There are plenty of commonalities to be found between astronauts and racing drivers. Both are daredevils by definition (if not by trade), both subject themselves to unfathomable G forces and both face very real risks when strapped into machinery that makes the very best use of advanced propulsion, aerodynamics and composite construction technologies. Yet you don’t find much crossover between the two. There was talk of Niki Lauda, himself an experienced pilot, training to go into space with Virgin Galactic (which itself was sister to an F1 team for a while in Richard Branson’s empire), but that didn’t seem to materialize. Now we’re receiving news that Felix Baumgartner will contest the Nürburgring 24 Hours this year.
Felix Whomgartner, you ask? Felix Baumgartner. He’s more of a skydiver than an astronaut, but he made history in 2012 when he jumped out of a space capsule and set the record for the highest altitude in a manned balloon, the parachute jump from the highest altitude, and the highest velocity freefall as part of the Red Bull Stratos initiative. In other words, he may as well be an astronaut, because he fell down to the earth’s surface from the stratosphere.
For his next challenge, Baumgartner will be climbing into an Audi R8 LMS Ultra in an attempt to tackle the Nürburgring. Having contested a handful of spec races under the VW Group umbrella, he’ll undertake several test sessions and practice races before the main event in June, in which he’ll alternate behind the wheel with professional racing drivers Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Pierre Kaffer. The initiative is part of the Audi race experience program that allows gentleman racers to team up with seasoned pros to take part in real races. Baumgartner will undoubtedly prove its highest-profile participant.