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A personal review: ADAC 24h eCompetition at the Hockenheimring

From February 18 to 19, 2023, the ADAC 24h eCompetition took place for the third time on the Hockenheimring track - an endurance competition for production cars with fully electric drive. However, this is not a classic race in which the fastest vehicle wins. The winner of the competition is the car that has completed the most laps on the Grand Prix circuit of the Hockenheimring at the end of the eCompetition. The important thing here is strategy - When do I charge? How long do I charge? How do I drive most efficiently? But not only this is important, but also team spirit, communication and a common goal.

We from Cenntro competed with two teams, "Cenntro Europe I" and "Cenntro Europe II" in the class B up to 55 kWh with a Logistar 200 van each and were the only ones in the whole competition who took up the challenge with a van. All other vehicles were passenger cars. In total, our teams consisted of four drivers. But even though we competed with two teams, we acted together as one team and supported each other, as well as worked together on the strategy during the 24 hours. In addition, we also had a cameraman with us, who professionally accompanied our 24 h on the Hockenheimring and created a documentary film for us, both in short and long version, which can be found on our YouTube channel. (https://www.youtube.com/@cenntroautomotiveeurope7363)

The day started for part of our team at 9:00 am. From then on, the first preparations for the upcoming race began. Our Logistar 200 was prepared for the filming and transformed into a race van with the start numbers and sponsor stickers. Not to forget our great foiling by SIGNal Design on the Logistar 200 with our claim #DrivingTheZeroMission and the outlines of European countries reflecting our international markets. Until 12:00 o'clock some more film shots of the track were taken by our cameraman. A briefing for our two team captains was also scheduled in the meantime. In addition, the time was used to look at the vehicle models of the competitors. Around 12.00 noon our team was complete and all drivers were checked in.

The time until the first obligatory event was spent by our team getting the box somewhat cozy. This included not only beer benches, but also inflatable chairs and blankets, snacks, a little party light and music to set the mood, and of course coffee and water. In addition, a first team meeting was not to be missed, where we discussed our driving and loading strategy as well as the team line-up.

At 1:15 p.m., the first compulsory event also followed - an introductory lap of the Hockenheimring. There were three runs of two laps each, during which all the eCompetition teams followed the safety car in order to get to know the track. Since there were four people in our team who had never driven around the Hockenheimring before, it was quickly clear who from our team would be driving the test laps. Very exciting for someone who has never driven on a race track before. Fortunately, we were allowed to complete the laps with colleagues who were able to explain how to drive optimally into the corners and how fast. Where the ideal line is, when it's best to take your foot off the gas for optimum recuperation, how to accelerate efficiently out of the corners and much more that was important for our strategy.

And then it was time to load the first vehicle while the second Logistar completed more laps of the track to do some filming and interviews with the cameraman for our documentary.

The vehicles were allowed to be loaded until 3:30 p.m. and then it was time to line up on the grid. With the starting numbers 10 and 11 we went into the race. It was only half an hour until the race started. A slight tension and anticipation could be felt among the teams. Everyone wants to do their best, get the win and above all have fun.

At 4:00 p.m., the time had come and the race was started. The next 24 hours would now show how good our strategy was. However, it didn't take very long until our first driver came back with a small problem. However, we didn't let this upset us, even though this small obstacle cost us 1 - 2 minutes of important time. Fortunately, the rest of the rides went without any further problems.

After about 1:20 h, the first driver of Team II finally returned and the Logistar was directly connected for charging for about an hour, while Team II was still on the track for about an hour. Since we only had one charging station for two vehicles, everything had to be timed appropriately. Accordingly, after the first round and the first experiences, the strategy was slightly adjusted in terms of acceleration and speed. After the rides, interviews were scheduled for some drivers, which were conducted by our cameraman and sports reporter.

Of course, the time in between when we weren't driving had to be bridged. This was done primarily through many conversations, both with the other competitors and with one's own team, but also by exploring the Hockenheimring, stretching one's legs or waiting for one's turn in our comfortable beanbags.

Towards evening the first teams started to prepare food. From a buffet to a brought grill everything was represented. We cooked ourselves pea soup with wiener sausages.

It's an exciting feeling to drive an electric transporter on a racetrack on which Formula 1 races were still held until 2019. Especially if you haven't had any experience on a race track before, apart from the test laps. Familiarizing yourself with the track, finding out how fast you can drive into which bend without going off the track, keeping to the racing line and still sticking to the driving strategy was certainly a bit of a challenge for some - especially in the dark, as the track was not illuminated. And let's not forget the one or other competitor who mistook the eCompetition for a real race here and there and was correspondingly aggressive. But after the first 20 - 30 minutes in the race, everything had quickly settled down and was almost automatic. What's more, the drive was a lot of fun, because the combination of concentration, foresight, efficient driving paired with the flair of a legendary Grand Prix track make this competition. And always in focus: drive the most laps and achieve class victory.

After about half an hour to three quarters of an hour, the team captains phoned the drivers - How are you feeling? Is everything okay? How are things going on the track? How does the consumption look like? Approximately all team members were on the track for 1.5 - 2 hours. Believe it or not, the time flew by due to the constant concentration and slight tension.

So while Team I was on the track for 2 h, Team II came back at just after 20:00 to load the Logistar for about an hour. And so it went for the entire 24 hours. One Logistar was loaded, the other was on the track. Sometimes the driving times overlapped as well. At the same time, there were always slight adjustments to our strategy and the schedule for the drivers. After all, it was only ever possible to estimate who was using how much. So as soon as someone returned with more capacity than planned, charging could be shortened accordingly - if a driver returned with higher consumption, the charging time had to be extended and the strategy of both teams adjusted accordingly.  This is another important insight for electric vehicles: constant energy-efficient driving is a key to higher ranges. Ultimately, the same laws apply as with internal combustion engines: the more gas you use, the higher the fuel consumption and the shorter the range.

The third driver change began for Team II at about 9:30 p.m. and for Team I at about 11:30 p.m.. It had become late in the meantime and after our drivers of the third round returned, the first ones either said goodbye to home, since carnival was coming up the next day, or to the Hotel Am Motodrom, which is directly connected to the Hockenheimring and could be reached on foot through a small tunnel below the driving track in less than 5 minutes. Meanwhile, those who remained tested how comfortable the chilly armchairs were for dozing and sleeping.

After Team II entered the fourth round at 0:41, two team members were still in the pits. One minute before Team II finished, at 2:40 a.m., the next Drivers for Team I were allowed on the track. Everything had to be precisely timed. We spent most of the night in the armchairs and in the fresh, cool air. But as quickly as the night came, it also passed again. Team II's Logistar was loaded, Team I was on the track - and vice versa again. Around 7:00 a.m. the sun finally rose again and after 8:00 a.m. the first team members returned from the hotel refreshed and invigorated by the excellent breakfast. Afterwards, our drivers, who drove through the night, also went to breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, sausages, sandwiches, coffee, orange juice and much more. The breakfast area was directly opposite the start-finish straight and from there we had a wonderful view of the track and the Motodrom and could continue to follow the race.

With the driving and loading strategy, everything went according to plan for the most part, with the exception of slight adjustments. We were also very lucky with the weather, because rain was originally forecast for the entire weekend - in reality it was mostly cloudy, with light showers at night and wind. Very sporadically, the sun could also be seen sometimes at temperatures between 5-13 degrees Celsius.

In the meantime, our cameraman again took great shots of our Logistar 200 on the track, running all the way to the hairpin, including his equipment. He looked correspondingly exhausted when he returned to the paddock. But with a fortifying soup, water and coffee he was "nursed up" again.

For Team II, it was then time to hit the track for the last time at 1:40 p.m. for 2:20 hrs. By the time Team I returned from its seventh run, it was half an hour of loading and straight back onto the Hockenheimring track to maximize our lap results. The final hour had arrived. Our drivers once again gave their best and were in constant contact during the drive. The other team members stood tensely on the edge of the start-finish straight, watching everything lap by lap and cheering on the drivers during overtaking maneuvers. The last hour was dominated by slow cars and two Logistars reeling off their laps in normal driving mode and also securing the fastest personal race lap in each case. And then it was already 4:00 p.m. - the ADAC eCompetition was over after 24 hours.

At 4:01 p.m., our two Logistar 200s crossed the finish line. A special highlight, because according to the organizers, this was the first time at the ADAC 24h eCompetition that two cars from one team waited for each other and crossed the finish line together.

Even though it was not enough for us to win the class in the end and we took 2nd place with 220 laps and 3rd place with 217 laps in class B, we were able to show the potential of electric transporters and that a switch from combustion engine to electric drive can be made without any problems. We are proud and satisfied with the performance that our team has achieved together. Looking back, the 24h eCompetition was a complete success for Cenntro. And yes, a victory is of course always charming. But what matters even more is team cohesion and having fun at the event - and we certainly had that.