Photos: Martin Hippe, Creventic
Martin Hippe had a successful weekend at the premiere of the Prototype Cup Germany at the end of April. The 36-year-old was in action for the first time as team manager of Inter Europol Competition in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, and his team was able to claim a podium position straight away; the pairing of Jamie Winslow / Damian Ciosek brought the yellow-green Ligier JS P320 across the finish line in second place in the second race. Hippe watched the action on the track from the pit wall, as the former race driver has switched sides this year.
Martin Hippe's career began in 2003 in the Formula BMW ADAC, followed by two years in this junior class and a season in the German Formula 3 Cup. "In the winter of 2006, together with my Formula 3 team HS Technik and the chassis manufacturer Lola, I then further developed the Lola Formula 3 racer and the project was really promising. Unfortunately, a major sponsor dropped out and my driving career was put on hold for the time being," Hippe reports. But a new door opened right away: "I learned a lot by working with the Lola engineers, which paved my way even further as a race engineer," says Hippe, who had already taken his first steps in this field before. After a few years with GU Racing, he moved to the Polish team through the sale of a GU Racing Formula 3 car to Inter Europol Competition. "GU, my old team, had stopped racing and so I was just taken over as well."
When the LMP3 class was laun ched in 2016, Inter Europol was just looking for a new foothold in endurance racing. Long-time regular driver Jakub Smiechowski was earmarked as the first driver; his partner was to be Martin Hippe, who had held the position of race engineer until then. "At that point I hadn't raced for ten years, but a test drive obviously convinced the team." In the years that followed until 2021, the Essen-born driver competed in many LMP3 races and collected a number of successes - including the LMP3 title win in the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series. Apart from his comeback year in 2016, he was always classified as a Bronze driver, although it sometimes took a bit of a struggle. "Twice I was able to avert being upgraded to the Silver category because I was always able to explain in detail that I am simply not a Silver driver. I only do motorsport as a hobby and I can't be bothered with simulator driving or fitness training every day either." Finally, this winter, he was sorted into the silver category and his appeal was rejected. "That was the end of my driving career," he summarises dryly.
At the same time, his team Inter Europol was preparing to enter the Prototype Cup Germany, the fourth series after the Asian Le Mans Series, the European Le Mans Series and the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. "This became a bit too much for our team manager Sascha Fassbender and he asked me if I could support him in the Prototype Cup Germany in particular. As things like regulations, strategy and tactics had interested me before, I was happy to accept the offer." And what was the transition from driver to team manager like? "As an endurance driver, I already knew the situation that my car is on the track but I'm not behind the wheel. I think the biggest challenge for me was to keep track of everything. From that point of view, it was good for the beginning that there are two relatively short races on the programme in the Prototype Cup Germany and that we also only had one car at the start," Hippe is honest, but also grateful. "I have to thank my team for giving me the confidence to hold this position. We have walked the path together from the beginning of the team until now and it is a nice feeling to see where we are now. It also makes me a bit proud."
He is also enthusiastic about the Prototype Cup Germany. "Of course, there are always a few minor things that don't go quite right on the first weekend. Then we try to solve the problems and the teams are also heard with their experiences. So far, we have found reasonable solutions for everything. It is a good cooperation, I like the communication with the series managers very much. And it is equally positive that Jan Seyffarth, a former racing driver, is the race director. He knows what he's talking about, because he also knows the driver's perspective. "
22 – 24 April Spa-Francorchamps (B), 24H Series
15 – 17 July Nürburgring, ADAC Truck Grand Prix
19 – 21 August DEKRA Lausitzring, Family & Friends Festival
21 – 23 October Hockenheimring, ADAC GT Masters
(subject to changes)