Anniversary win for BMW in the ‘Green Hell’: the ROWE Racing team won the Nürburgring 24 Hours (GER) to present the Bavarian manufacturer with its 20th overall victory at the endurance classic. 50 years after the inaugural Eifel marathon, the #99 BMW M6 GT3 crossed the finish line in first place after 85 laps of racing. Nick Catsburg (NED), Alexander Sims (GBR) and Nick Yelloly (GBR) alternated at the wheel in an eventful and wet race, which was interrupted for roughly nine hours in the night due to heavy rain. The trio fought back strongly on Sunday to earn BMW’s first overall victory since 2010. At the end of a nerve-racking climax, Catsburg crossed the finish line 15.452 seconds ahead of the second-placed Audi. BMW Team Schnitzer completed the podium in third place, with drivers Augusto Farfus (BRA), Jens Klingmann (GER), Martin Tomczyk (GER) and Sheldon van der Linde (RSA).
The race was a rollercoaster of emotions. On Saturday, the BMW M6 GT3s were unable to match the pace at the front of the field in the rain, and consequently lost ground. When the track became too wet and visibility too poor, race control suspended the race late on Saturday evening. The action only resumed at 08:00 on Sunday morning. As the track started to dry out, the BMW teams became faster and faster and closed in on the leaders. In an extremely exciting final stage of the race, the ROWE Racing team was spot on with its tyre choices and took the lead, with Catsburg going on to seal the win in style. The BMW Team Schnitzer #42 BMW M6 GT3 was followed over the finish line in fourth place by the #98 ROWE Racing car, with Lucas Auer (AUT), Tom Blomqvist (GBR), Philipp Eng (AUT), and Marco Wittmann (GER) at the wheel. The #101 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 came home twelfth. The #100 car in the AM class was not classified after multiple incidents and a long break for repairs.
BMW Junior Team ended its debut at a 24-hour race in style. Despite the tricky conditions, Dan Harper (GBR), Max Hesse (GER) and Neil Verhagen (USA), in the #73 BMW M4 GT4, drove a virtually flawless race to win the SP8T class and finish 19th overall. That made them the best non-GT3 team in the entire field.
The BMW M2 CS Racing media car, sporting a special anniversary livery, fell back through the field after a collision with a faster car roughly four hours from the end of the race. However, the Pixum CFN Adrenalin Motorsport was able to carry out the necessary repairs to allow the car to finish the race. Alternating at the wheel were professional racing drivers Dirk Adorf (GER) and Tom Coronel (NED), as well as journalists Christian Gebhardt and Niki Schelle (both GER).
Quotes on the BMW victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours:
Jens Marquardt (BMW Group Motorsport Director): “What a fantastic win! 50 years after the first overall victory for BMW at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have come full circle with our 20th triumph. Congratulations to the whole ROWE Racing team, as well as drivers Nick Catsburg, Alexander Sims and Nick Yelloly. They stuck to the plan, despite all the difficulties we mainly had in the wet, and then made a magnificent comeback in the final few hours when the track first started to dry out before the rain returned. Thanks to a perfect team effort, everyone responsible made all the right decisions at the right time. The closing stages, when every second counted, were incredibly nerve-racking. We have tried many times with the BMW M6 GT3 to win this iconic race, which is extremely important to BMW Motorsport. Now we have done it, and the joy at this achievement is huge. The crews in cars #42 and #98 also fought their way back into the race superbly, and achieved very strong results with third and fourth place. Congratulations to BMW Team Schnitzer on their podium. I am also very pleased with the class win for the BMW Junior Team and their BMW M4 GT4. The guys passed the test in extremely difficult conditions and can be proud of themselves. They did a great job. So did the many BMW M Customer Racing teams, who competed here despite the extraordinary circumstances resulting from the pandemic. Although this year’s 24-hour race took place in extraordinary conditions due to the current situation, and we missed the many fans around the circuit, this race is an incredibly emotional highlight of what has been a difficult motorsport year so far. Thank you to everyone whose hard work has made this success possible.”
Hans-Peter Naundorf (Team Principal ROWE Racing): “It is fantastic that BMW rocked the race here. Together, we showed what the BMW M6 GT3 is really capable of. The key to the success was the team spirit and our great squad of drivers, who did not make any mistakes. All the drivers did a magnificent job and were at the limit, even in difficult conditions. There was obviously an awful lot of tension in the final laps, because it was extremely close. However, Nicky Catsburg did a really good job of closing it out. It was one of the toughest races we have ever been involved in. A big thank you goes to the organisers, the other teams and manufacturers, and everybody who made it through the event. It doesn’t get any better. We are overjoyed.”
Nick Catsburg (#99 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing): “I am incredibly happy. I have wanted to win this race for so long. The Nordschleife is my favourite circuit. We have tried so often, and have now finally done it. A big thank you to my team-mates Alexander Sims, Nick Yelloly and the whole team. Our brief was to keep the car on the track and not make any mistakes. That is exactly what we did.”
Alexander Sims (#99 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing): “It is simply fantastic to have won this race. It almost feels a bit strange to be relatively refreshed at the end of such a tough race, because we had the break in the night. It is a fantastic feeling. We have been trying for a long time – first with the BMW Z4 GT3, then with the BMW M6 GT3. That makes today’s success special.”
Nick Yelloly (#99 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing): “That was my first 24-hour race, as I did not get to drive here last year. The pressure was on, as we really wanted to get that 20th win, 50 years after the first BMW victory. My team-mates and the car were mega and we made the right decisions at the right time. In the end, we made it through the race without a single mistake. This is definitely the biggest success of my career so far.”
Herbert Schnitzer (Team Principal BMW Team Schnitzer): “That was a superb success for BMW – congratulations on the long-awaited 20th overall victory in the 24-hour race on the Nordschleife. Ten years ago, we at Schnitzer Motorsport claimed the last victory. Our colleagues at ROWE Racing have now repeated the feat. They deserved to win today, and we are pleased to have contributed to today’s success with third place. We definitely could have done even better. Our drivers did a top job in miserable conditions, and the BMW M6 GT3 was also excellently prepared. It was just not meant to be. However, the main thing is that it is a great day for BMW.”
Augusto Farfus (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer): “That is a fantastic success, to see two BMW crews on the podium. We drove a squeaky clean race. We did not quite have the pace of the winning car in drying conditions. Despite that, it is super to be back on the podium ten years after our last win which I was involved in.”
Jens Klingmann (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer): “In the extremely difficult conditions in the opening stages of the race, the challenge was simply to stay on the track. On the whole, we are happy with third place. ROWE Racing was a little faster than us in the race, so they deserved the win. We did not make any mistakes and the car does not have a single scratch on it. As such, we can be proud of ourselves. I am very pleased for BMW Motorpsort that the trophy is finally returning to Munich after ten years.”
Martin Tomczyk (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer): “That was a really difficult 24-hour race – with a lot of rain and many incidents. However, we are actually pretty used to that on the Nordschleife. The important thing is that a BMW won today. That was the goal for all of us. Victory number 20 in 2020. I am delighted for Nicky, Alex and Nick. As a racing driver, you obviously always want to win yourself. Today, however, the greater good took priority – and third place in a 24-hour race is fantastic for us. For that reason, I would like to say a big thank you to BMW Team Schnitzer and my team-mates Augusto, Sheldon and Jens.”
Sheldon van der Linde (#42 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Team Schnitzer): “I am delighted with our podium and obviously the win for BMW. ROWE Racing had great pace in the race and deserved to win. We did the best we could. Our car was really good, particularly at the re-start this morning. It is nice to have BMW back on top after ten years. We would like to dedicate our third place to Charly Lamm. I am sure he would have been delighted to finish on the podium here with the BMW M6 GT3.“
Philipp Eng (#98 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing): “I am delighted for BMW Motorsport. That was incredibly important. After ten years without a win, the stars were finally shining on us again in the 50th anniversary race, and BMW can finally celebrate its 20th overall victory in this race. Congratulations to my team-mates. Unfortunately, we missed out on the podium with the #98 BMW M6 GT3, but today is all about the overall victory for the team and BMW Motorsport.”
Henry Walkenhorst (Team Principal Walkenhorst Motorsport): “That was one of the most spectacular, interesting and demanding races of recent years here. Luck was not necessarily on our side. Despite that, the BMW family has cause to celebrate. Congratulations to ROWE Racing on the overall victory. I am really pleased for them. First place for the BMW Junior Team in the SP8T class was also sensational. The lads did a top job.”
Dan Harper (#73 BMW M4 GT4, BMW Junior Team): “Finishing our first 24-hour race as class winners and the best non-GT3 car is a fantastic feeling. Thank you very much to the Walkenhorst Motorsport Team and BMW Motorsport for giving us the opportunity to take part in this race. I would also like to say a huge thank you to my team-mates and Jochen Neerpasch, together with BMW Motorsport, for selecting us for the BMW Junior Team. Hopefully, we are now well-equipped to go for it in a GT3 car next season.”