The fifth race on the fifth continent draws the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) season to a close this weekend. At the legendary track in Kyalami (RSA), BMW Team Schnitzer is set to compete with a BMW M6 GT3 and will send a local hero, Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), to do battle. With the second race within a week, BMW Team Schnitzer master a huge organisational challenge, which was preceded by long and complex planning. In addition to the team from Freilassing, Walkenhorst Motorsport will also be competing in South Africa. Henry Walkenhorst’s (GER) team will field two BMW M6 GT3 at the IGTC season finale.
As throughout the entire season, the Walkenhorst Motorsport team will compete with the #34 BMW M6 GT3 and the three regular drivers Nick Catsburg (NED), Mikkel Jensen (DEN) and Christian Krognes (NOR). In addition, the team will race with another BMW M6 GT3. Michael Von Rooyen, Gennaro Bonafede (both RSA) and team principal Henry Walkenhorst himself will take it in turns at the wheel of the #36 BMW M6 GT3.
The cockpit of the #42 BMW M6 GT3 of BMW Team Schnitzer will be shared by Martin Tomczyk (GER), local hero Sheldon van der Linde, who contested the DTM for BMW in 2019, and Augusto Farfus (BRA). The nine-hour race in South Africa will be Farfus’ and BMW Team Schnitzer’s second race within a matter of days. Just last weekend the Brazilian was in action in the #42 BMW M6 GT3 at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau (CHN). There he took fourth place both in the qualifying race on Saturday and in the main race on Sunday.
BMW Team Schnitzer master huge logistical challenge.
The two races within a matter of days pose an enormous challenge not only for the Brazilian. BMW Team Schnitzer has accomplished a logistical tour de force with the organisation of the two race appearances, which was preceded by complex planning.
At the FIA GT World Cup in Macau last weekend, the same BMW M6 GT3 that contested the ninth round of the VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring (GER) was in action. The team only had a week to modify the BMW M6 GT3 after its appearance in the Eifel region, apply foils and deliver the car to Luxembourg. From there, the GT3 car was transported to Macau by aeroplane. Tools, spare parts and other equipment were transported from Europe to Asia by sea at the same time.
A total of nine team members from the Schnitzer crew were on duty in Macau. While three of them remained there to load the containers, the others travelled to Johannesburg (RSA), around 11,000 kilometres away, on Monday morning. After about 14 hours in the air, they were received by seven other BMW Team Schnitzer employees in Kyalami, who had travelled to Kyalami the previous week to prepare the car and the equipment for the IGTC race weekend. The BMW M6 GT3 that contested the 10 Hours of Suzuka (JPN) will also take on this race.
BMW Team Schnitzer started planning for the race weekend at the start of the year. They not only had to consider the availabilities of the cars and organisation of the freight, but also the greater personnel effort required by an endurance race. More pit stops and more tyres mean a need for more personnel than last weekend in Macau. On top of this are the special conditions at the track at every IGTC location.
BMW and South Africa: a special relationship.
After stopping off on four continents, in Bathurst (AUS), Laguna Seca (USA), Spa-Francorchamps (BEL) and Suzuka, already this year, the IGTC is breaking new ground in Kyalami. The series is hosting its first ever race on the African continent. It gets underway on Saturday, 23rd November at 12:00 (CET).
BMW has a special relationship with the former Formula 1 track. In the final Formula 1 race of the 1983 season, Nelson Piquet (BRA) clinched the world championship title on the track in the province of Gauteng. This was also the first Formula 1 title for BMW and the first for a car with turbo drive.
And it’s not only in motorsport that BMW enjoys a close relationship with South Africa. The plant in Rosslyn, located only around 60 kilometres away from Kyalami, was in 1973 the first plant that the BMW Group established outside Germany. Over 35 years and five generations, more than a million units of BMW 3 Series have been produced here. After a major investment the plant has been upgraded to produce the BMW X3 from 2018. BMW South Africa employs more than 40,000 employees directly and indirectly, and is one of the country’s leading exporters of cars.
Sheldon van der Linde (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer):
“I’m full of high expectations ahead of Kyalami. For the first time in my career, I will contest a race in front of my home crowd. This makes me even more motivated to put in a good performance. We have a really good package for the race, and I think the track is suited to the car. I used to live near the track. Since I will be staying with my parents for the race weekend, I will be waking up in my own bed and driving to the track before a race for the first time since I was involved in karting. That feels very special to me. Just recently, I drove on the track at the BMW M Festival in South Africa in the DTM race taxi, and I completed test drives here a few years ago. However, I’m not expecting this to give me a great advantage compared with other drivers who have never driven here before. For me, the racetrack is one of the best in the world. The surface and the layout are new, and the surrounding area on the outskirts of Johannesburg is unique. From my perspective, there is no better place to hold the season finale of the IGTC.”
Augusto Farfus (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer):
“After the race in Macau, this will be the second event within a week for me and the whole BMW Team Schnitzer. Naturally, this is a major challenge for us all. The tracks and the approaches in the two races are totally different. Macau was a sprint race, which was all about going on the attack. Whereas Kyalami will be an endurance race. On the other hand, it definitely has advantages contesting a race with the same car and the same tyres two weekends in a row. In Kyalami, we are all breaking new ground and are starting at a similar level. It’s been a long time since I was last in South Africa, but I only have good memories of the country and I am really looking forward to it. I think that we had a strong package, recently in Suzuka and throughout the entire season, but as yet have not been rewarded with a spot on the podium. So, I hope that we will make up for this at the season finale and end the year on a high.”
Nick Catsburg (#34 BMW M6 GT3, Walkenhorst Motorsport):
“We haven’t competed in Kyalami yet, so it’s quite difficult to make a prediction. Personally, I have never been to South Africa before. So it’s an event with plenty of firsts. I have heard that the tyre wear is meant to be very low there, which I think should suit us. We have been very competitive throughout the season and I hope that this will also be the case in Kyalami and that we will be able to be up there battling for the podium. Even though we were a little unlucky in part, I really enjoyed the first season in the IGTC. The tracks and locations where we have raced have been very special. And being given the privilege of representing the Walkenhorst Motorsport team was a great experience. Now, I am hoping for a positive end to the season.”