Atlanta, Zuffenhausen, Nürburgring. Thomas Eduard Park picks up his new
Thomas Park frowns as he looks up at the sky, which is becoming more overcast by the minute. He’s wearing his racing suit. A
A few minutes before entering the 2016 RCN (Rundstrecken-Challenge Nürburgring, or Circuit Challenge Nürburgring), Park is quiet. He is listening to his coach, Domenico Solombrino, who is talking about the major flags and the speed limit in the pit lane. Park nods, but his thoughts are clearly elsewhere. After all, he has known those details for years. He has driven thousands of laps on the Nürburgring on a computer simulator with a full steering wheel and pedal setup, so of course he is familiar with every curve. But will he be able to draw on that knowledge when zooming through the Fuchsröhre at 250 km/h with the rain slamming into the windshield?
The sun has disappeared behind the clouds, and the roar of the engines drowns out conversation. Park won’t be driving the race in his new GT4—at least not this time. Instead, he climbs into a white and blue, fully race-modified
It’s late in the evening at a pub in downtown Stuttgart. Park arrived yesterday from Atlanta. He has had very little sleep, but is wide awake. He tells his story. “I was fascinated by cars at the age of three. I knew all the brands and types just from passing them on the road. How many horsepower there are in a certain special model from 1987. Or the strengths of a
While in high school he bought cars, drove them for a year—preferably on racetracks—and sold them if at all possible for a profit. He worked his way up through a series of automotive classes. Up to
He has already acquired his dream car. A
The next morning at the
Mel Park laughs and remarks, “He didn’t get this fascination from me.” But he is pleased to see his son’s delight. And that delight is clearly visible. Thomas Park smooths his T-shirt and poses with his father for a photo. The T-shirt shows the
Three days later, Park arrives in the Eifel region of Germany. There are five days to go before the race. He has received the necessary license from the Deutscher Motor Sport Bund (DMSB), Germany’s motor-racing governing body. But he doesn’t have a team or a car for the race—not yet. He starts the search. Park also wants to drive a few laps in his new GT4 and possibly do some training on the course as well. At the end of the week he will say, “Every single day was more than worth it.” After several talks he reaches an agreement with Mathol Racing, a team with extensive experience that can provide a
A lot of people who work at the course are impressed that a newcomer would enter his very first race in a
Park has covered only a few hundred meters when the rain sets in. In the pit lane, announcements of accidents start coming in over the loudspeakers. Mel Park stands right next to the barrier, with his eyes on the finish line. “Is that him? No.” At some point his son speeds past. Again. And then again. Several teams change tires, but Park stays on the track. “He’s a clever boy, I trust him,” says his father.
Park finally drives into the pit. He is happy, because he has finished his part of the race well. “It was really hard; we saw at least 25 accidents, plus the rain, oh man.” His heart urges him to go on. But his head says to let the pro take over and to learn from him. So he climbs into the passenger seat and coach Solombrino takes the wheel. About two hours later the two of them stand in Mathol Racing’s trailer and are thrilled. “Fourth out of nine in our difficult vehicle class, that’s unbelievable,” says Park. Solombrino adds, “He was incredibly fast for the first time on the track. And it’s all the more difficult to drive when you have to alternate between dry and wet stretches.” Park is sure that he’ll be back, in fact maybe for the next race. He has taken off his racing suit and his father is getting him something to eat. He looks out the window. It’s raining. He smiles.
Text by Frieder Pfeiffer
Photos by Bernhard Huber
For more information: www.porsche.com/usa/motorsportandevents/europeandelivery/
The Rundstrecken-Challenge Nürburgring e.V. is an association of racing clubs in Germany’s General Automobile Club (ADAC). It offers a series of successively more difficult contests to help interested drivers work their way up to becoming race-car drivers. The “RC,” or “circuit challenge,” is the highest level. It is for ambitious drivers who have their own race-authorized car and a Grade A license from the German racing governing body (DMSB). One RC race consists of fifteen laps, nine of which are pure sprints. It also includes confirmation laps, which require drivers to repeat the time of their previous lap. Many drivers use this contest as a bridge to the VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring, which is a high-level amateur racing series.