Spa Francorchamps, Belgium - 29 July 2012 :The #3 BMW Z4 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Bas Leinders and Markus Palttala took a hard fought fourth place finish today in the 24 Hours of Spa. The #4 car, driven by Bert Longin, Mike Hezemans and Henri Moser, finished in 16th position, after losing time to mechanical issues early in the race.
Starting from the front row of the grid, Martin muscled the #3 BMW through into the lead at Eau Rouge on the opening lap and didn't relinquish the position for the remainder of his double stint.
Leinders had to cope with a track flooded in places during his first double stint, as the arrival of a thunderstorm over the Spa circuit brought with it torrential rain. While a number of cars fell foul of the conditions and ran off track, Leinders and Martin continued to manage the race from the front, until both were involved in collisions during the night.
Leinders was rear-ended by the spinning Ferrari of Filip Salaquarda, while Martin made contact with the Mercedes of Rafael Vanthoor. The collisions left the car with superficial structural damage, but the engine proved difficult to restart from that point on.
Palttala, who had been held in reserve because of a stop and go penalty incurred during pre-qualifying on Thursday, joined his two teammates in the car just after the halfway stage, but with the engine starting problem losing them time at every pit stop they were unable to re-establish contact with the leading trio and were forced to settle for fourth position at the chequered flag.
The #4 BMW Z4 GT3 encountered problems almost from the start of the race, with Hezemans having to pit in during his first stint to fix an issue with the throttle pedal. A return to the pits was required to remedy a braking problem and then, during the night, the team lost even more time after suffering a rear puncture that damaged the car and necessitated a driveshaft change.
Hezemans, Longin and Moser pushed hard to fight their way back through the field after each setback and, after spending almost 90 minutes in the pit box during the course of the race, did well to eventually finish 15th.
Maxime Martin: #3 BMW Z4 GT3
"From the start I was pushing hard during all my stints, trying to build up an advantage at the front of the race, which we managed to do during the heavy rain in the evening. But then we had some bad luck with the safety cars and a few issues with the car during the night, which lost us our advantage and dropped us back to fourth. We continued to push, but we were losing time at every pit stop because of an issue with restarting the car, so we weren't able to challenge for the podium in the end. But fourth is a pretty good result, especially in combination with our fourth at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, and it keeps us at the top of the championship, so I'm happy enough."
Bert Longin: #4 BMW Z4 GT3
"I think we had the pace here to finish in the top five, but we had some problems with the car that lost us a lot of time during the race. First it was the throttle, then the brakes and finally we lost a lot of time when we suffered a puncture and then had to change the driveshafts. I think, in total, we spent almost 90 minutes in the pits, and it's impossible to make that back, even during a 24-hour race. But, finishing this race isn't easy, so I'm happy we got to see the chequered flag and also pick up some much needed championship points in the process."
Bas Leinders: Team Principal
"The conditions in the early part of the race were difficult, with torrential rain making the track unpredictable, but that played a little bit in our favour in the #3 car. We have three drivers with a lot of endurance racing experience, so we were able to continue controlling the race from the front regardless of what the weather threw at us. We held the race lead almost to the halfway point, but the engine restart problem after the collisions cost us time at every pit stop. We also lost time to the stop and go penalty awarded to Markus. Combined, this was enough to deny us a podium finish here today. The #4 car also had some technical problems, losing a lot of time during the night, but Mike, Henri and Bert did well to fight there way back by the end of the race to take a creditable 15th place. We still lead the championship, but our advantage at the top of the standings have been reduced, which is something we'll need to address next time out at the Nürburgring."
Source: Marc VDS