BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Jari-Matti Latvala is keen for more circuit racing experience after driving a Focus RS in the Nurburgring 24-hour race last weekend.
Latvala, who claimed his third WRC victory in New Zealand the previous weekend, guested in a Ford Focus RS, prepared by Team FH Köln Motorsport. The team, which was supported by Ford, comprised students from Cologne University of Applied Science who entered and prepared the car.
Early on, Latvala and team-mates Anja Wassertheurer, Daniela Schmid and Stefan Schlesack, looked set to challenge for the class victory too, until an engine change dropped them out of contention. They eventually finished 117th from the 197 starters.
"It was a great experience to race in front of 220,000 fans," said Latvala, who completed 29 laps in total. "The atmosphere around the track was fantastic, the car worked extremely well and the whole team did an outstanding job. I drove at dusk on Saturday and at dawn on Sunday, but not during the night. That's why I cannot consider myself a true 24-hour race driver yet. There is still a task to be fulfilled.
"After four hours, before we changed the engine, we were in 72nd position and set the fastest lap in our class so it was a shame we had a problem."
Manager Jan Derenbach meanwhile was encouraged by the team's performance: "After the engine's belt drive was damaged by some debris picked up on the track, we had to change the engine during the night. Our mechanics did an outstanding job, completing the task in just three-and-a- half hours. But obviously this forced break sent us a long way down the overall standings. Before and after that our Ford Focus RS ran like clockwork. Looking at our lap times we could have finished at the very front of our class."
Ford's Dirk Densing, the team's chief engineer, praised the efforts of the students, who transformed the Focus RS from road to race car in just six weeks. The team has already claimed two class victories and a third place in three rounds of the Nürburgring Endurance Championship this season.
"You have to remind yourself constantly that the team FH Köln Motorsport powered by Ford consists of students," he added. "I cannot rate highly enough the quality of these young people's work, which was truly professional. It became obvious once more that a 24-hour race is a completely different ball game compared to the regular season events."