For the second time in the history of the series, the ADAC GT Masters entourage descended on the Czech town of Most. And of course, among the teams present were BWT Mücke Motorsport who arrived at Autodrom Most with very fond memories of the venue. One year ago, the team celebrated its first pole position and first victory since entering the Super Sports Car League with the Audi R8 LMS. The illustrious Berlin-based outfit were intent on a repeat performance at the circuit located approximately 90 kilometres northwest of Prague. Their hopes were pinned on the three regular partnerships of Nikolaj Rogivue and Stefan Mücke in the number 26 BWT Audi R8 LMS, Jeffrey Schmidt and Christopher Haase in the number 25 BWT Audi R8 LMS, and Mike David Ortmann and Markus Winkelhock in the number 24 kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS.
Highlights of the weekend
The first victory: There were cheers, jubilation and champagne on Sunday for Ortmann and the entire BWT Mücke Motorsport team. Ortmann and Winkelhock in the number 24 kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS finished fifth overall, a result that was enough to put Ortmann on the top rung of the Junior podium. In qualifying, Winkelhock had booked ninth place on the grid as second-best of the Audi contingent. He then gained several positions at the start and even posted the first few kilometres of the 2019 season as race leader for BWT Mücke Motorsport just before the pit stop. After the change of drivers, Ortmann put in an equally solid performance, overtaking an opponent on the notoriously narrow track at Most and eventually crossing the finish line in the Top Five. Winkelhock and Ortmann had already scored championship points the day before. Starting from 13th place on Saturday, Ortmann drove flawlessly to manoeuvre the Audi through the chaos all around on the first couple of corners. To the delight of the team, he emerged from the melee in seventh place, which he then defended comfortably for the rest of the stint. The early stop was intended to advance the progress of the duo but unfortunately had the opposite effect. Winkelhock ultimately came home in eighth position, which wasn’t quite enough to put Ortmann on Saturday’s Junior podium.
A podium to round off the weekend: The best often comes last, and in this case, it was the champagne shower for the driver of the number 25 BWT Audi R8 LMS, Jeffrey Schmidt, who was third in Sunday’s Junior classification. It came after he and Haase mounted an impressive charge through the field from 19th on the grid to finish ninth. On Saturday, they had staged a similar pursuit. In qualifying, Schmidt learned once more to his cost just how incredibly tight it is in the ADAC GT Masters. Despite only eight tenths of a second separating the 25-year-old Swiss from the pole-sitter, he found himself starting from way back in 22nd. However, he then displayed sharp reactions to avoid the chaos on the first corner, taking a short cut via the emergency exit. He immediately surrendered the positions which he had gained, and the team received confirmation from the stewards that no further changes of position were required. Haase emerged from the mandatory driver change in twelfth place and looked set for a decent points haul when he was hit from behind and sent into a spin. It then got worse as the pairing were handed a retrospective drive-through penalty for Schmidt’s earlier off-track diversion, a late decision that the team considered unjustified.
Charge number two: For the crew of the number 26 BWT Audi R8 LMS, it was a weekend to forget. Although free practice had looked promising, Rogivue was unable to get an unobstructed lap in qualifying and consequently found himself starting from P21. In the race itself, the Swiss driver and his partner Stefan Mücke fought their way up to 12th. On Sunday, Mücke qualified in 13th and then moved up in his Audi R8 LMS to join the leading group. The satisfaction was, however, short-lived, as he then caught a blow from behind which pushed him into the gravel. Mücke and Rogivue returned to the track and then proceeded to claw their way back into the race. It was slim consolation, but the driver who had caused the collision was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty. Ultimately, though, there was to be no reward for their heroic pursuit, as they finished 16th, just outside the points which are this year awarded to the Top 15. Despite that disappointment, the team at least had the satisfaction of seeing all three Audi R8 LMSs take the chequered flag for the fourth time in as many races this season.
Comments on the weekend
Stefan Mücke (BWT Audi R8 LMS # 26): “On Saturday, we made decent progress from relatively far back. In qualifying on Sunday, the car was good, but with only one hot lap, we were unable to fully exploit its potential. Immediately after the start we were already up in the Top Ten. Unfortunately, our car was then damaged in a collision when we were spun round by an opponent. That cost us what would otherwise have been a decent result. On the plus side, we can at least say that we learned a lot this weekend.”
Nikolaj Rogivue (BWT Audi R8 LMS # 26): “The weekend started quite well for us when we were among the leaders on the timesheets in Thursday’s rain-affected free practice. But as it got warmer and dry, we began to struggle a bit. However, things improved in the run-up to qualifying, and I could have even been in contention for the Top Ten if I hadn’t been blocked by an opponent. He braked so hard on his fast lap that he almost got embedded in my bumper. That ruined my lap, and the outcome was a modest P21. Despite that, we worked our way steadily forward in the race and pulled off some great passing moves.”
Christopher Haase (BWT Audi R8 LMS # 25): “It was definitely a mixed bag of a weekend. We have to work on our qualifying performance. Overall, we have a strong car. The strategy in the first race was not bad, whereas in the second race it was perfect. I’m glad that Jeffrey made it onto the junior podium in the second race. But we want to keep improving.”
Jeffrey Schmidt (BWT Audi R8 LMS # 25): “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the car into the optimum working window for the tyres in Saturday’s quali. The ADAC GT Masters is such a competitive series that, in the end, we could only manage P22 – we were just three tenths off a place in the Top Ten. In the race, I had to take a shortcut in Turn 1 to avoid a collision at the start. I immediately dropped back a few positions, and the stewards said that it was OK as it was. When we were handed a drive-through penalty for that incident after the race, I was more than surprised. Ultimately, though, it was irrelevant anyway, as a Top Ten result had already been frustrated by a collision for which we weren’t to blame.”
Mike David Ortmann (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS # 24): “I am very happy about the victory in the Junior category and fifth place overall. The race was great fun, and I even overtook an opponent. The win was important for the overall standings, so it’s such a pity that we narrowly missed out on a Junior podium on Saturday. I was pretty happy with my grid position for the Saturday race. There was a little misunderstanding, which is why I lost a bit. A tenth of a second can easily cost you six or seven positions on this track. I got away well at the start and only saw in my rear-view mirror that a car had totally overshot the turn. I was happy to get out of the first corners unscathed, and I even made a gain of six places. There was not much for me to do in the race in terms of either going forward or defending, so we tried to apply tactics.”
Markus Winkelhock (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS # 24): “The weekend was great. On Saturday we finished eighth, and on Sunday we were even fifth. So we scored some useful points, which is an achievement of some sort for the team. We have been steadily developing the car over the weekend. Mike drove fast and flawlessly in qualifying and in the races, so hats off to him. I hope we can take this momentum to Spielberg.”
Matthias Kieper (PR & Team Management): “Of course, the whole team arrived here with positive memories from last year. It’s where we claimed our first ADAC GT Masters pole position and victory in the Audi R8 LMS, and that’s not the sort of thing you forget. But already early on in the weekend, it became apparent that we would have difficulty in building on these achievements. So it was all the more gratifying for us that we did actually notch up a win and a third place in the Junior stakes. We have to build on this positive mood when we return to action at the Red Bull Ring.”
Michael Weiss (Technical Director): “Looking back on the races at Oschersleben and Most, you will see that we’ve had one of our three cars in the Top Five on both occasions. So we have a good package in terms of race pace. At the same time, though, we’ve seen that this is not exploited consistently from one day to the next, for example with changes in the temperature or the track surface. So we have to see where our weakness in qualifying comes from. The performance hasn’t just fluctuated for us – it’s been the same for the other Audis in the field. As for the penalty imposed on Jeffrey in our number 25 car, I regard it as more than unfortunate. After he took the emergency exit, he immediately asked by radio how far he had to drop back. We were in constant contact with the stewards who eventually told us to maintain the current position. So as far as we were concerned, that was the end of the matter – at least we thought so, until we were notified of the penalty. Another point that keeps cropping up in discussions is Balance of Performance. By and large, there is a balanced field, but in regard to the classification of the Corvette, there is a need for action. An effective way of equalising opportunity has to be found, as the performance advantage is even more pronounced than it was last year.”
Peter Mücke (Team Principal): “We’ve been working hard, because we haven’t always been satisfied. But ultimately, we got on song and had a satisfactory outcome. Nevertheless, we still have room for improvement. Unfortunately, we saw once again at Autodrom Most that the Corvette is not properly classified in terms of BoP. Until that changes, there will never be a perfectly balanced field. Another point of criticism is that the contestants in the ADAC GT Masters occasionally forget that high standards are actually expected of them in this series. So there are constantly collisions and damage which the teams then have to repair. That situation would probably only change if the drivers themselves had to bear the cost of any damage.”
Source. Mücke Motorsport/Photo. Gruppe C Photography