Last year’s winners ROWE Racing lived up to the #1 on the BMW M6 GT3 in Top Qualifying. In difficult conditions on a wet circuit, Nick Yelloly (GBR) claimed pole position for the Nürburgring 24 Hours with a lap time of 10:01.619 minutes. The race will start on Saturday at 15:30. Jesse Krohn (FIN) finished fourth in the Schubert Motorsport #20 BMW M6 GT3, while Max Hesse (GER) was tenth in the #77 BMW M6 GT3 of the BMW Junior Team. Just before the start of Top Qualifying, the lap of honour for the BMW M3 ‘Eifelblitz’ in memory of Sabine Schmitz ensured a sensational atmosphere.
While the track was still dry, Augusto Farfus (BRA) had put the BMW Junior Team in a position to battle for the top ten by recording the third-fastest time in the first part of Top Qualifying, thereby qualifying for the top 20 shootout. Hesse then held his nerve as stormy weather led to extremely challenging track conditions.
The session went even better for Yelloly, who coped best with the conditions to lap more than two seconds faster than the second-placed car. A strong performance in the individual time trial put Krohn in third place for some time, but he was still pleased to finish fourth and secure a spot on the second row of the grid.
The Walkenhorst Motorsport #100 car competing in the Pro-Am class had also made it into Top Qualifying 2, but chose not to appear for safety reasons and was classified in 20th position. The Walkenhorst Motorsport #101 BMW M6 GT3, the #98 BMW M6 GT3 from ROWE Racing and the Walkenhorst Motorsport #102 BMW M6 GT3 will start the race from 24th, 25th and 30th positions.
Appearance of ‘Eifelblitz’ in memory of Sabine Schmitz evokes real emotion.
The 30 minutes leading up to the first of the two Top Qualifying sessions were dominated by memories of the recently deceased Nürburgring legend Sabine Schmitz. Johannes Scheid, who won the 24-hour race together with Schmitz in 1996 and 1997 at the wheel of the BMW M3 ‘Eifelblitz’, completed a lap of honour around the Nordschleife in a replica of the winning car from 1996. It started in the pit lane, accompanied by applause from the other teams and drivers, who emerged from their pit areas to form a guard of honour for the ‘Eifelblitz’. “It was very emotional to first see everyone in the pit lane and then the track marshals along the circuit, who had even made their own banners,” said Scheid after his lap. “I said to Sabine: ‘They are all there for you’. It was very moving. It still gives me a chill just to think about it. We owed it to her and I think it is fantastic that BMW made it possible.”
Reactions to Top Qualifying:
Mike Krack (Head of BMW M Motorsport): “The conditions for qualifying today were extremely difficult and we are very pleased with the BMW performance. Last year’s winners ROWE Racing and Nick Yelloly in pole position after an outstanding display of driving, Jesse Krohn in fourth place in the BMW M6 GT3 from Schubert Motorsport and Max Hesse in the BMW Junior Team car, which Augusto Farfus got out of Q1 and into Q2, in tenth position – that was a superb performance. But that is just the beginning. We have a very long race ahead of us, and it will all be about making a few errors as possible. Today, the Nordschleife has already shown that you can always expect unpredictable weather conditions and it will be no different tomorrow. And you have to consider the strength of the competition. We have a mature and reliable car in the form of the BMW M6 GT3, we have very good teams and we have very good drivers. Together, we will attempt to get the very best out of this. We are looking forward to this race.“
Nick Yelloly (#1 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing, 1st place): “I am very, very happy to bring that pole home for BMW. Obviously after last year’s event, when we managed to win, to start off like this is just superb. I couldn’t picture a better start to the weekend. It was pretty tricky and slippery out there but it worked out. Now it’s all about focusing for the race. We know that it is going to be mixed conditions so we have to be very good and on top of our game in terms of calling the right pit strategy and tyre choice. But the team were amazing, as were BMW, last year in doing so, so there is no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Jesse Krohn (#20 BMW M6 GT3, Schubert Motorsport, 4th place): “I am very happy. Obviously starting in the top ten is quite important in this race and we managed to qualify in the top five so I can be happy especially as I can’t even remember the last time I drove here on the wet and many of the other guys drove a lot here last year so in that sense they had a bit of an advantage. But I just went to the risk level that I was comfortable with, that I knew I can do a good job with and not risk the car. Because tomorrow is the big day, today was just one step to the goal.”
Max Hesse (#77 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Junior Team, 10th place): “Mega! That was the first time I had ever driven any laps in the GT3 car in the rain. From the start, I realised that it would not be an easy task. But overall, we are of course super happy with tenth place. It’s our first top ten result at our first 24-hour race in the GT3. A big thank you to Augusto as well; his Q1 lap was really great. The lads did a super job and the car went perfectly. All four of us feel really good in the car and now it is all about focusing on the race, we still have 24 hours of driving ahead of us.”
Augusto Farfus (#77 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Junior Team, 10th place): “It is awesome! Considering that Max has never tried a GT3 in the wet, he did a superb job. I am very proud of what we have done. Top Qualifying 1 was not an easy one because there was no room for mistakes so we did do a good job and went through to Q2. Then Max did a great job. We have three BMWs in the top ten – it could not be any better.”