The BMW M Motorsport teams used the new format of the Qualifiers for the Nürburgring 24 Hours (GER) to put the finishing touches to their preparations for the highlight of the endurance season, which takes place on 28th/29th May. The new BMW M4 GT3 impressed in the two three-hour races, with two pole positions, a lap record, a one-two result and a further podium finish. On Saturday, the BMW Junior Team took victory ahead of the #99 BMW M4 GT3 of ROWE Racing. On Sunday, Dan Harper (GBR), Max Hesse (GER) and Neil Verhagen (USA) finished runner-up, despite a time penalty. BMW M GmbH, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022, has announced some spectacular events to feature on the support programme for the 24-hour race; the BMW M Race of Legends with the BMW M2 CS Racing and test drives for media representatives in current BMW M cars.
Race 1: Lap record and one-two.
Top 30 Qualifying on Friday evening saw Farfus set a new practice lap record of 8:08.421 minutes in the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3. In doing so, he secured pole position for his team for Saturday’s opening race. BMW Junior Hesse put the #72 BMW M4 GT3 in second place on the grid, ahead of Christian Krognes (NOR) in the #101 BMW M4 GT3 of Walkenhorst Motorsport.
In race one, spectators witnessed a battle at the front of the field between the #99 and the #72. After just over an hour, BMW Junior Harper overtook Nick Yelloly (GBR) in the ROWE Racing car. From that point on, the BMW Junior Team was on course for the victory, and even the onset of rain with roughly 20 minutes remaining could not knock final driver Hesse off his stride. After three hours of racing, the BMW M Motorsport teams claimed a one-two, with Verhagen, Harper and Hesse taking victory in the #72, ahead of ROWE Racing drivers Philipp Eng (AUT), Yelloly and Augusto Farfus (BRA) in the #99 car. Their team-mates Marco Wittmann (GER), Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) and Nick Catsburg (NED) came home fourth, narrowly missing out on the podium.
Race 2: Pole position for Walkenhorst Motorsport.
The second Top Qualifying session took place on Sunday morning – and again the first two places on the grid went to the BMW M4 GT3. This time, it was Krognes in the #101 Walkenhorst Motorsport car who secured pole position. Harper was again second fastest in the #72 for the BMW Junior Team. In the race, the two BMW M4 GT3s initially pulled clear of the chasing pack, however the #101 BMW M4 GT3, with Sami-Matti Trogen (NOR) at the wheel, was then forced to retire following a crash. The BMW Junior Team again crossed the finish line in first place, but was then relegated to second place following a time penalty, awarded for exceeding the speed limit in Code 60 zones. The Sunday race did not go to plan for ROWE Racing. The #98 BMW M4 GT3 fell well back through the field as a result of a collision in the pit lane. The #99 car retired with a technical issue. The #20 BMW M4 GT3 of Schubert Motorsport, sporting the BMW M Motorsport anniversary livery, ended the three-hour race in ninth place, after drivers Jens Klingmann (GER), Alexander Sims (GBR), Jesse Krohn (FIN) and Niklas Krütten (GER) had previously finished tenth on Saturday.
50 years of BMW M: BMW M Race of Legends at the 24-hour race.
Motorsport fans can look forward to a special highlight on the weekend of the 24-hour race, the BMW M Race of Legends to mark the 50th anniversary of BMW M. Many racing legends will go head to head in identical BMW M2 CS Racings. The race will be held on the Saturday, immediately before the start of the 50th staging of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Anyone unable to follow the race live at the circuit can watch the BMW M Race of Legends live on Nitro and the livestream of the 24-hour race. Partners of BMW M GmbH for the BMW M Race of Legends are: Shell, Goodyear, Puma and Nitro. The detailed list of racing legends who will compete in the BMW M Race of Legends will be announced shortly.
Quotes after the 24h Nürburgring Qualifiers.
Andreas Roos (Head of BMW M Motorsport): “The two qualification races mark the end of our preparations for the BMW M4 GT3’s debut at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. The new format of this event was – particularly after the cancellation of NLS 2 – another valuable opportunity to work on the set-up of the car and the processes in the teams. As in all of this season’s races on the Nordschleife, we showed this weekend what our teams and drivers are capable of with the new car. The races and lap times are very encouraging, and we hope we can back our performances up at the highlight of the season in three weeks’ time. Congratulations to the BMW Junior Team and ROWE Racing on the one-two in the Saturday race. We had the necessary pace again on Sunday, as proved by Christian Krognes’ pole position for Walkenhorst Motorsport and another podium for our Juniors. However, we have also seen that speed alone is not enough if you don’t have a flawless race. In the 24-hour race, it will be all the more important to do a perfect job. Together with our teams, we will now focus fully on that.”
Dan Harper (#72 BMW M4 GT3, BMW Junior Team): “It has been an amazing weekend. I think that we are completely prepared for the 24-hour race, which was our main aim. Obviously the results are fantastic, the boys have done a fantastic job. The car is in an excellent window, it is such a pleasure to drive the new BMW M4 GT3. It was really a fun weekend. Of course, it was a shame with the penalty in Sunday’s race, that’s one on me, but P2 in the end with the penalty and two wins, let’s say on the road – we can be happy.”
Max Hesse (#72 BMW M4 GT3, BMW Junior Team): “Our record for the weekend is a very positive one. We are very happy. I think we are on the right track in terms of our preparations for the 24-hour race. We obviously still have some work ahead of us, but we are happy so far. The car is working well, the team did a mega job and the pit stops have been super. I think we are really well prepared.”
Neil Verhagen (#72 BMW M4 GT3, BMW Junior Team): “It has been a very good weekend for us. With luck being more on our side today we would have made it two overall wins. We were very unlucky in the first stint, when I was driving, just on my inlap we lost over 30 seconds through the code zones. If that hadn’t happened I think we would have still been able to win the race with the penalty, but overall it has been a very solid weekend, so thank you to BMW M Motorsport and BMW M Team RMG for providing an amazing car all weekend. It was a pleasure to drive and I think we can be quite happy going into the 24-hour race. We are pretty confident.”
Augusto Farfus (#99 BMW M4 GT3, ROWE Racing): “Saturday’s race was great but a bit difficult at the end due to the rain. I am proud that we stepped onto the podium again, and I am also delighted for the juniors that they won. BMW did an incredible job in supporting then. Maybe we even haven taught them a bit too much in the past two years. They are called ‘juniors’ but in respect of the last two years they belong to the most experienced drivers here on the Nordschleife. They have speed and talent and there is nothing left you need to teach them in this respect. It is a pity that we had a technical issue in Sunday’s race but I think that overall we, as BMW, are very well prepared. The base is very good, but to win the big race you not only need performance but also a lot of luck.”
Marco Wittmann (#98 BMW M4 GT3, ROWE Racing): “It was a rather difficult weekend for us in the #98 car. Sheldon secured a good grid position, with fifth place in both Top Qualifyings. However, we were ultimately lacking a bit of pace in both races, and the crash in the pit lane cost us on Sunday. Despite this, we did manage to finish a fine fourth in Saturday’s race. All in all, it was a good learning process for us. We grew closer as a team, and I hope that we will learn from the weekend and come back stronger in the 24-hour race. I also hope that we have had our share of bad luck, and that we can look forward to some good luck in the main race. I am looking forward to the race and the big, big crowds, and hope for a good weekend.”
Jens Klingmann (#20 BMW M4 GT3, Schubert Motorsport): “The dress rehearsal for the 24-hour race was a great weekend for BMW M Motorsport. We saw that the BMW M4 GT3 has the potential to win races and mix it with the others at the very front of the field. At Schubert Motorsport we were not quite able to exploit the car’s full potential, we have to admit that. However, we are one BMW M Motorsport family, and I am sure that we can analyse this little deficit between now and the race, and see what we can do better to be on a par with the other BMW M Motorsport teams and compete at the front. The goal is clearly to take overall victory in the 24-hour race. With that in mind, we tried a lot of things and learned a lot. We will now put together the best package, and then it really counts in three weeks.”