Gasoline Flows
in His Veins

 

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Personal Bio
Michel Flé was born in Rüsselsheim in 1978 and started working at Opel as an industrial mechanic in 1995. Since completing his engineering studies, Flé has been working as a studio design engineer. He says that motor racing was a childhood dream and that his greatest wish is to be able to participate in the Nürburgring 24-hour race.
He posts updates on his motor racing activities on Facebook.
Flé is married and has one daughter. His family tree in the company spans four generations and 97 years: His great-grandfather Wilhelm Cezanne was an Opel employee who began work as an auto mechanic in maintenance and repair way back in 1918.


 

Why did the employee from the Rüsselsheim design department choose a Caravan for his fast-paced hobby? Flé has a ready answer: “I always thought the Caravan was a practical car, and in motor racing it has better roadholding on fast straights than a hatchback. It is also a bit faster than a vehicle with the same engine and a hatch,” he says, adding with a wink: “As they say, longer is faster.”
The difference in weight between the two chassis types is not significant, says Flé. The functioning race car is in any case quite pared-down, with only the essentials on board. Passenger seat? Missing. Paneling and noise insulation? The interior of the car sports only bare metal sheeting. On the other hand, the Astra is colorful on the outside with a yellow and matt black paint job echoing the style of the traditional, successful Opel race cars from the eras of Walter Röhrl and Jochi Kleint.1421141_1544329055823025_7133872237389169598_o

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Waving before the race: Michel Flé takes part in the RCN Circuit Challenge on the Nürburgring.

IT’S GOOD TO HAVE A LITTLE EXTRA WEIGHT ON THE REAR AXLE
Flé originally wanted to take part in the RCN Circuit Challenge on 14 May and get the most out of the 230 horsepower of the two-liter, four-cylinder Kissling. But he was missing a co-driver. Stefan Capla partnered with him temporarily and they got off to a start on 13 June. While the two raced well for some time, a broken pulse generator disc on the crankshaft dashed their hopes of reaching the finish line just before the 15th and final round. Flé and his temporary partner were now determined to take on the RCN Challenge again on 15 August.
And there are specific rules. “A target time is set during the first round on the Nordschleife, which must be between 7:30 and 14 minutes. This has to be matched in the next two rounds and the times may not differ by more than ten seconds, otherwise there are penalties.” The tank is filled in the seventh round. The brutish-looking rectangular metal container in the rear holds 100 liters. Flé likes to fill up a bit more than necessary. It’s always good to have a little extra weight on the rear axle, he says.

IMPRESSIONS FROM THE GARAGE

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The hobby mechanic has his work cut out for him: pistons damaged from over-revving.

 

Flé has done it: his repaired cylinder head.

 

Classic yellow: the fender after the paint job.

The flywheel after disassembly, the verdict of the analysis: oil leakage from the sealing ring.

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The sticker is proudly displayed on both sides of the car.

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Starting number for the 2015 season.

 

 

 

 

 

“My wife Jasmin has named the car Charlie Brown. The colors and the jagged lines on the exterior remind her of the Peanuts comic strip.

Michel Flé

 

“I COMMITTED A DISASTROUS SHIFTING ERROR”
The winter break was spent repairing damages. “I outdid myself the first time I drove it last year,” says Flé. “I committed a disastrous shifting error and revved the engine up to 10,000 rpm for a moment.” It was apparently too much for the valve train and the camshaft, both of which broke. Flé spent every free minute working on repairs. The race car was put back to rights in a rented garage in a hall in Hessenaue, a small farming village several kilometers south of Rüsselsheim where there are otherwise only farmers or visitors on cycling tours along the reed beds of the Rhine or taking the river ferry at Kornsand. Tools, a car hoist, and a compressor are the must-haves in the workshop.

EACH SLICK COSTS €400
Participation in this popular sports event is not cheap. It cannot be compared with the GT3 vehicles and the teams where some are sponsored by the manufacturers, and a tire must last through an entire season or eight races. But each of the slicks costs €400, and then there is gas and room and board. It all adds up, says Flé. You can end up spending around €15,000 by the end of the year.
Sponsors are therefore welcome, but they are not exactly lining up to support Opel racer Flé. “I wrote to 240 potential sponsors, and 90 percent of them didn’t even answer. The others just sent rejection notices.” Yet, the speedy Opel employee is worth investing in and takes it all seriously.

HE RECORDED THE RACING LINE WITH A GOPRO CAMERA
Flé got to know the 20.8 kilometer-long Nordschleife, referred to as the “Green Hell,” by riding with a professional along the course. He recorded the ride on the racing line with a GoPro camera along with the driver’s comments. He then played back the recording over and over again until he had learned it by heart. “They say you have to complete 150 circuits on the Nordschleife in order to really know it. I am nearly there – at least in theory,” says Flé. Now 37 years old, he inherited his passion for driving from his father, a Parisian who had been an autocross racer in his youth; so you can see that his interest was sparked very early on.

ADRENALIN RUSH IN A FRIENDLY ATMOSPHERE
Flé is currently seeking a regular co-driver who will revel in the challenge. “The adrenalin rush that comes from racing is great, and so is the friendly atmosphere of the series. Everyone helps each other and the visitors can enjoy the excitement of the races and see some very impressive race cars,” he says in praise of the Challenge. His motto for next season: Being there is everything, but don’t always be last. This wish just might come true if the speedy Opel employee heads to the next racing events in the coming weeks.


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For a good cuase

‘Make a wish’ is a kindly request and the name of an association in Cologne . ‘wünschdirwas e.V.’  has been making dreams come true for kids and teens with serious illnesses for 26 years. Four employees and many volunteers throughout Germany are working together with doctors and therapists from over 90 hospitals, children’s clinics, and hospices. Opel employee Michel Flé supports the project with his motor racing hobby: He makes a donation to the association at the end of the season that is equivalent to ten percent of all his financial expenses for the RCN Circuit Challenge.


 

Author: Michael Kirchberger
Photos: private / Patrick Funk / „wünschdirwas e.V.“ / Verlag CROSS CULT

 

Last updated July 2015