After seven race weekends, more than 7,000 kilometres, four countries and 156 days, the 2019 ADAC GT Masters season passed in the twinkling of an eye and reached a brilliant conclusion this weekend at the Sachsenring. More than 25,000 spectators had come to watch, so BWT Mücke Motorsport wanted to be on top form again, aiming to round off the season in style for their fans. They had two very familiar driver pairings in the line-up – Nikolaj Rogivue and Stefan Mücke in the BWT Audi R8 LMS #26, plus Mike David Ortmann and Markus Winkelhock in the kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS #24 – but their BWT Audi R8 LMS #25 had a new crew member this time around, as Frenchman Steven Palette was partnering regular driver, Jeffrey Schmidt. Palette was standing in for Christopher Haase, who had other commitments.
The weekend’s highlights
Audi rings in shiny orange: Ortmann produced his best result of the season during Saturday qualifying in variable conditions on a track wet with rain. In the race, he got a peach of a start from ninth on the grid and by the end of the first lap, was already in P5. After the pit stops, Winkelhock even went up into third place for a short time when two fellow competitors dropped back with penalties and problems. The veteran driver defended this position in the manner to which we have become accustomed, thus delivering the most exciting scenes of the race. Ultimately, though, his rear tyres, which had degraded badly, were no longer willing to play along. He crossed the finish line in sixth in the second-best placed Audi out of 13 in all in the field. To Ortmann’s delight, the result meant third place and a podium for him in the Junior classification, a resounding success that he was even able to improve upon the next day. Starting from tenth place on Sunday, Winkelhock gained two positions during his stint and handed the car over to Ortmann lying in P8, who maintained the position until he finally had to acknowledge that his tyres were practically shot and was forced to let another car pass. Nevertheless, P9 in the overall standings meant more points and another podium in the Junior championship where Ortmann finished fourth.
Sachsenring roller-coaster: Swiss driver Rogivue laid the foundations for a top result on Saturday by qualifying twelfth. At the start, he and team-mate, Ortmann, got away equally well, with both of them pushing forwards all the time. After just one lap, Rogivue was up in seventh. Unfortunately, the junior made a small mistake before the time came to swap drivers, so Stefan Mücke took over in P9. BWT Mücke Motorsport had decided to delay calling in car #26 to the pits in view of the rain that was threatening to fall. But it remained dry, so their strategy did not work, and Mücke lost another position. Despite that, he was tenth at the chequered flag and thus achieved the second-best finish of the season for the BWT Audi R8 LMS #26. They did not manage a repeat of that result on Sunday, however. Starting from grid slot 15, it was not unreasonable of them to hope for a points-scoring finish. At the start, Mücke had to relinquish a position initially but reclaimed it later. He handed the car over to Rogivue in 15th place. Shortly before the end, it did indeed look like more points were coming their way until he was hit by another car, damaging a tyre in the process, which brought his race to an end.
September brings changes: As Christopher Haase had other commitments, Jeffrey Schmidt got a new team-mate. Steven Palette, who is well-known from various Porsche one-make cup and GT3 racing series, was only too pleased to stand in for Haase. The Frenchman was contesting his first race at the Sachsenring and had to concede that the track can prove difficult as he qualified 22nd on Saturday. Furthermore, a grid penalty that Schmidt had been handed earlier at the Hockenheimring for disregarding track limits served to drop the duo to the rear of the field. Starting from the back, Palette and Schmidt mounted a strong charge in the BWT Audi R8 LMS #25 which eventually finished 17th. Schmidt qualified twelfth for Sunday’s round. Like Mücke, he lost a position right at the start but regained it before the driver handover. Palette tried everything he could to score for BWT Mücke Motorsport, making mistakes in the process that dropped him back down to 17th place – just outside the points again.
Comments about the weekend
Stefan Mücke (BWT Audi R8 LMS #26): “This weekend was so-so. We could not prepare properly for the races because of Friday’s variable conditions, but Saturday qualifying was fine. We had tyre degradation to contend with in the race, so we worked on setup for Sunday to save the rear tyres. Unfortunately, we could not put our plan to attack at the end of the race into action due to a puncture following a contact.”
Nikolaj Rogivue (BWT Audi R8 LMS #26): “We lacked pace a little during practice in the dry, but things were much better in the wet. Qualifying in the variable conditions was tough. Unfortunately, we did not get our timing 100 percent right. Saturday’s race was excellent. I got a great start. Unfortunately, I pushed too much and spun, but luckily, I only lost a few seconds and we still achieved a Top Ten result. Our pace was not quite as good in the second race. I took a bad knock in a scrap, which led to a puncture, so our race was over.”
Steven Palette (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “The team made me very welcome. I would like to thank Peter and BWT Mücke Motorsport for giving me this opportunity and for showing confidence in me. Many things were new to me this weekend. I was very pleased with my pace. I pushed too much in the second race. I really wanted to secure a good result, but it led to a spin. The Sachsenring is a real challenge. It’s fast and technically demanding. Of course, it was especially tricky due to the variable conditions.”
Jeffrey Schmidt (BWT Audi R8 LMS #25): “Unfortunately, my new team-mate Steven did not have the best of qualis on Saturday. Still, it can’t have been easy for him, because he didn’t know the track and there are no test days here. I drove in Sunday qualifying for the first time this season but didn’t have a problem with that, because I can take it as it comes. At the same time, I knew that qualifying would not be easy. My lap was actually pretty good, but we were just too slow at the end of the day. I was pleased with my stints too. Of course, ultimately, I would like to have finished higher than 17th, but more was not possible in the circumstances.”
Mike David Ortmann (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS #24): “It began fine with qualifying on Saturday. We coped well with the tricky conditions. I had a great start in the race. We made it into the Top Ten twice this weekend and I took two Junior podiums, which is great, of course. It made a good end to the season and I came away feeling pleased with myself.”
Markus Winkelhock (kfzteile24 Audi R8 LMS #24): “Two finishes in the Top Ten make this our best weekend of the year. We’ve struggled a bit to find pace all season, but here at the Sachsenring, it was better, if not quite perfect. So we still have to work on it. That’s just how it is in motorsport. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. The important thing is to hang on in there and keep pushing.”
Matthias Kieper (PR & Team Management): “The Sachsenring made a good end to a pretty tough season. We could clearly see that we had the pace here. The podium was even briefly within reach on Saturday, and ultimately, we had the second-fastest Audi, which is no mean feat in this very competitive field. Nonetheless, we had all hoped to achieve more this season and so, we head home, feeling a variety of emotions. Despite all of that, I would like to thank all of our team members for their tireless dedication and perseverance in difficult times.”
Michael Weiss (Technical Director): “We felt we had the wind in our sails here at the Sachsenring. In practice, we were not just closer to the leaders in the wet, but up front at times. Our performance was also good in Q1 and in Saturday’s race. We found ourselves back on the Junior podium. The result was almost good enough for an overall podium. Markus Winkelhock certainly made things exciting. We were in the Top 15 with all three cars in Q2. Unfortunately, we did not have luck on our side in the race. So, it’s time now to draw a line under the 2019 season. We did everything in our power to a man.”
Peter Mücke (Team Principal): “I’m delighted with our three Top Ten finishes and two Junior podiums. This year has not been easy for us, but we brought it to a satisfactory conclusion here at the Sachsenring. We’ll be back next season with the intention of achieving more.”
Source. BWT Mücke Motorsport/Photo. Gruppe C Photography