There are still debuts for BWT Mücke Motorsport to make even after 20 years in motorsport as the illustrious Berlin-based team took part in the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife for the first time at the weekend. Their main goal was achieved in front of 210,000 spectators (over the weekend). Both Audi R8 LMS cars went the distance and took a well-deserved chequered flag in the end.
The Audi R8 LMS #24 had the backing of Audi Sport customer racing and was racing under the banner of Audi Sport Team BWT. None other than Audi works drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Nico Müller drove the Audi R8 LMS shod with Dunlop tyres, aided by the two Audi Sport drivers, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase.
Bearing start number #25, BWT Mücke Motorsport’s second Audi R8 LMS was attempting to pull off a major coup. Audi works driver Marcel Fässler, Audi Sport driver Pierre Kaffer and the two endurance racing experts par excellence, Stefan Mücke and Christer Jöns, drove the second Pink Panther which was on Michelin tyres.
The Nürburgring Nordschleife again lived up to its reputation as the ‘Green Hell’ for this 46th edition of the 24-hour race. While the start took place on Saturday in bright sunshine and temperatures of around 20 degrees, heavy showers of rain set in during the night. These worsened during Sunday and heavy fog was added to the mix. The race director decided at 12 noon to stop the race, because it was no longer thought safe. Conditions improved and the re-start got underway two hours later with a thrilling 90-minute sprint finale.
The weekend’s highlights
Strong charge by the Audi R8 LMS #24: Having achieved the seventh-fastest time in the two qualifying sessions, the #24 Audi R8 LMS had no problem securing a grid position in the big qualifying Top Thirty. Despite posting a good lap, P26 was the best that they could achieve, and so, they started the 24-hour classic with a small handicap. However, the four drivers turned this to their advantage with a sensational charge up the field and were within sight of a place in the Top Ten after five hours when disaster struck. The Audi R8 LMS #24 made contact with a back-marker while overtaking. A pit stop for immediate repairs to a broken track rod was necessary, which dropped the team back down to P24. This loss of time did nothing to dampen the fighting spirit of the four drivers. They were showing the potential of the Audi R8 LMS until another track rod had to be changed following a spin. Still, the Audi R8 LMS #24 had fought its way up into 14th place until the race was stopped. The car’s position improved further on the re-start and twelfth place was the final result at the chequered flag.
Highs and lows for the Audi R8 LMS #25: The driver who took the first stint in the Audi R8 LMS #25 quickly worked his way forwards into the Top Ten after starting out 19th on the grid and had some thrilling battles for position on the way. The team tried during the stints that followed to find more grip by using different tyre compounds and gained some important insights into the car’s balance as a result. After seven hours, however, came a small setback. An electrical problem made an additional pit stop necessary. A solution was quickly found but the team were outside of the Top Twenty as they rejoined the track. All the drivers kept out of trouble during the night despite conditions which were extremely difficult at times and they worked their way back into the Top Fifteen. A time penalty for a pit stop that was under the minimum time prescribed in the regulations did nothing to improve their position, and in the end, the team’s mechanics had to prove their worth during the final segment of the race when a track rod sustained damage in a spin after the re-start. Repairs were completed in record time, and the Audi R8 LMS #25 crossed the finish line in 14th place.
Partners BWT on fine form: Apart from the eye-catching pink design of the two Audi R8 LMS, Austrian company Best Water Technology also had plenty of other highlights in store for the 210,000 fans at the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race. BWT erected an amazing fan village in the area close to Hatzenbach with its own two-storey hospitality to cater for the needs of some 4,000 guests. Several large marquees provided overnight accommodation for around a thousand people. BWT also had a presence in the paddock where fans were able to have a good look at more racing cars in BWT’s distinctive design while enjoying free water from BWT’s water bar with a view of the racetrack from a comfortable deck chair.
Comments about the weekend
Markus Winkelhock (BWT Audi R8 LMS #24): “Our weekend did not go too well. I was really looking forward to it, but unfortunately, we were unable to compete up front for a number of different reasons. Our pace was very good in the dry, but we struggled a bit with tyres in the rain and lost time. I spun on intermediates at Pflanzgarten and a track rod had to be changed. That was our second stop for repairs. P12 is still a respectable result in view of the deficit that had built up.”
Christopher Haase (BWT Audi R8 LMS #24): “We started well and were able to show that the BWT Audi R8 LMS was always a threat. The car ran without a hitch, but unfortunately, the Nürburgring hit back, and quite apart from having to make two stops for repairs, we were not so well placed in the poor conditions. At any rate, victory would have been tricky to achieve unless the competition had been prepared to lend a helping hand, which is why we aimed for tenth place in the race. It almost worked out for us.”
Mike Rockenfeller (BWT Audi R8 LMS #24): “It’s a pity that we were unable to do better. Luck was not on our side at times, and the weather didn’t help either. Our tyres were not quite up to scratch in the rain. We were definitely heading for the Top Ten when I had a contact with a back-marker, and another stop for repairs was needed, and not much more was possible after that. A place in the Top Five would have been a realistic proposition had the race gone our way. I immediately felt at ease in the team and they did a great job. Hopefully, we will race together again at some point.”
Nico Müller (BWT Audi R8 LMS #24): “The result reflects the whole weekend to some extent. Unfortunately, we did not have the pace to finish on the podium this year. The competition was ahead of us. We have to acknowledge that and congratulate them in all fairness. BWT Mücke Motorsport are a great team and I would be very happy to return next year with the same set of drivers. I am sure they’ve got what it takes to win and I would like to be part of that success.”
Stefan Mücke (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “Conditions during this race were really tough. I drove at night when it began to rain and again in the morning. Of course, the technical problem at the beginning of the race immediately dropped us a little way down the field, but I know we made the best of the situation. All in all, a very eventful weekend where we gained a lot of experience and got both cars over the finish line.”
Marcel Fässler (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “It wasn’t too bad on the whole. Unfortunately, technical problems dropped us back a bit. Conditions in the rain on Sunday were very tricky. It was sometimes touch-and-go keeping aquaplaning under control, especially in the spray. To get things right every time and find the proper balance between taking a risk and being cautious was not easy – especially as we wanted to catch up a bit.”
Pierre Kaffer (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “I was really pleased to line up with BWT Mücke Motorsport. Unfortunately, the result does not completely reflect the excellent work they put in while preparing, but still, they managed to get both cars over the line in the most appalling conditions. The team have a great way of working and I was very well received. I’d be really pleased to join them for another crack at the race next year.”
Christer Jöns (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “The team were extremely well prepared and well organised, which made us very hopeful. We were within striking distance in practice and in the race. Unfortunately a small problem which we were quickly able to fix dropped us back a bit. Of course, throwing in the towel was out of the question, because we all know that it’s the end result that counts. Conditions in the race were the most difficult I’ve ever experienced on the Nordschleife.”
Team Principal Peter Mücke: “This was an amazing race! Of course, I’d hoped for a finish in the Top Ten, but at the same time, we can be very pleased to have taken the chequered flag with both cars. Of course, the technical problems with car #25 and the contact for #24 dropped us out of contention. The guys worked like crazy, the drivers raced in conditions in which I would not want to be in a car and we successfully finished our first 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. I can be very satisfied as I head home.”
Michael Weiss (Technical Director): “We only had a week, in which to rebuild the car for probably the biggest and most difficult car race in the world following the ADAC GT Masters weekend in Most. Everyone in the team can be proud that we made it. Our performance was good, although it was apparent that we simply lacked that special Nordschleife experience in certain situations. Of course, the terrific support we received from Audi Sport customer racing, who prepared the Audi R8 LMS #24 and made things much easier for our own car was very important. We needed a bit more luck in certain instances, but the general conclusion after this race in such extreme conditions can be very positive.”
Source. Mücke Motorsport/Photo. Gruppe C Photography