The race was one of the closest in the event’s 90 year history
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium: BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS took their first ever overall podium at the Spa 24 Hours this afternoon. Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala and Dirk Werner missed out on victory by just six seconds, finishing in second place. #66, Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Jörg Müller, retired after a hare hit the radiator.
The race was one of the closest in the event’s 90 year history, with a late race battle playing out between Werner in #77 and the #1 Audi. Their two strategies converged late in the race, after several hours of exchanging the lead in pitstop cycles. However, a small electronic issue hampered Werner’s attempts to hold the lead in the closing laps.
Though the outright pace was not quite available in the BMW Z4 GT3, the drivers of #77 kept the opportunity to win the race open. Fast lapping and efficient passage through the traffic meant that they gained a great deal of ground on the #1 Audi before an issue with the ABS slowed the pace of the car a little.
Going into the final round of pitstops, the team took a gamble to not change tyres – a move that few rivals had attempted, as the tyre longevity was lacking – in a last gasp attempt to win the race. The car emerged 21 seconds ahead, but with the ABS issue and worn tyres, Werner was powerless to hold onto the position, despite a heroic effort. The gap was whittled down in a breathless finish, and he was passed on Eau Rouge.
The team, who have been hit with bad luck in their last two 24-hour events, warmly received the podium result. It marks their second visit to a major endurance podium in 12 months, following their second placed finish at the Nürburgring in 2013.
The #66 car was unfortunate to retire, having earlier been delayed by accident damage, after hitting a hare. The animal destroyed the car’s radiator, leaving the team with no choice but to retire.
Bas Leinders, Team Principal
“I’m really pleased. To be honest, when we started to have some difficulties, I didn’t dare to hope we could still get a podium. This result is for Marc van der Straten, because it is his passion that has brought us to this position and I’m so proud to represent his team. They worked so hard in the run up to, and then during, this event and their calmness under pressure was outstanding. This is the best team on the grid, I have no doubts about that. Finally, I’m really happy to bring this result home with BMW Motorsport and all our partners, because we couldn’t do it without them behind us all the way.”
Lucas Luhr, BMW Z4 GT3 #77
“It’s a great effort from the whole Marc VDS team. Thanks for having me, because I had a blast. Sharing the car with Markus and Dirk was awesome. On one hand, losing by such a small margin is so frustrating, but on the other we drove a hell of a race and put on a great show for everyone. We tried something at the end, because we had to try, and it didn’t work out. I’m so happy for the mechanics and engineers because they worked their nuts off. I’m disappointed to lose by six seconds, but also really, really happy.”
Markus Palttala, BMW Z4 GT3 #77
“My immediate reaction was to feel like we’d lost it, but it’s already starting to dawn that tomorrow I’ll feel pretty good about this podium. Hopefully it will balance out the hangover! If someone had said to me that we’d finish second last week, I would’ve bitten their hand off. I think we pretty much had a perfect race in all departments except for that tiny fault. I don’t think we had bad luck really, we were the underdogs against an armada of Audis and we achieved a fantastic result. I’m extremely proud of this team.”
Dirk Werner, BMW Z4 GT3 #77
“The last few laps were a lot of stress, to be honest! I knew we were losing a lot of time, and I knew that it was only a matter of time until he caught me. I tried to keep him behind, but it was a question of when, and not if. The car was not in a shape to fight. It is nice for the team to fight for the win, and to finish second in this high quality field is amazing. When you think that the team was only here for this race, not the rest of the series, it’s a great achievement. When the chequered flag fell, I was a bit disappointed, but I’m also really happy. It’s a mix!”