Saturday, 6 March 2010

Claudia Hürtgen


Claudia in 2014 (Image from www.bmwblog.com)

Claudia's profile on the original Speedqueens site was in the Sportscar section, purely because that is what she was doing when she first came to my attention. She could have easily fit into the Touring Cars or Other Racing pages, so wide is her experience.

After a few years of karting, she showed signs of her versatility as soon as she started racing cars. In her first full year, she picked up her first championship, the German Fiesta Cup. She was also runner-up in German Formula Ford 1600 and moved straight into the very competitive German Formula Three series the following year. Her best finishes were a fourth at the Nürburgring and two sixths, at Singen and the second Nürburgring race. The fourth place finish was only her second ever Formula 3 race.

In 1993, Claudia tackled some of the European F3 rounds at some of the classic circuits. Unfortunately, her season was marred by a big crash at the St. Devote corner of the famous Monaco track. She escaped serious injury, but was very shaken.

The accident was probably on of the things that pushed her to return to her saloon racing roots in 1994. She drove a Ford in the German Touring Cup (DTC) and was third overall after some excellent results. She stuck with Ford the following year in a double-attack on German Super Touring and Austrian Touring Cars. She could only manage 26th place in the final German standings, but collected the second outright championship win of her career in Austria.

Buoyed her her Austrian success, she and her Ford returned to Super Touring the next year and did slightly better, coming 22nd. However, it was time for a new challenge, and Claudia had found another racing discipline in which to excel.

She had tried GT racing before, but it became the main focus of her 1997 season. She did a full season of the FIA GT Championship in a Roock Porsche 911 and exceeded all expectations. She won the GT2 class three times, was second twice and third, three times. Her overall positions were good for fifth in the drivers' standings at the end of the year. As well as the FIA races, she and Stephane Ortelli were also seventh in an endurance race at Zhuhai. In a similar car, run by the AG team, she had tackled the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time and acquitted herself well, coming in thirteenth. Her team-mates were Hugh Price and John Robinson.

There was more of the same in 1998: Claudia stuck with Roock and the Porsche 911 in FIA GTs. The car was not really reliable enough to challenge for class honours, and often broke down, but she and Stephane Ortelli managed a ninth overall at Homestead. She also renewed her acquaintance with Le Mans, finishing seventeenth this time, with Michel Ligonnet and Robert Nearn.

She returned for more FIA GT races in the Porsche in 1998, and was rewarded with eighth place overall at Monza and fifth at Silverstone, as well as less exalted finishes at Hockenheim, Zolder and the Hungaroring. At Le Mans, she was 20th with Vincent Vosse and Andre Ahrle. That year, the Roock racing team decided to expand its activities to the USA, and she took part in her first American Le Mans Series races. Her co-drivers were Hubert Haupt and others. They were 39th at the Sebring 12 Hours after an accident, 26th at Petit Le Mans, seventeenth at Laguna Seca and fourteenth at Las Vegas. Although they were not among the top drivers, they kept improving and the car was more reliable.

Her sportscar programme for 2000 was based in the States. She was 31st in the Sebring 12 Hours with Vic Rice and Hubert Haupt, driving for Roock once more. Unfortunately, back in Europe, their Le Mans entry was not accepted. In her other US race of the year, the Daytona 24 Hours, she scored a class win in GT2. This was not her only win of the year, however. Claudia had been invited to drive a Maserati 300S from the 1950s in the Grand Prix-supporting Monaco Historic Grand Prix for sportscars, mid-season, and became the legendary street circuit's first female winner. She beat many historic racing specialists in the process and got rid of any residual doubts after her 1993 crash in the principality. Monaco was not her only extra-curricular activity either; on another street circuit, she was sixth in the season-ending Macau Guia touring car race, driving a Ford Focus.

Having proved that she was as good as ever in a saloon, Claudia returned to German Supertouring in a BMW for the 2001 season. She was a respectable tenth. Over in the USA, she contested five ALMS events with the amalgamated Roock and KnightHawk teams. She was fifth in the smaller LMP675 prototype class, driving a Lola-Nissan. Her best finish was twelfth, second in class, at Mid-Ohio, driving with Steve Knight. She was also part of their Le Mans team with Chris Gleason and Rick Fairbanks, but the car overheated on lap 93 and retired. Porsches were not forgotten either; she returned to Daytona for another go at the GT class, but did not fare as well this time.

By 2002, Claudia was leaning back towards touring cars as her main focus. She teamed up with KnightHawk again for a part-season in the ALMS and helped them clinch the LMP675 championship, coming tenth in the individual LMP675 driver standings herself. However, her full-time return to the DTC paid off handsomely. She won three championship races and one non-championship one, which was a commanding lights-to-flag victory from pole, in the style of her countryman Michael Schumacher.

Still with the Schuberth BMW team, she won the 2003 championship comfortably and convincingly after a string of wins. The following year, she defended her title in the same emphatic fashion. She also branched out into the tougher European Touring Car Championship for its German rounds. In the Oschersleben races, she was fifteenth and eleventh in her BMW against a strong, experienced field, including touring car specialists like Andy Priaulx and Gabriele Tarquini.

For 2005, she decided to tackled the VLN endurance series, raced at the old Nürburgring. Her car was a WTCC-spec BMW 320i E36 and she was joined for the longer races on the calendar by Torsten Schubert and Marc Hennerici, with WTCC champion Andy Priaulx joining in on a couple of occasions. Claudia finished the year as the VLN champion after a set of storming results. It was another outright championship to add to her collection, and the only time a woman had won the series outright, as Sabine Schmitz's previous win was jointly, with Johannes Scheid. In addition to this, she finished both eleventh and fifteenth in the Nürburgring 24 Hour race, driving two different BMW 320is. This kind of dedication to motorsport is not often seen now.

In 2006, the 35-year-old made and ambitious attempt to win a second VLN title, racing two cars at every meeting. She remained a member of the Schuberth team in the WTCC-spec 320i and also ran in a diesel-powered BMW 120d. Although she could not secure another title, she was awarded BMW's Sports Trophy for the best performance by a privateer in a BMW that year. The team had been running for the top spot until late in the season, but were beaten in the end.
Despite not winning any championships, 2006 was still eventful for Claudia. In April, she set a new record for the greatest number of consecutive race wins in a single weekend, taking two victories in VLN races before flying across the country, along with the 320i, to take part in a pair of Belgian/ADAC Procar races at Oschersleben, winning both of them. She won a number of other Procar races too, usually assisted by one of her Schuberth team-mates.

The Nürburgring 24 Hours brought more excitement. Again, Claudia was entered in two cars, and drove for a total of eleven hours over the weekend. The little 120d proved to be her top finisher: she was fifth overall in this car, rather than the more powerful 320i. Her team-mates were Marc Hennerici, Johannes Stuck and Torsten Schuberth. Their rivals included Maseratis and Aston Martins. The other car finished, but was way down the order after technical problems. The 120d had also been an effective weapon in the early-season Dubai 24 Hours, winning its class and defeating its sister car, which suffered a string of misfortunes, including a fire.

For 2007, Claudia continued to race in the VLN, and stuck with BMW power. She was sharing a Z4 M Coupe with Johannes Stuck, with his father, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Pierre Kaffer and Richard Goransson joining the team on occasion. The car was not wholly reliable, but when it did make the finish, it was never out of the top five. Claudia and Johannes were 28th overall. The team was fifth in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, with Claudia, the Stucks and Goransson making up the quartet of drivers.

After sitting out the official test and the first race of the season, Claudia returned to the Nordschleife in April 2008. Her new team-mates were Stian Sorlie and Jorg Viebahn. Their Z4 suffered a string of problems and the trio recorded one finish, a second place in the Adenauer Rundstrecken-Trophy. After missing some rounds, Claudia reappeared in a BMW 320d, sharing with a series of different drivers. It was much more reliable, but down on power, and only gave her a few good class finishes. The 24-hour race also ended in disappointment: the Z4 was up to its usual tricks and did not make the finish.

Driving in the Toyo Tyres 24-Hour series, Claudia won one of her races and achieved a second and fourth, driving a Z4 and a 120d; in the case of the last race, both during the same event. She and her Schuberth team-mates won the championship.

Away from modern competition, Claudia also did some more historic racing at the Goodwood Revival. She was driving the Ferrari 250 GT "Bread Van", a distinctively-bodied sports prototype, in the RAC TT Celebration. Although both Claudia and Marco Werner were blindingly fast in qualifying, the car proved too fragile and dropped out of the race almost straight away.

In 2009, Claudia drove a different BMW, an Alpina B6 GT3. She competed not only in the VLN, but also returned to international sportscars in the form of the FIA GT3 Championship. Her main focus in the Alpina was the FIA series. Alongside Csaba Walter, her best result was fifth, at Oschersleben. The pair also scored three eighth places. Driving the same car, she entered four rounds of the ADAC GT Masters, winning two of them. Driving a BMW Z4 run by Al Faisal Racing, she won the Dubai 24 Hour race, assisted by Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Stian Sorlie and Paul Spooner.

She also drove at Goodwood again, in another Ferrari.


Claudia with the "Bread Van" at Goodwood (Copyright Lara Platman)

She returned to the GT3 championship in 2010, as well as dipping into the ADAC GT Masters. Her cars were swapped round this time, with the Z4 being her vehicle for the GT3 series. She and Csaba Walter were fourth overall, with one win at Jarama and a further seven top-ten finishes. In the Alpina, she did not manage any significant finishes in her guest spots in GT Masters. However, driving once more for Al Faisal in the Dubai 24 Hours, she was second in a Z4, with Marko Hartung, Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Prince Khalid Al Faisal.

Despite entering her forties in 2011, Claudia kept up a full racing schedule with the Schubert team. Her vehicle all year was the Z4. A full season in the GT3 championship with Csaba Walter yielded an eleventh place, with second and fifth places at Algarve being their best finishes. A disqualification after a promising fifth in their first race dented their ambitions during the second round, and their results thereafter went downhill. A visit to the Nürburgring 24 Hours led only to a retirement, but a guest spot in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Spa gave her a second place.

In 2012, Claudia entered the Dubai 24 Hours again with Schubert, assisted by Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Jörg Muller, Faisal Binladen and Edward Sandstrom, in a Z4 GT3. The rest of her season was focused on the ADAC GT Masters with Schubert, in the BMW. Out of 16 races, she finished 15, and achieved one win, at Hockenheim. Her other best results were three second places. She was fifth overall in the championship. As well as the GT Masters, the team entered her into the Nürburgring 24 Hours, with Nico Bastian, Dirk Adorf and Dominik Schwager. They were eighth overall.

The ADAC GT Masters was her main championship once more in 2013. She was driving the Schubert Z4 again with Dominik Baumann, and they were fifth overall, with wins at Spa and the Nürburgring, plus four other podium finishes. Driving solo, Claudia tackled one round of the VLN Endurance series, and finished in the top three for her class. Driving with Dirk Adorf, Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyck, she was sixth in class at the Nürburgring 24 Hour race. As has become her custom, she started her season with the Dubai 24 Hours, and was ninth in class, alongside Dirk and Jörg Muller, Faisal Bin Laden and Abdulaziz al Faisal. Her season ended with a bit of fun - a run in a BMW 2002 Ti in a historic race at the Nürburgring. She won the up-to-1975 2000cc class.

2014 continued in a similar fashion. Her year began with the Dubai 24 Hours, where she was sixth, driving a BMW Z4 run by Walkhorst Motorsport. Her team-mates were Daniela Schmid, Jens Richter, Henry Walkenhorst and Ralf Oeverhaus. The rest of the season was spent with the Schubert team, also in a BMW Z4. She and Dominik Baumann were fourth in the ADAC GT Masters, with two wins, at Lausitz and the Slovakiaring. The same pair, joined by Martin Tomczyk and Jens Klingmann, were sixth again. In practice for this, Claudia, driving solo, took part in two VLN races, coming fourth and fifth.

Historics had not been forgotten either. In a similar BMW Ti to the one she raced in 2013, Claudia and Gaby von Oppenheim were third in the Nürburgring Historic Trophy.

She continued to race a BMW Z4 in the ADAC GT Masters championship in 2015. Her best finish was a third, achieved at Lausitz. She also became the first female driver to start from pole in the championship. She entered the Nürburgring 24 Hours, but did not finish.

2016 started with the Dubai 24 Hours, in which she drove an Audi R8 LMS, as part of a mostly German team that included Markus Winkelhock. They were 23rd overall. Later in the season, she resumed her place in the Schubert team for the ADAC GT Masters, in their BMW M6. This was just a part-season, and she was not competing to her usual high standard.

Claudia is the Chief Instructor for the BMW Driving Experience, and in this capacity, set a lap record at the Zhuhai circuit in 2014. She was driving an M6. 

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