Scottish racing driver Peter Dumbreck has, in recent years been synonymous with Porsche. He races for Falken Motorsport and has driven Porsche race cars for Falken for the past two year’s. This year, Falken Motorsport has expanded its presence, running a BMW M6 GT3 alongside the latest Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Dumbreck will move into the BMW for the first time as the team attempt to improve upon the 3rd place they achieved in 2013. The BMW is well placed as Dumbreck is somewhat of a Nürburgring expert having recently smashed the production car record in the NIO EP9. Peter shared a few thoughts on the challenges that the team faces going into the legendary 24 hour race!
What are the key differences between the BMW and Porsche?
With it being rear engine, the Porsche is a very physical car to drive and it tends to move around quite bit. It’s also quite a short car as well compared to the M6, so I find it’s got a good bit of grunt through the corners. The M6 has a greater amount of downforce through the medium to sharp corners so you can carry more speed through those faster turns, whereas in the Porsche you may brake and go down a gear. In some places in the M6, you don’t even brake you just lift in sixth gear! So the M6 is stronger in the the medium and fast corners but the Porsche fights back in the tighter sections. Falken has set this up as a battle and I genuinely think it will be.
How has progress been in testing this year?
With two cars, we’ve had to have a different approach for each. The Porsche is a continuation from the end of last year and as we are better acquainted with it, it’s been a natural progression from last year. At this year’s VLN it came out of the blocks and was fighting for victory straight away. So from that side the Porsche is doing very well. The BMW is a new car to us and we are all still learning, both drivers and tyre engineers.
At Portimão, where we shook down the cars, and at the first VLN race the conditions were pretty wet, so we had no dry running at all really. You get a pretty good sense of where you are after 20 laps of wet running. The first two VLN races are a good test to fix where you want to go on setup and tyres and our engineers really value that track time ahead of the Nürburgring 24 Hours.
The one unknown, which is the same in every form of motorsport, is the BOP [Balance of Performance], I’d say the dreaded BOP. Only at the 24-hour race will you really see what the pace is like and how all the manufacturers are performing.
What is the BMW like to drive? Which do you prefer?
I think it is too early to say which I prefer. I have spent a lot of time driving the Porsche and I got my best result in the 24-hour race in the Porsche in 2015. It’s always going to be a car that is close to my heart. But I requested to drive the M6 this year. I just felt that I wanted a change and to try something different.
They are both good cars and fast in their own right on different parts of the track. It is a case of which is quicker overall around the track and we’ll know that fully during the event. I enjoyed my first race in the M6, although it didn’t end too well! I just got unlucky as someone before me smashed their car into the wall. I saw the oil flag in the distance but I was already in the oil and slid into the barriers. However, the positives to take out of that up until then were that we were pushing for a top five and the pace was good. At the Nürburgring, you always have to have your wits about you and sense what is coming. That sharpened me up a bit hopefully.
How do tyres compare between the cars? Is the Porsche harder on tyres, for example?
As the engine is in the back of the Porsche there is higher tyre wear on the rear axle and you feel that on the Grand Prix circuit with a bit more oversteer. All in all there isn’t a massive difference, but I suppose one of the big differences is in the tyres themselves. We are using the rear tyres from the Porsche and putting them on all four corners of the BMW. That shows how good the tyre is to perform on both cars. The front tyres on the Porsche are smaller and is probably one of the reasons as to why we can go faster around the corners with the M6.
So, is the objective to win?
It goes without saying that we would love to go out and win the race and from Falken’s point of view it has doubled its chances. It doesn’t matter which car wins. It has good crews in both cars. Personally, of course I want to win. The first target has to be taking a podium. Actually, to be honest, the first target for me is putting in good times, doing a good job, staying out of trouble and watching us gradually move to the front! The end result is the end result, as long as I have done a good job then what will be will be. I’ve been in this sport long enough to know that a certain amount of luck is involved so I keep my feet on the ground and just do my job.
What’s your favourite part of the track and why?
I’d say from Adenau to the Karussell is my favourite part of the circuit. That is the big climb where you are basically sitting flat out up the hill. You have a curve, which is just a slight lift. It’s a gear down and brake in the Porsche, but in the M6 it’s flat out! You go through it at 220km per hour and is quite an eye-opener!
How do you stay alert during the night?
At the most we do double stints in the car, so that’s around two and a half hours. Time wise, we can’t do triple stints at the N24. The 24-hour race at Le Mans is different; the drive time is longer with only three drivers so it’s a different type of race. There are also a lot fewer cars at Le Mans so the mental capacity to pick the right time to pass at the Nürburgring takes a huge amount of cognitive function, all the while trying not to lose any lap time.
There will also be stints in the car when a code 60 or two code 60s are in place, so you have to be aware of what is going on at all times. At Le Mans, a code 60 means a safety car where you can chill out. You can’t do that at the N24. You don’t back up like you would at Le Mans, you only back up on the section of the track where the code 60 is. It is just a very different race and more mentally exhausting so we only ever do two stints, and during the night it is more likely if the weather is changeable.
The main way in which I stay alert is resting in between and the rest takes care of itself. I basically break it down to six races as there will be an order of which drivers are racing when. Of course, that can change and it does change but I prepare myself by thinking of it as six mini races. That is how I get through the 24 hours.
Is there a particular time in the race when you most like being in the car?
For me, the best time is as the sun comes up. If you are the one getting into the car at 4.30am, you know you are going to be seeing daylight at the end of your stint. But because you are constantly watching it is such a gradual thing, a little bit more and a little bit more. That is the best feeling when you can see the darkness turning into light.