/Willi Obermann was already too far in the lead. Even though I was quicker by more than 10 secondes per lap than Obermann, I couldn't make any inrods and had to make do with second place."
It didn´t matter any more that Andree suffered a left-rear tyre failure three laps from the end and had to come in for a second stopp. Second place was safe anyway - and first well out of reach. "The puncture had nothing to do with the tyre construction of our partner Dunlop," stressed team principal Danny Berk. "Quite a few accidents had happened; the track was littered with debris. Ulli must have run over a piece of garbage. We discovered a big hole right in the middle of the tyre."
Plenty of yellow flag zones which had their origins in the multiple incidents also played their part in costing the Volvo a possible class win. "I'm still struggeling in adapting to front-wheel drive," admits Herter. "I often brake too late and turn in with too high an entry speed, which results in me losing the momentum throughout the turns. Although I felt a lot more at home in the car than last time out, the various yellow flag zones always disrupted my rhythm and I found it hard to re-establish the flow in my driving style."
Team principal Berk added: „Herter has shown that he has got the speed that´s needed but we need to work hard on his consistency. We constantly analyse the data and he's taking everything in that we're telling him but it's quite natural that this takes some time. He has shown clear signs of improvement and I'm confident we can get him there. All in all, we had a flawless race and achieved our goal, which was to establish us as a frontrunner in the new category. We are looking forward to the following races and hope to be in with a shot of winning again. Especially since we didn´t yet use a new compound which Dunlop had on offer. We tried that in practice but found the temperature of the tyre grew too high on the inside with that. We could have worked with the camber and gotten rid of that but we didn´t have the time for doing so - so in return, there´s still an ace up our sleeves for the next rounds."