Kiwi race driver Reid Harker has joined a very small club of New Zealanders who have competed at the Spa 24-Hours.
Most have heard of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, many of the same duration enduro at the redoubtable Nurburgring. The Spa event has less profile 'down-under' but is at least as punishing - and often as cruel - as its fellow endurance events.
Q: Reid, you’ve come a long way since the E30 and 86 days and a lot of Kiwi race drivers would KILL to drive a GT3 911 at Spa– how good was that?
For sure it was a dream come true to drive in this race. It’s arguably the most challenging GT3 race in the world and I think this year was especially exciting! To be honest I was both excited and relieved to be back behind the wheel, after disruptions in 2020.
Q: What is the difference between this car and a Carrera Cup car, and given the CC races are pretty ‘sprinty’ how well does a GT3 car suit something longer like Spa? What are the weight differences? Are the tyres different?
They are quite a lot different. The GT3R has a lot more aero which means you can carry a lot more corner speed. You’ve got ABS and Traction Control which gives you more tune-ability over a long run and in changing conditions. There are obviously a lot of other functions and capabilities, but we’d be here for a while if I explained them all. Ergonomically the seating position is closer to a formula car and is quite cosy.
Q: How many driving stints did you get in the race? Are you all similar size/how much did you have to adjust the cockpit to get the right ‘fit’?
Seven stints, three of them doubles. We were all different sizes but made one insert work. The seat is fixed in position and the pedals slide forwards and backwards. The wheel can be moved as well.
Q: What was the team’s race strategy, coming off the limited chance to qualify and the transmission issue?
Drive as fast as possible for 24 hours! Seeing we started at the back due to gearbox issues in quali it made sense to start our Am. Will and I drove the night stints and when it rained, I jumped in.
Q: Tell us about the whole race
We chipped away throughout the race, making up positions almost every stint. We had strong pace throughout and kept the car on track with minimal mistakes. Unfortunately, we picked up two drive through penalties for off tracks which hurt. All-in-all though to finish inside the top 20 overall is a great achievement for the team and myself in our first attempt at the 24. Of course, we would’ve liked more but knowing what we know now it would be great to come back next year and get on the podium. For me, I learnt a huge amount. It was my first time driving the car and my first proper endurance race so there was lots to reflect upon and I’m super excited to take what I’ve learned and build for the future.
Q: How much does a car change over the course of a driving stint at an enduro like this as fuel loads change? Do you have to adjust your driving style, braking points etc, and do you tweak anti-roll bar settings, brake bias on the fly or is that not allowed in GT3?
At the start of the stint you have a new set of tyres but are carrying more fuel which is noticeable in the high speed sections. At the end of the stint when the car is low on fuel and light the tyre is well past its peak and is dropping off, so the car is never perfect. We can play with brake bias to help the balance as the tyre degrades. Driving style doesn’t change.
Q: Last year the race was ‘behind closed doors’ – were spectators allowed to be at the track this year? What have you needed to do Covid-wise (tests, vax etc) and will you need to go MIQ when you get back?
There were spectators this year yes, but it was limited from what I understand so there weren’t a huge number of fans around. It was nice to see a semi-full grandstand though. Let’s hope things get back to normal soon! I’m vaccinated so getting into Germany was a breeze. At the track we were required to take tests on the Wednesday and Friday before the race. I fly home to start my quarantine on the 16th of August. As far as I know there’s no way of avoiding the mandatory 14 days in isolation, otherwise let me know 
Q: And: what’s your day-job these days? Was it an issue getting the time away to do this race?
I work for the team (Earl Bamber Motorsport) and contract out to Downforce while in NZ so there were no issues. I’m thankful to have amazing people and supporters behind me who want to see me in the seat just as much as I want to be in the seat. It’s awesome to have the support of Porsche New Zealand, Washworld and of course the team, Earl Bamber Motorsport.
This Q&A is also online - with more images - at: https://veritasnz.blogspot.com/2021/08/reids-return-stepping-up-to-spa.html