Everything is ready for the classic endurance race in the Ardennes: Walkenhorst Motorsport secured a promising starting position for the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL) in Super Pole qualification on Friday evening. Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) claimed fifth place in the #34 BMW M6 GT3, Thomas Neubauer (FRA) finished the final qualifying session in the #35 BMW M6 GT3 in 14th place.
Van der Linde is sharing the cockpit in the #34 car with Marco Wittmann (GER) and David Pittard (GBR). Neubauer will be driving the #35 car with Martin Tomczyk and Timo Glock (both GER). The two BMW M6 GT3s put on a strong performance in Thursday’s multi-session qualifying, which was red-flagged several times. The average of the best times for the individual drivers in each car is calculated to determine qualifying classification. The 20 fastest cars move on to Super Pole. This posed no problem for Walkenhorst Motorsport, with fifth place for the #34 car and #35 in sixth.
On Friday afternoon, it was time for a different event, the FANATEC Esports GT Pro Series race. This sim racing series is a central element of the FANATEC GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, which also includes the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. Each team nominates a driver who competes in the race on the Assetto Corsa Competizione platform and can score points for the real overall standings. Victory at Spa-Francorchamps went to BMW as Pittard won the sim race for the Walkenhorst Motorsport team.
Super Pole followed on Friday evening, a shootout with two flying laps for each car. Rain began to fall just before the start of the final qualifying session, but the conditions were still conducive to driving on slicks. The two BMW M6 GT3s went out onto the track, one after the other. Van der Linde recorded a fastest time of 2:18.590 minutes, which was enough to secure fifth on the grid for him and his team-mates. Neubauer claimed 14th place, going round in 2:19.011 minutes.
“That was a really good Super Pole for us and that makes me happy,” said van der Linde. “We are also aware that qualifying is not decisive at Spa, so I am confident about the race. I think that we’ve got a good race car, which is what counts. But it was nice to be driving in Super Pole for the first time. Thanks to the team for placing their trust in me. Now I am hoping that we can record a great result.”
“It is not easy to compete against the world’s fastest GT3 drivers in Super Pole, and when you see a bit of rain as you are getting into the car, things get a bit more tense. But we were still able to push on dry tyres and the track conditions were good,” reported Neubauer. “Us BMW drivers had a decent qualifying session, and especially Sheldon did a mega job so congratulations to him. Our plan is now to make a good start, then to keep our heads down and avoid making any mistakes.”
The #10 BMW M6 GT3 car from Boutson Ginion Racing, competing in the Pro-Am Cup, will be starting from 45th position. Jens Klingmann (GER), Karim Ojjeh (KSA), Jens Liebhauser (GER) and Yann Zimmer (SUI) will be sharing driving duties in this car.
Right after Super Pole, BMW M Motorsport provided a glimpse of the future as the new BMW M4 GT3 completed several demonstration laps of the ‘Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps’. The new GT3 flagship, which will be competing as of 2022, appeared with Glock at the wheel before Klingmann took over.
“It was so much fun driving the new BMW M4 GT3 here. Those were my very first laps in this car, but I have to say that all the hard work that has been put into this race car has really paid off,” explained Glock later. “As soon as you get into the BMW M4 GT3, you feel good. The driving position and the level of driving comfort are just as good as everything else. The car feels very, very good right away and delivers convincing driveability. The guys really did some outstanding work. I am already looking forward to getting some more laps in with the car, but that was a very positive start.”
“Driving the first demo laps with the new BMW M4 GT3 was definitely something special,” said Klingmann. “That gives you an idea of what next year will be like, when we will hopefully be battling for overall wins with that car. But I think that the demo laps were enough to realise just how much potential the car has. I can now compare it directly with the BMW M6 GT3, which I am also driving here this weekend, and I think that the car gets a great reception in the paddock. A lot of teams have already shown an interest, which shows that BMW M Motorsport is on the right path with the BMW M4 GT3.”