After claiming pole position and showing a clean pair of heels at the start of the race the factory-backed #19 BMW Team Schubert entry could have been forgiven for thinking they were on track to register BMW’s 20th win in the NÃ¼rburgring 24 hour. However, a dodgy driveshaft after three hours of action soon ended any such thoughts.
Worse was to come, with the second Team Schubert car also finding a weakness in its drivetrain. With both cars needing the best part of an hour in the pits to put things right their victory hopes were dashed.
BMW Team Vita4One was showing excellent pace with car #17 making its presence felt, but they too were reminded that nothing ever comes easy in endurance racing thanks to an altercation with another car in the wee hours of the morning. Continuing the poor run of luck the #18 Vita4One car was left with just third and fourth gears by the time the day was done.
So it was left to the privateer Marc VDS Racing Team from Belgium in car #29 to uphold the honour for BMW. And a mighty fine job they did too coming home in a strong fourth position.
Speaking after the race driver and team principal Bas Leinders said: â€œWe took a very steady approach to this race and then put everything into it at the end. We only had a few minor problems, which the team dealt with brilliantly. We stayed calm for 24 hours and did a fantastic job. As a private team making its debut here, fourth place is just wonderful.â€
You can get the full post-race analysis from BMW after the break, including another 90 images to remind you what a special place the NÃ¼rburgring really is.
#17 BMW Team Vita4One
Pedro Lamy (PT), Mathias Lauda (AT), Ricardo van der Ende (NL), Frank Kechele (DE)
#18 BMW Team Vita4One
Pedro Lamy (PT), Marco Wittmann (DE), Jens Klingmann (DE), Richard GÃ¶ransson (SE)
#19 BMW Team Schubert
Dirk Adorf (DE), JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller (DE), Dirk MÃ¼ller (DE), Uwe Alzen (DE)
#20 BMW Team Schubert
Claudia HÃ¼rtgen (DE), Dominik Schwager (DE), Nico Bastian (DE), Dirk Adorf (DE)
#29 Marc VDS Racing Team
Bas Leinders (BE), Markus Palttala (FI), Maxime Martin (BE)
Four BMW Z4 GT3s in the top ten at the NÃ¼rburgring â€“ BMW teams experience highs and lows.
NÃ¼rburgring, 20th May 2012. The 40th staging of the 24-hour race gave the NÃ¼rburgring-Nordschleife (DE) another opportunity to prove just why it is regarded as the toughest circuit in the world. And it didnâ€™t disappoint. The best-placed BMW Z4 GT3 was car number 29, with Bas Leinders (BE), Markus Palttala (FI) and Maxime Martin (BE) at the wheel, which crossed the finish line in fourth â€“ a successful debut at the marathon in the â€œGreen Hellâ€ for the private Belgian team Marc VDS Racing.
Unscheduled pit stops denied BMW the podium finish it looked like getting for long periods of the race. The works-supported teams â€“ BMW Team Schubert and BMW Team Vita4One â€“ showed fighting spirit at the endurance classic, but were hit by several set-backs. Victory in a thrilling race went to Audi Sport Team Phoenix.
The BMW Z4 GT3 had emphatically demonstrated its potential in qualifying and the first half of the race. Uwe Alzen (DE) had put car number 19 on pole position and, together with JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller (DE) and Dirk MÃ¼ller (DE), had opened up a commanding lead in the race. At about 03:00hrs, however, the BMW Team Schubert car pulled into the pits with a damaged drivetrain. The resulting 52-minute repair stop cost the team any chance of winning. The three BMW works drivers put aside their disappointment and showed their class, lapping in by far the fastest times and climbing back up to a very creditable seventh place.
The number 20 car â€“ also run by BMW Team Schubert â€“ was also unlucky. Running in second place, the car rolled into the garage with drivetrain issues. The BMW Z4 GT3 rejoined the race 43 minutes later. Dirk Adorf (DE), Claudia HÃ¼rtgen (DE), Dominik Schwager (DE) and Nico Bastian (DE) ended the race in eighth.
One place further back was the BMW Z4 GT3 of BMW Team Vita4One, driven by BMW Motorsport test and development driver Marco Wittmann (DE), Jens Klingmann (DE), Pedro Lamy (PT) and Richard GÃ¶ransson (SE). The second BMW Team Vita4One car experienced the perils of the â€œGreen Hellâ€ at close hand. The number 17 car, with Lamy, Mathias Lauda (AT), Ricardo van der Ende (NL) and Frank Kechele (DE) alternating in the cockpit, retired after a night-time collision in Pflanzgarten.
Jens Marquardt (BMW Motorsport Director):
â€œThis yearâ€™s 24-hour race at the NÃ¼rburgring once again threw up everything the fans love about this endurance classic. It was unbelievably close over the entire distance â€“ and we were in the thick of the action with our BMW Z4 GT3s. We would obviously have liked to have won here on the 40th anniversary of BMW M. Unfortunately the technical problems we had with the two BMW Team Schubert cars meant we were denied this victory. All the BMW teams still deserve a huge compliment. They never gave up and fought bravely. However, you can only win in the Green Hell if you get through the race without any major difficulties. With that in mind, congratulations to Audi. BMW Team Vita4One also did very well on the Nordschleife and made it into the top ten with one of its cars. Marc VDS Racing can be very proud of its fourth place. That was an impressive debut at the 24-hour race. All the other private BMW teams that were once again worthy representatives of our brand can also be proud of themselves.â€
Stefan Wendl (Team Principal BMW Team Schubert):
â€œWe are proud of our performance and proud that we were able to put on a show like this. We worked perfectly together as a brand, as a team, and as drivers. Unfortunately we just didnâ€™t have luck on our side. The race was phenomenally close â€“ from free practice to the 20th lap of the race, when there were still four manufacturers within one lap of each other. The team that ultimately climbed onto the top step of the podium worked hard for this victory and fully deserved it. BMW Team Schubert would like to congratulate them. We will do everything in our power to take revenge next year.â€
Michael Bartels (Team Principal BMW Team Vita4One):
â€œUnfortunately we did not achieve what we had all hoped for: the 20th victory for BMW on the Nordschleife. I guess weâ€™ll have to wait until next year for that. It was very clear, however, that the performance of the BMW Z4 GT3 was absolutely spot on. We also know what we have to improve for the challenges ahead, particularly the 24-hour race in Spa. I witnessed a strong team performance here, right from the first day. The teams really put themselves on the line and the guys from BMW Motorsport were there to support us whenever we needed them. That gives me confidence for the coming races.â€
Bas Leinders (Team Principal and driver for Marc VDS Racing Team):
â€œWe took a very steady approach to this race and then put everything into it at the end. We only had a few minor problems, which the team dealt with brilliantly. We stayed calm for 24 hours and did a fantastic job. As a private team making its debut here, fourth place is just wonderful.â€
JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller (BMW Team Schubert, car number 19):
â€œWe started the 24-hour race with a perfect package. The team, the car, the Dunlop tyres, the driver line-ups â€“ we were perfectly prepared. It is no coincidence that BMW Team Schubert was seen as one of the favourites here, and the team showed just how strong it is. Despite this, I am a bit sad: under these circumstances we surely deserved to have a bit more luck. It was not to be this time, but we will be back.â€
Uwe Alzen (BMW Team Schubert, car number 19):
â€œWith a little more luck I am certain we would have been in contention right up to the end. I would like to pay a huge compliment to the organisers. The â€˜balance of performanceâ€™ worked perfectly. At times the race was closer than it has ever been. It should stay that way. It cannot be any better.â€
Claudia HÃ¼rtgen (BMW Team Schubert, car number 20):
â€œWe were challenging for a podium until the 20th hour of the race. It was great fun driving and the team spirit was excellent â€“ and yet it was still not to be our day. I am obviously disappointed. I am pleased for BMW Team Schubert, however. We were perfectly prepared, fast, and had a good set-up in the race.â€
Nico Bastian (BMW Team Schubert, car number 20):
â€œA great weekend, but without the happy ending. It was great because the team, all the mechanics and we drivers worked together perfectly. However, we were denied the perfect ending. We must just forget the bad luck we had during the race. For me personally, it was my first time in such a professional environment with works support and a highly motivated team â€“ in at the deep end. The team deserved the win. I learned a lot this weekend.â€
Ricardo van der Ende (BMW Team Vita4One, car number 17):
â€œI am very annoyed with myself. We were going really well in 11th and were the fastest car in the field during the night. As I was overtaking a slower car it first moved left and then right. I ended up with two wheels on the grass, could not hold the car and crashed. I hope I get another chance next year, as the team, car and race are fantastic.â€
Pedro Lamy (BMW Team Vita4One, car number 17/18):
â€œI spent about the same amount of time in both BMW Z4 GT3s. The number 17 carâ€™s crash was a real shame, as we had not had any problems up to that point and were very quick. We could have ended up on the podium here. Car number 18 had a few problems, but that happens. That is why this race is so difficult to win.â€
Jens Klingmann (BMW Team Vita4One, car number 18):
â€œIt was the first big 24-hour race for our team. The speed was very good. Towards the end we had oil on the clutch and could only drive in third and fourth gears. We can be happy that we still managed to put the car in the top ten, despite this. I think the BMW Z4 GT3, the team and BMW deserved the victory. That has to be our goal for next year, and is what we will now be working towards.â€
Richard GÃ¶ransson (BMW Team Vita4One, car number 18):
â€œWhen you see the times and intervals in qualifying and the race, you have to say that this race was of the very highest standard â€“ and we were always in the thick of it with our BMW Z4 GT3. Unfortunately we were unlucky this time, but that is how it goes here at the NÃ¼rburgring: it is and will always be a very special challenge.â€
Markus Palttala (Marc VDS Racing Team, car number 29):
â€œWe came here to gain experience at this magnificent race. We have been together as a team for one year and have competed at a lot of endurance races, but the NÃ¼rburgring is special. When it comes down to it, however, we are still racing drivers and are a bit disappointed that we just missed out on a podium. Obviously fourth place as a newcomer is a fantastic result. I would like to thank my team, which worked extremely hard.â€
Maxime Martin (Marc VDS Racing Team, car number 29):
â€œIt is a fantastic feeling to cross the finish line here in fourth place. You cannot compare this race to anything else, and to finish in the top five at the first attempt is a magnificent effort from our team. We actually came here to learn â€“ and now we leave having achieved a great result.â€