Everyone taking a seat in an Opel Astra OPC of the Team Lubner Motorsport will almost certainly score a Cup victory. Since the Cup1 class was for the first time integrated in the VLN endurance championship Nürburgring, the small team from Georgenthal near Erfurt/Thuringia has been at the start to compete at the Nordschleife. They concluded their apprentice year in 2013, when they made their debut, with a seventh position in the Cup classification. The experience hereby acquired contributed to their success in the following years. In 2014, they won the Cup with drivers Thorsten Wolter and the Fritzsche twins Heinz-Otto and Jürgen behind the steering wheel of the Lubner-Astra. In the following year, they managed to defend their title in an extremely spectacular and dramatic season. It was in the last race only that Daniel Bohr as well as the Finnish duo Juha Hannonen and Jari Nuoramo secured a repeat of their triumph in the Cup. After three VLN races in the current year, it seems likely that the crew around team manager Mirko Lubner may score a hattrick. Lubner-Motorsport once again dominates the action in the Opel Astra OPC Cup which this year has its final performance at the Nürburgring. “That is really a pity I think, but we are already about to re-position ourselves”, says Lubner. “It is a transition season for us which we absolutely wish to finish with the Cup victory. After all, nobody would believe that we had any other objective for the season.”
David Griessner, Marcel Hartl and Glib Kutepov shall be in charge to take the third successive Cup win in 2016. They will be sharing the car with start number 344 – one of three Astra entered by Lubner in this class. “This is our only constant driver trio. The composition of the crew members in the other two cars are changing”, says Lubner whose third car with number 343 will not be at the start of all of the VLN races. “This is the current champion car that will be entered for five to six races and exclusively be driven by guest starters.” And the third round revealed that they know very well what they are doing and that they can provide top results. Uwe Unteroberdörster, Rudolf Rhyn and Roger Vögli – the Swiss is one of the regular drivers in the Lubner team – finished second in their class and formed part or an outstanding Cup result. The winners’ podium mid-May turned out to be a team celebration for Lubner-Motorsport only as all the drivers in the top three came from the Lubner team. Andrea Sabbatini, Ilkka Kariste and Sandro Rothenberger – who will compete in start number 345 in all VLN races – took the chequered flag in third place, Hartel/Kutepov/Griessner took the victory. Lubner: “Towards the race end they told me first, second, third. I didn’t want to believe it and I couldn’t watch anymore – that was unbelievable!”
At their triple, the fastest trio showed an excellent performance, just as they had already done in the first VLN round, they set the pole and achieved the fastest race lap. Car number 344 is nonetheless in the lead of the Cup classification with only six points ahead of the Bonk-Astra (Marcel Hundeborn/ Marc Legel/ Roman Löhnert). At the second VLN round, the Lubner cars thus again finished one behind the other, but this time at the end of the field. “It is me to be blamed for this result. At the start, all the cars were fitted with rain tyres which was not a good choice as the track was soon dry. Even though I have been doing this for quite a while now, I did not realize that there is the possibility to come back to the pits after the formation lap when the red lights are on, to change tyres and to go back onto the track. I was quite amazed when I saw our competitors proceeding this way. This is why we lost that important time in the first lap”, Lubner explains.
Number 344 in the orange colours was nevertheless just about to go into the front when they dropped back again due to an accident at Schwedenkreuz. It was with great difficulties that Kutepov drove the car back to the pits where the Lubner crew once again demonstrated their special skills: “We managed to repair the huge damage within half an hour. Finally, we wanted to score some points”, says Lubner who is extremely proud of his team. “Even though we have considerably grown during the past years, which is not always easy for all those involved, all the team members are doing a fantastic job – and they do this in their free time. They are all at the Nürburgring from Thursday evening until Saturday evening. This cannot be taken for granted. It is unbelievable how some of them have incorporated themselves. We have members in our team who did previously not have a clue of motorsport – they were partly just fans. Yet, if you observe our pit stops, I think nobody would realize that they are not full-professionals. I cannot praise this team often enough and I am really delighted about the previous and the future cooperation.”
A team that prepares and services the cars perfectly. The records achieved in the last two years speak for themselves. Lubner-Motorsport has almost every time entered three Astra and they have scored only one single retirement for technical reasons. A brilliant reliability which was also demonstrated at this year’s 24h Race: All of the three cars made it to the finish, one amongst them finishing first and another in second place.
“For us, this is also some kind of transition year. We are already in the preparation of a solution on how to enter our Astras in other VLN classes for next year”, says Lubner who has in addition launched another project at the Nürburgring. Since the beginning of the year, a Honda Civic Type R TCR in class SP3T is furthermore competing. “The project has not yet fully taken effect so far. In the first race, the driver had an accident after three laps, we suffered an electronical problem in the second round so that we could not event start the race. This parallel project that we promote together with our customer ‘Garage Schmid’ is still at the very beginning”, Lubner says.