After a summer break of more than two months, the ADAC GT Masters teams were back in action, this time (9th – 11th August) at Circuit Zandvoort. BWT Mücke Motorsport were there as the second half of the season got underway at the historic track on the Dutch North Sea coast. The squad consisted of Jeffrey Schmidt and Christopher Haase in the number 25 BWT Audi R8 LMS, Markus Winkelhock and Mike David Ortmann in the number 24 kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS and Nikolaj Rogivue in the number 26 BWT Audi R8 LMS, this time with a replacement co-driver in the shape of Frédéric Vervisch. The Belgian had already stepped in for regular driver Stefan Mücke at the Red Bull Ring earlier this season and was once again substituting for Stefan who joined his father and team boss Peter Mücke for the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
Highlights from the weekend
Podium and season best: For the kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS, Zandvoort has been the standout event of the season so far. Starting from 15th on the grid on Saturday, Ortmann immediately gained one position and retained it through to the change of driver. At this point, the duo had a lucky break, with the safety car having only just been deployed. As a result, they lost far less time than opponents who were still out on the track. Indeed, Winkelhock emerged from the pit lane in fifth place. Ortmann and Winkelhock were then the beneficiaries of the bad luck that befell their team-mates in the number 25 car, which elevated them to fourth at the finish line. This was their best result of the season to date. Second place in the Junior classification also meant an important podium for Ortmann. Winkelhock then set them up in a strong position for the second race on Sunday as third best of the Audi contingent with eighth place in qualifying, a position which he maintained in the race through to the change of driver and which Ortmann then resolutely defended to the finish. The two results once again harvested crucial points towards the Junior championship in which the 19-year-old is currently fourth, a bridgeable fourteen points behind the leader.
Here comes the cavalry: Rogivue and Vervisch mounted a charge through the field on Saturday. P23 in qualifying seemed to have presented the duo with a Herculean task, especially on such an ‘old-school’ track as Zandvoort. But undismayed, the two of them gradually clawed their way up the running order. Rogivue kept a cool head in the chaos on the first corner and handed the car over to Vervisch in excellent condition at the halfway mark. The Belgian then went on to disprove the notion that overtaking is all but impossible at Zandvoort. He left car after car trailing in his wake to eventually cross the finish line in eighth position, having made good 15 positions and scored useful championship points. On Sunday, Vervisch looked set to book eighth in qualifying but had to break off his flying lap when the red flags came out. The duo therefore started from 13th, a position in which they also finished. Weekends do not come any busier than the one experienced by Vervisch. In addition to his BWT Mücke Motorsport commitment, he had already undertaken to drive a sports prototype in the 24 Hours of Zolder. Immediately after Saturday’s race, he set off for Zolder – a journey of around two and a half hours – put in a night stint and then returned to Zandvoort in time for Sunday’s qualifying and race.
Sic transit gloria: The Netherlands weekend was a disappointment for the number 25 Audi R8 LMS. Schmidt and Haase could only manage P13 and P15 in their respective qualifying sessions. They went on to finish 15th and 14th in the two races. Like their team-mates, the duo had benefited from good strategy on Saturday, pitting just as the safety car came out, which moved them up to fourth. However, the joy at this good fortune was not to last. During the pit stop, one of the mechanics had moved a fraction of a second too early, putting one foot over the white line before the car stopped. The duo were obliged to serve a drive-through penalty, which dropped them back down the field. Despite this setback, hopes are running high for the Nürburgring, as the crew managed to identify a niggling fault that had been slowing the car down all weekend.
Consistency: Despite these frustrations, BWT Mücke Motorsport set a new record for themselves at Zandvoort. In both races contested this weekend, all three cars finished in the points. That’s a target the highly respected team from Berlin have never achieved before. And it’s a target they are determined to hit again next weekend when the ADAC GT Masters is hosted by the Nürburgring.
Comments on the race weekend
Frédéric Vervisch (BWT Audi R8 LMS #26): “I had quite a busy weekend, because I was also competing in a 24-hour event between races. Overall, we were stronger here than at the Red Bull Ring, but we are still not where we should be. We had two good races – the first one was especially good, thanks to the safety car and to our excellent pace. Qualifying on Sunday was OK, even though the red flag did not come at an ideal time for us. We were on a fast lap, and that really cost us. Ultimately, though, P13 was a fair result. We simply didn’t have the speed. In view of our pace on Sunday, we finished the race where we were always going to finish it. The positive aspect is that we have improved. Hopefully, we will carry on in that direction.”
Nikolaj Rogivue (BWT Audi R8 LMS #26): “Frédéric and I drove well in Friday’s rain, and I felt very good in the car. As the track got drier, the balance was no longer quite perfect. The conditions were very tricky, especially with the wind. It was wet in Saturday’s quali, and I made a big mistake on my fast lap that cost me seven tenths; otherwise P12 might have been possible. We still have work to do on our qualifying pace. The first race was OK. I had difficulties at the start, because the left side of the grid at Zandvoort puts you at a disadvantage. I therefore lost a few positions going into the first corner, though I subsequently got them back. Unfortunately, I then lost some positions again through having to avoid a car that had spun. We spent most of Sunday’s race in twelfth place overall, but the Ferrari behind me was very fast, and I was unable to fend off the challenge in the end, so we had to settle for 13th.”
Christopher Haase (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “That wasn’t necessarily a flagship weekend for our car. We performed well below our best in both qualis. In the first race, we incurred an avoidable drive-through penalty. Without that, our excellent strategy would have got us up to fourth place. In the second race, unfortunately, we were never going to finish any higher than 14th. Anyway, the next race weekend should be better for us.”
Jeffrey Schmidt (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “Unfortunately, the weekend turned out to be a disappointment for me. A technical problem was impeding our progress for most of the time. Sadly, P13 was the maximum I could get from my qualifying session. Fourth place – obviously with the intervention of the safety car – would have suited us just fine. Too bad that the drive-through penalty got in the way. We used Sunday to find a good setup for the car, as we were no more likely to improve on our P15 grid position than we were to drop back. I am now looking forward to the Nürburgring and hoping that the car will work really well there.”
Mike David Ortmann (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS #24): “The conditions at the beginning of the weekend were highly changeable. In the wet, we were actually quite good, but in the dry, we were lacking pace. Nevertheless, we had a solid grid position for the first race. It was by no means easy driving in the strong wind. We had a stroke of luck with the safety car. Markus drove really well. I was very happy about fourth place in the general classification and being runner-up in the Junior class. It’s very gratifying to come back from the summer break to a result like this. The second race was unspectacular. We scored decent points again.”
Markus Winkelhock (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS #24): “This has been the best weekend of the year so far. The car was significantly better, and the balance was right. We scored good points and had fun. It once again goes to show how important it is to have a good qualifying. Also, our overtaking was successful, although it’s actually quite difficult to get past here. I’m feeling upbeat, because we have taken a step forward. I hope we can continue at this level next weekend.”
Matthias Kieper (PR & Team Management): “We sat down over the summer break and analysed the first half of the season, looking for ways to build on previous performances in the second half of the campaign. We were quite successful in this regard. I am very pleased that our number 24 car has had such a very good weekend, coming away with a respectable points haul. The other two driver pairings didn’t allow the headwind to blow them off course – in the figurative as well as the literal sense – and they both scored points on a consistent basis. This was the first occasion since we signed up for the ADAC GT Masters that all three of our cars have finished both races in the points. We want to see a repeat of that at the Nürburgring, preferably with our three sharing 25, 20 and 16 points each time.”
Michael Weiss (Technical Director): “Zandvoort seems to suit our number 24 car. Markus and Mike were already strong here last year, and in qualifying, they were our fastest drivers this time too. They have maintained their form and done a superb job in the difficult conditions here this weekend, coping well with whatever the weather threw at them. The number 25 crew had an unexpectedly difficult weekend. We had a problem with the car, which was hard to pin down. When we finally located it, there was not enough time left, because it wasn’t simply a matter of flipping a switch. The competitive times subsequently posted by the two drivers are a cause for optimism. Sadly, the drive-through penalty on Saturday ruined the race. It’s unfortunate, but one of our mechanics put one foot over the white line too soon in his eagerness to get to the car. It was a totally disproportionate penalty, because it wouldn’t have brought us any competitive advantage. But of course, it’s a rule and an unnecessary mistake on our part that is inexcusable. Last but not least, I’d like to say a big thank you to Frédéric for stepping in at Zandvoort, even though he had a parallel commitment in the 24-hour race at Zolder. He drove a night stint there and was back on Sunday morning in time for qualifying. He and Nikolay posted a couple of good results. We now have to think about next week and the Nürburgring. Things have gone quite well for us there over the past two years. We have always managed to qualify in the Top Five, and there is no reason to think we can’t do that again this year.”
Source. Mücke Motorsport/Photo. Gruppe C Photography