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But positive Pepper ready for next challenge

South Africa’s other Nurburgring 24-hour hope, Jordan Pepper had far less to smile about following a tough race over the weekend, but the Bentley Team Abt Continental GT3 driver only had good things to say despite taking an early shower Saturday evening. Pepper and his Bentley co-drivers had shown great pace in the build-up and qualified well within the all-important top 30, but the legendary Green Hell soon bared its nasty teeth to the intrepid team.…

Jordan and his Bentley Team Abt teammates — German trio Christian Mamerow, Christer Jöns and Christopher Brück arrived in Nurburgring confident and in the best possible shape and relishing the 24-hour challenge following a strong build-up and a tried, tested and proven team. The weekend started well with limited but good laps on Thursday and a really strong night practice with the number 38 Bentley Continental GT3 in a good place.

But Friday dawned far hotter than expected. “We had a few issues brought on by the hotter than expected conditions,” Jordan reported. “But we seemed to have sorted it out and we qualified well in 16th after getting into the top 30 shootout in spite of nursing our concerns a little. “Then we had good pace in warm-up and Christian, Christer, Christopher and I were confident going into the race. 

“Saturday however turned out to be even hotter and by the time the race started, the problems we thought we fixed crept back, probably brought on by the searing conditions “Both Christian and Christer spun in their sessions and we’d lost a little time and had dropped back a little, but we were still in it and on the lead lap when I took over,” Pepper pointed out 

Jordan was quickly up to pace and getting into a great rhythm with a couple of best sectors for the car into his third lap, when trouble raised its ugly head once again. “I was getting into it — ambient conditions had cooled quite a bit and the brake issues we had worked though seemed to have disappeared when a wheel nut loosened. “Fortunately I managed to save the car from a big crash and found a safe location to park it so the team could come assist.

“We lost four laps out there and three more back in the pits while they patched the car up, but we were still confident that we’d make it to the end. “I was soon strapped in and really looking forward to getting back out on track, but it never lasted long — the brakes failed into turn 1 and I ended up in the wall. 

“Fortunately the damage wasn’t too bad and I got it back to the pits quite quickly. “The team tried its utmost to sort the issue but we had lost all brake performance, which was a major concern and we’d also lost too many laps, so we decided to call it a day. “The team still has to fully analyse the brake problem, so we’re not yet sure about the cause, but my race ended before it really started and I never got too many laps in. 

“The Nurburgring 24 is a truly incredible event and despite the disappointment of retirement, I am proud to be part of this incredible team and to have been able to take it to the big guys. “Even if we never got the result, we showed what we can do and they know we are out to get them. “Our entire team over has put in an incredible effort over the past six months to bring a really strong package to the race and despite everyone putting their heart and soul into it, it was not to be and now it’s back to the grindstone and a lot of hard work.

“It was also a great honour and privilege to be one of two South African drivers to compete and to be able to represent a great marque like Bentley for my wonderful Abt Sportine team at one of the greatest races on earth at the Nurburgring 24-Hour, even if it never quite ended as we’d have liked it to.

“Of course, huge congratulations must go to my great friend and rival and the first South African to make it to the top step of the Nurburgring 24 podium,”  Jordan explained. “Kelvin van der Linde drove an unbelievable race and took a deserved and incredible victory. 

“Eight years ago we were a couple of South African lads with a big dream and a lot of determination, but with the guidance and support of our two incredible fathers, we are where we are today and although the Green Hell defeated me this year, I have to say a huge congratulations to Kelvin. “Next year I’m coming for you mate, be prepared!”  

But that’s the challenge of the Green Hell and endurance racing — things can go so brilliantly and you can win to stand on top of the world, but then they can so easily go wrong for you too and they did for us. “I’d like to take the opportunity to thank every last member of my great team for an incredible effort, but now it’s onward and upward — this was probably the most difficult weekend in my career, yet I am super positive and ready for the next challenge.

“I’ll be back and I’ll be back stronger than ever — bring it on!”