At the beginning of this year, Charlotte Wilking (28) won right to race for TMG United, the team made up of TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) staff who give up their free time to experience motorsport in the VLN series.
After six races in a TMG GT86 CS-V3, we asked her how the experience went.
You now have six VLN races with TMG United behind you. Would you take stock for us?
It was really a nice experience. I got to know a new team and, for me, a completely new car. The collaboration with TMG United was great. I can only say that it was all a really good thing.
No trouble, then?
Well, I first had to get adjusted to it all, of course. Particularly the fact that the car is a right-hand drive. If you act instinctively, you sometimes simply want to use the wrong hand to switch gears. It was a good thing too that inside the car no one could hear me curse. But now using my left hand is a matter of course. When I drove home from the last race, I even wanted to use my left hand in my own car too …
What impact did your familiarity with the car have on your performance?
I got better by the race. From the first to the last race I improved my lap time by 25 seconds. I’m quite proud of it. And that the team is also quite content with me is attested to by the fact that we agreed to work together in the VLN next season too.
You drove four races with Moritz Oestreich, your driver selection predecessor. Were you able to benefit from his experiences?
If it was video or data analysis, we were always looking for the best way together. Moritz had more experience with the car, I had more on the Nordschleife. So it would be fair to say that we both benefited from each other.
TMG United is a group of volunteers doing motorsport in their spare time. Can you describe how you worked together?
It was much more than a collaboration. We have become friends. The idea behind this project is really great. All the team members have motorsport experience, but only theoretical experience. They are logistics staff, wind-tunnel engineers, modellers or designers – office workers, if you will. They spend their free time on this project; most have been working on this car for the first time. We have formed a real team. Some of us also meet on a private basis. A firm part of a racing weekend, for example, is the TMG United BBQ on Friday night, which we do after we have finished building the pit. Some companies spend a lot of money on team building. We on the other hand meet in the garage and spend six weekends a year at races. Where else would you find such a thing?
Women in motorsports are still considered exotic. Did you encounter any prejudices or reservations in your team?
None whatsoever. I was a full member right from the start. I always felt taken seriously and that my ideas on, say, the car’s set-up were also implemented. That there is some joking around in the pit sometimes is par for the course. I have no problems with that.
How did the TMG GT86 CS-V3 handle?
In its basic set-up it’s a neutral car. It suits the Nordschleife very well and drivers feel good in it.
What about fun?
Well, the challenge always is to find the limit for the car and set the fastest lap time. Once you know the car, you can drive it on the Nordschleife very fast. I did that very well this year, I think. It’s huge fun, really, driving races in this car.
What’s the difference between your car and the TMG GT86 Cup car?
The only difference is a slightly modified braking system. After all, it was TMG’s intention to show that the GT86 CS-V3 can also be used in motorsports outside the TMG GT86 Cup. And how well the car does compared with its competition can be seen by the fact that in all the four races in which finished we were among the top three of our class.
What will you remember of this season?
The win in our class in the fifth race with Moritz Oestreich. I was driving the final stretch. At the end we drove on a dry track with ever less effective wet tyres. Those behind us were on dry tyres and came ever closer. I crossed the finish line with an lead of 12 seconds. That was great, especially seeing the team celebrating.