A short shop talk about racing, the BILSTER BERG and the role of fitness – with Katharina Gutensohn, runner-up in the world championship

The BILSTER BERG welcomes a sporting celebrity as a guest! The Tyrolean-born Katharina Gutensohn, a former world-class skier, skied for the German Ski Association for many years. She competed as an Olympian at the Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano Winter Games, was also runner-up in the downhill World Cup, winner of numerous races in the Ski and Skicross World Cup and overall winner of the downhill World Cup. She has a more than impressive list of sporting successes, which can only lead to one conclusion: Speed and fitness are exactly her thing! During a track day on the BILSTER BERG, we talked to Katharina Gutensohn about her very personal impressions and experiences from the world of racing – and, of course, about the interesting comparison between ski and car racing.

During your active career you were one of the best downhill skiers in the world. You mastered the fastest downhill runs and the iciest steep slopes – usually faster than the competition. How did it feel for you to drive in a racing car over the BILSTER BERG track?

In connection with high speeds, the corresponding thrill always sets in quite automatically. A certain basic tension is also noticeable – that is simply part of racing. But it is precisely these experiences that are ultimately important for both the athletes and the spectators. If you find feelings of this kind enjoyable, the term adrenaline junkie is certainly not wrong. I would certainly describe myself as such. This trait is not quite as pronounced in me today as it was in my active days in the Alpine Skiing and Ski Cross World Cup – but the thrill of speed has not lost its appeal for me since then.

Does your excursion into the cockpit today represent a premiere – or, since you are a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, have you always had a trace of petrol running through your veins?

In fact, I know many former Alpine skiers who have also taken part in car races. Personally, I had the opportunity to take part in the Beetle Cup once in the past. I really enjoyed competing against other racers on a track like this and gradually pushing myself to the limit.

If you try to compare skiing and car racing: What do you think is the greatest similarity between the two sports?

There are some parallels: For example, the art of losing as little speed as possible in the curves – in other words, finding the fastest line and controlling the centrifugal forces that occur. That also has a lot to do with intuition, experience and, of course, fitness. It’s about moving fully at the limit and still keeping control. That’s the same recipe for success in any racing sport – no matter the surface. And last but not least, there is of course that incredibly satisfying feeling that comes when you have mastered it and possibly come in first.

Among experts, the BILSTER BERG is considered a demanding course with a very varied and challenging topography. Does this course profile allow comparisons with downhill courses in the Ski World Cup?

I think that the BILSTER BERG is much more similar to downhill races than, for example, the much flatter Hockenheimring. The numerous crests and terrain transitions, which are driven at high speeds, are similar to what happens in a ski race. As a downhill skier, you also have to exactly memorise the course and the characteristics of the slope. You have to know every curve, every crest and every bump by heart – that’s the only way to go to your absolute limit and win World Cup races.

Are there also striking differences between skiing and car racing?

Probably the biggest difference is that you can sit in a racing car with your seatbelt fastened, while you don’t have to rely solely on your own muscle power. In skiing, on the other hand, the racer has to use all his physical strength to master the enormous centrifugal forces with the help of his own body alone – otherwise he can very quickly make a painful crash. Unfortunately, at speeds of over 120 km/h, this often ends fatally for downhill skiers. Neither roll bars nor crumple zones are available, with the exception of airbags.

Racing generally requires a high level of physical and mental fitness. Are the physical and mental influencing factors in motor sports similarly significant as in ski racing – and is the racer’s fitness trained in a similar way?

Skiers have to be extremely strong and well trained, especially when it comes to the torso and leg muscles. This is only possible through years of hard training. However, I noticed today that racing also requires enormous fitness. But more in the area of the upper body, in the neck and arm muscles and in the torso area. Of course, the leg muscles are also used, although not nearly as much as in ski racing. In a racing car, the driver’s seat does most of the supporting work. In terms of driving experience, technique and courage, I would say there is hardly any difference. Only highly skilled athletes with excellent coordination can be successful in racing. And a good portion of courage is certainly a basic requirement for both sports. Which brings us back to the keyword adrenaline junkie – if you don’t love speed, you won’t succeed!

Then you could also call the BILSTER BERG a kind of open-air gym for motor sports enthusiasts of all kinds?

The BILSTER BERG is a really interesting and demanding circuit. The passages require the driver’s full concentration and are immensely challenging, both mentally and physically.

You sound as if motor racing has aroused your interest. Does that mean we will be able to welcome you to the BILSTER BERG again in the future?

The idea of sitting in a racing car and driving it fast has always been particularly appealing to me. I’m fascinated by the speed and pushing myself to the limit – simply the challenge of pushing myself to the limit. So if an opportunity should arise in the future, then of course I would be there.

(Editor/Photos: ramp.space)

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