There are no complaints about boredom from the Porsche Juniors these days – in fact it’s the other way round. Even outside the cockpits of the nine-elevens, they have their hands full. From the circuit in the Eifel region it was straight to Cologne where a special media training awaits Klaus Bachler and Michael Christensen on Monday morning. Under the tuition of Burkhard Bechtel – the circuit commentator, TV moderator and director of the www.racecam.de, a website that is dedicated to the Carrera Cup – the Austrian and the Dane will undergo a comprehensive programme.
And the first lesson started during the race weekend on the Nuerburgring. On Friday afternoon the two 21-year-olds had the opportunity to peek over the shoulder of TV professionals in the broadcasting van – and they were very impressed. “I saw all this for the very first time and I am only now just beginning to understand everything that goes on behind the scenes,” said Bachler. “If you watch a race on TV you’ve got no idea how many people are involved in the process of making it happen. More than anything, the high-tech is awesome. But in the truck I had to take care not to trip over all the cables.” Christensen agreed, “This was all totally new for me. It was a cool experience to see the technology. I was especially impressed by the teamwork. There is constant communication between everyone involved and they are really focussed. The director has to have eyes in the back of his head. It’s somehow strange, you’ve got all these incredibly professional people working all around you, but you hardly notice them in the paddock.”
The visit to the broadcasting van taught the pair a little lesson in life as race drivers. “Now I’ve got an idea about how they make such TV programmes,” says Bachler, “and that you’ve got to sometimes act a little in order to give the TV professionals something to work with.”
And that’s just what the Porsche Juniors did for the TV crew on the circuit during qualifying: Konrad Motorsport’s Michael Christensen was third fastest on his first fresh set of tyres. But when the experienced drivers topped the times with their second sets of rubber the young Dane had no answer and had to settle for the fifth grid spot for Saturday’s race and sixth for the Sunday grid. Deutsche Post by tolimit pilot Bachler was happy with his qualifying performance. “From places seven and eight I should be able to bring home some points if I get away cleanly at the start. And I am quite pleased because I was able to improve from free practice.”
At the Nuerburgring the juniors had cope without their regular coach Sascha Maassen who contested a round of the ALMS in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. But Bachler and Christen were delighted with the replacement: one of the world’s best sports car drivers, former Porsche Junior Timo Bernhard. “He truly knows what it means to be a Porsche Junior,” said Christensen. “He can put himself in our shoes. Sascha is really great as a coach. Still, it is interesting to get the opinion of somebody who sees us from a different angle.”
Timo Bernhard was also pleased. “It’s just great fun and a very interesting task to support the boys,” said the Porsche works pilot who is the only driver ever to achieve the “motor sport Grand Slam” by winning the four most important 24 hour races in the world. “It is simply great to be able to pass on the experience to them. It’s so rewarding, there’s so much to share. To be a junior in the competitive field of the Carrera Cup and hold your own against seasoned race drivers is not easy! You want to perform but you want to learn at the same time.”
During the Nuerburgring weekend, both were able to show that they are on a steep learning curve. While the Dane grabbed the better part on Saturday and celebrated a fantastic fifth place, on Sunday the Austrian drove a sensational race which started with a bad surprise. After the formation lap Bachler came straight into the pits instead of rolling to the eighth spot on the grid because a small stone became trapped between the brake disc and the calliper. After his pit crew removed it, the 21-year-old ploughed through the field to finish seventh. Christensen, however, experienced a day of bad luck. After a decent start from sixth on the grid, the Dane found himself entangled in a fighting group behind Philipp Eng. Christensen crossed the finish line in eighth position but was classified 16th. He was handed a 30 second penalty because the race director was of the opinion that he was responsible for Eng going off the track.
Not surprisingly the juniors’ feedback after the weekend was quite different. “That was a fabulous race,” said Bachler enthusiastically. “It was such a great feeling to charge through the field and finish seventh.” Christensen complained, “I got stuck behind Philipp Eng. I pushed really hard but he defended his position with everything he had. It wasn’t completely fair if you ask me.”
After the real race came a virtual one. The juniors took on the 26 best sim-racers from all over Europe for the “automaniax Junior Challenge” on the racing simulator in the Porsche Hospitality. But they had to admit defeat. “We simply didn’t have enough practice,” said a philosophical Bachler.
On Monday 20 August the media training continues with some practical lessons. Bachler and Christensen have the opportunity to watch the making of the Carrera Cup Magazine at TV station N24 which goes on air the same day at 18:30 hours. “This brings them both full circle,” says Burkhard Bechtel. “They’ll know exactly how the images get to the customers. And they’ll be aware that Big Brother is watching them! Everything you do on the circuit is captured on camera.” On Tuesday’s schedule are practical exercises for interaction with the media. Bechtel underlines, “Our aim is not for the boys to give the media watered-down statements. They are great guys and real characters and there’s no way we’d try to change this. But you just need some tools and skills in order to cope with this entire circus.”
On Monday, believe it or not, it’s a day off for the Porsche Juniors before they travel to Zandvoort on Thursday. Boredom? Is not on the training plan.