After claiming victory last year, ROWE Racing reached the podium once again at the 49th edition of the Nürburgring 24 Hours (GER). At the farewell appearance of the BMW M6 GT3, which will be replaced by the BMW M4 GT3 in 2022, Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Martin Tomczyk (GER), Marco Wittmann (GER) and Connor De Phillippi (USA) finished second in the #98 car. Having started from 25th on the grid, the quartet put on an impressive recovery performance and crossed the finish line just 8.8 seconds behind the victorious Porsche. This proved to be the shortest-ever edition of the race after thick fog interrupted the event for more than 14 hours.
On Saturday afternoon, Tomczyk had laid the foundations for success in difficult conditions featuring soaking-wet sections of track as well as dry areas. He moved up from 25th position to third place during his double stint. In the final stage after the restart around midday on Sunday, van der Linde was involved in a thrilling duel for victory with the #911 Porsche. In the end, ROWE Racing was not even ten seconds away from defending their title. The team’s #1 car, with Nick Catsburg (NED), Nick Yelloly (GBR), John Edwards (USA) and Philipp Eng (AUT) at the wheel, started from pole position and led the field for the restart, but then fell back when regulations required a long pit stop after the red flag on Saturday evening. Shortly thereafter, the car was forced to retire due to a technical defect.
Schubert Motorsport also gave a strong performance. Jens Klingmann (GER), Jesse Krohn (FIN), Alexander Sims (GBR) and Stef Dusseldorp (NED) were on course for a podium finish for some time but then suffered some bad luck with Code 60 periods in the final stage and crossed the line in sixth place.
BMW Junior Team was unrewarded for a strong debut in the BMW M6 GT3 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Dan Harper (GBR), Max Hesse (GER) and Neil Verhagen (USA) were joined by Augusto Farfus (BRA) as they worked their way back to the top ten thanks to some great lap times after selecting the wrong tyres at the start of the race. However, Farfus started to struggle with technical problems 30 minutes from the end and was hit from behind by another car as he slowed down. That marked the end of the race for the BMW Team RMG #77 BMW M6 GT3. Walkenhorst Motorsport put two of its BMW M6 GT3s in the top 20, finishing in twelfth and 15th.
BMW M CEO Markus Flasch (AUT) finished fourth in the CUP5 class with the #241 BMW M2 CS Racing. Competing for Adrenalin Motorsport, he shared the car with Jörg Weidinger, Matthias Malmedie and Niki Schelle (all GER).
Reactions after the race:
Markus Flasch (CEO BMW M GmbH): “What a race for the BMW M Motorsport family! We are delighted with this second place for the BMW M6 GT3 and the ROWE Racing team. Congratulations to the team and the drivers of the #98 car. They showed how strong the BMW M6 GT3 remains, even at this age, and that it can still battle for victory. Unfortunately, their team-mates endured some bad luck with the #1 car and had been among the favourites to win the race. The Schubert Motorsport car was also involved in the battle for a podium result for a long period. We had a very good set-up at the top. BMW Junior Team also gave a strong performance until being forced to retire just before the end of the race. Congratulations to the lads and Augusto Farfus for a strong performance. It was definitely a fine way for the BMW M6 GT3 to mark its farewell at this classic event. At the same time, we are also really looking forward to the BMW M4 GT3, which we presented here at the Nürburgring this weekend. We will be competing with the new car at this race in the future. This will put us back on the attack. Personally, I had a lot of fun getting out on the track in this race with the BMW M2 CS Racing. That was a unique experience. I would certainly not rule out competing again in 2022. I would also like to thank the many other BMW M Motorsport teams who celebrated class wins and gave a great battling performance. We are very proud of the BMW M Motorsport family at the Nürburgring. And of course, the same also applies to the huge BMW M fan community for their superb support. Congratulations to Porsche and the Manthey team on their overall win.”
Mike Krack (Head of BMW M Motorsport): “Once again, that was anything but a normal race here at the Nürburgring. We made it through the difficult opening stage really well. When the race was stopped, we had three cars in the top six but the interruption lasted for a very long time. Race control definitely made the right decision. We then had a three-and-a-half-hour sprint race. Unfortunately, we lost two cars due to technical problems, while the Schubert team and the #98 from ROWE Racing were battling for podiums and the win. Overall, our drivers and teams gave a faultless performance under the most challenging conditions. Congratulations to the Manthey team on their win.”
Hans-Peter Naundorf (ROWE Racing team principal): “We reached the podium thanks to a fantastically good performance from our drivers. The conditions in the opening stage were extremely difficult, however, the #98 car was still able to make great progress. Martin’s starting stint was sensational – it was like seeing the rain god walking on water. Sheldon was in the car for nearly three hours at the end and he applied some great pressure. The race was just a bit too short for us. We might have been able to achieve more over the full distance. The #1 car also gave a great performance but unfortunately a technical defect ended its race.”
Martin Tomczyk (#98 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing, 2nd place): “After qualifying, we would never have expected to move to the front so quickly during the race. It is always wonderful to stand on the podium at this 24-hour race. The ROWE Racing team, BMW M Motorsport and my three fellow drivers all put so much work into this race. We have been rewarded for that. It was so much fun. A great result, and one that I was not really expecting.”
Sheldon van der Linde (#98 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Racing, 2nd place): “Considering our grid position, that is an unbelievable result. I could see the Manthey Porsche on Döttinger Höhe. It was so tight. Of course, it does hurt a little but we really should not be disappointed. My triple stint at the end was not half bad, I really gave it everything. But it was not to be. Congratulations to Manthey, they earned the win.”
Marco Wittmann (#98 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing, 2nd place): “In the end, we can be very pleased with that second place, even though it is a little disappointing to finish not even ten seconds behind the winners. When we started from 25th on the grid on Saturday, we had no expectation of finishing the race on the podium. It was Martin Tomczyk who put us in this position with his unbelievable opening double stint. In general, we worked really well as a team. That is my first podium at a 24-hour race. I am really pleased with that.”
Connor De Phillippi (#98 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing, 2nd place): “I am grateful for having been part of such a great team. I think that our car had the potential to win but the conditions were unbelievably tough at times. In the end, luck was not entirely on our side but I am sure we will get another chance.”
Jesse Krohn (#20 BMW M6 GT3, Schubert Motorsport, 6th place): “Our car was definitely good enough for the podium but luck was just not on our side. We had two Code 60 periods towards the end of the race, which our rivals did not have. That cost us a lot of time and you can’t make it back up. Nonetheless, we are happy to have made it to the finish. But we could have done better.”
Neil Verhagen (#77 BMW M6 GT3, BMW Junior Team, DNF): “I think that this 24-hour race on the Nordschleife is the most fun I’ve ever had in a racing car in all my life. You are simply always driving right on the limit here. I have never experienced anything like it at any other circuit. Being able to drive the restart after the interruption was a major highlight for me. I just gave it everything and had tunnel vision. My first 24-hour race in a GT3 car was just crazy. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get the car to the finish line in the end.”
Philipp Eng (#1 BMW M6 GT3, ROWE Racing, DNF): “We were doing really well. Our starting drivers in particular, Nick and Martin in the other car, did a phenomenal job of keeping the cars on the track during this difficult stage. Unfortunately, the red flag with the new regulation for the time required for a pit stop did not help us at all. We had to stay there for an unbelievably long time and then we knew we would have to drive right on the limit. I don’t think we have often pushed as hard on the Nordschleife as we did today, but then we had a technical issue. I no longer had full power and had to retire the car.”