Brilliant sunshine, action aplenty and three BMW Z4 GT3s in the top five: fans at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (DE) were treated to a thrilling opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship on Saturday. After 28 laps of the “Green Hell”, BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert, with drivers Martin Tomczyk (DE), Jens Klingmann (DE) and Dominik Baumann (AT), came home third at the 60th ADAC Westfalenfahrt. Their number 20 BMW Z4 GT3 crossed the finish line 2:27.254 minutes behind victorious Audi drivers Frank Stippler (DE), Marc Basseng (DE) and Laurens Vanthoor (BE).
Tomczyk and co were followed home by the two BMW Z4 GT3s run by BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS. Bas Leinders (BE) and Nick Catsburg (NL) finished fourth in the number 26 car, with team-mates Jörg Müller (DE) and Marco Wittmann (DE) fifth.
It looked for a long time as though the second BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert car, with Dirk Werner (DE), Lucas Luhr (DE) and Alexander Sims (GB) at the wheel, was also on course for a podium finish. However, the number 19 car was forced to retire shortly before the end of the race after Sims crashed in the Aremberg section of the circuit. Uwe Alzen (DE) and Philipp Wlazik (DE) were also running in the top three in the number 2 BMW Z4 GT3 until a puncture forced their retirement.
A number of new BMW M235i Racings, which were officially handed over to BMW customer racing teams at the Nürburgring this week, also made their competitive debuts at the opening round of the VLN season. Guido Wirtz (DE), Christopher Rink (DE) and Oleg Kvitka (DE) of the Adrenalin Motorsport team won the CUP5 category after four hours at the wheel of their number 668 car. The privateer BMW teams will battle it out for points in the BMW M235i Racing Cup class for the first time at the second VLN race of the year on 12th April. BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert and BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS will also be in action with the BMW Z4 GT3 at the 39th DMV 4-Hour Race. Before then, the qualifying race for the Nürburgring 24 Hours is scheduled for this coming weekend.
Martin Tomczyk (3rd place, Number 20 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert):
“It feels good to start the season with a podium. The focus for us was obviously on continuing our preparations for the 24-hour race. As a racing driver, however, you always want to get a good result, and we did exactly that today. The team did a great job and I now head to next week’s DTM tests in Budapest with plenty of momentum.”
Dominik Baumann (3rd place, Number 20 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert):
“This third place shows both the team and drivers have done a good job so far. Knowing that you are in the frame right from the start of the season gives everyone in the team a lot of confidence. My stint went to plan, and there were not too many yellow flags. The final phase was far more complicated for Jens Klingmann. We are happy with this result – and will now continue to work hard.”
Jens Klingmann (3rd place, Number 20 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert):
“Personally, I did not find it very easy to get a good rhythm at the end. There was one yellow flag after another, and it would have been easy to lose track of what was going on. With that in mind, we can be very happy with the result. Our car is running well and we covered the distance without any technical problems. There was also a good chemistry between the drivers. It all fills me with optimism for the challenges ahead.”
Nick Catsburg (4th place, Number 26 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS):
“I just love this circuit. I drove a VLN race on the Nordschleife in 2013 – and we won. Now we have made a good start to the season, finishing fourth.The Nürburgring seems to suit the BMW Z4 GT3, and thankfully I also enjoy it here. However, I am well aware that I still have a lot to learn.”
Marco Wittmann (5th place, Number 25 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS):
“It was good to be back racing on the Nordschleife after two years. The atmosphere here is awesome. Third place in qualifying was a good start, but we were a bit unlucky in the race. Despite a stop-and-go penalty we were still running in the top three when we suffered a set-back with a puncture. The fact that we had climbed back to fifth place by the end just goes to show what fighting spirit we have.”