Meteorologist Bernhard Mühr, scientist at the Karlsruhe Insti-tute of Technology, will support the VW team during the 24h race on the Nürburgring on May 23 and 24, 2009 with his weather forecasts. He will forecast precisely to the minute, where rain will have to be expected on the race track. For the race drivers, such precise forecasts are of decisive importance: Can the next round still be driven with slicks or do they have to be replaced by rain tires?
Rain and fog are the weather parameters that influence a car race most strongly. Selection of the right tires decides on victory or de-feat: Is it still possible to drive with the faster, but profileless slicks without skidding off the road in the next curve? Or is it better to use rain tires? In case of a dry race track, they are much slower, but they provide for the necessary grip under wet conditions.
“The exact time of rainfall onto the track is most crucial information for the drivers”, says the meteorologist Bernhard Mühr, scientist from the KIT Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research. “In case of such a long race track like the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, selection of wrong tires may cost much time in a round and even lead to an accident.”
The 24h race on the Nürburgring will take place on the Nordschleife which is 20.8 km long. The fastest round in the past year took eight and a half minutes – during training and under dry conditions.
In the VW lounge, a place is reserved for the meteorologist. Long-term, but very uncertain forecasts are made by him now already. “Really reliable forecasts can be made about three days before the race. Updates with respect to the start and end of rainfall will be issued during the race, sometimes at intervals of a few minutes. This depends on weather and on cloud coverage. A shower or thunder-storm may form within a few minutes.” For his forecasts, Bernhard Mühr uses model prognoses, current measurement data, satellite images, and continuous observations made by a precipitation radar. Moreover, visual observation of the clouds above the Nürburgring is very important – and, of course, experience regarding the local conditions.
Bernhard Mühr successfully worked for other races as well. Regu-larly, he is active at DTM competitions and this year, he also worked at the Rallye Dakar that was moved to Argentina and Chile due to the political situation in West Africa.
“Due to its special location, the Nürburgring represents a particular challenge: While western or southwestern air flow is prevailing and continuously ascends to nearly 700 m height, very surprising and short-term changes of the cloud structure occur”, explains Bernhard Mühr. “Under these conditions, fog or drizzle may develop - some-times only on parts of the race track – and nothing is visible on the rain radar!”
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is the merger of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, member of the Helmholtz Association, and the Universität Karlsruhe. This merger will give rise to an institution of internationally excellent research and teaching in natural and engineering sciences. In total, the KIT has 8000 employees and an annual budget of 700 million Euros. The KIT focuses on the knowledge triangle of research – teaching – innovation.
The Karlsruhe institution is a leading European energy research center and plays a visible role in nanosciences worldwide. KIT sets new standards in teaching and promotion of young scientists and attracts top scientists from all over the world. Moreover, KIT is a leading innovation partner of industry.