Fantastic fourth for Marc VDS on 'Ring debut
Nürburgring, Germany - 20 May 2012: The Marc VDS Racing Team dispelled the myth that you need years of experience racing the Nordschleife to be competitive in the prestigious 24 Hours of Nürburgring. The Belgian squad exceeded everyone's expectations at their first attempt, by finishing an impressive fourth behind three factory entries and taking the honours as the highest place BMW team.
Maxime Martin started the race from 14th on the grid, but ran into problems early in his first stint when the #29 BMW Z4 GT3 suffered a rear puncture on the Nordschleife just four laps into the race, forcing an unscheduled pit stop for tyres.
Martin rejoined down in 27th position, but immediately started to make up places as he scythed his way through the traffic around the 25.378km Nürburgring circuit, before handing the car over to Markus Palttala after a double stint behind the wheel.
First Palttala and then Bas Leinders continued the charge, picking up further places throughout their double stints as darkness fell across the Nordschleife. As the race progressed through the night, consistent laps by all three drivers combined with slick work at the pit stops, saw them progress steadily through the field, moving up to 11th position as dawn broke over the circuit.
Shortly after Leinders started his second double stint in the #29 BMW the onset of rain forced two unscheduled pit stops, first to switch from slicks to intermediate tyres and then, as the rain got heavier, to switch to full wets.
The rain stopped as soon as it started and the Marc VDS BMW was soon back on slicks and continuing the forward progress as the Nordschleife started to take its toll on the competition. With just three hours of the race left to run the #20 BMW was forced to make a lengthy pit stop, promoting Markus Palttala to sixth position, the highest placed BMW in the race.
Leinders maintained sixth position during his last stint in the car, before handing over to Martin for the final 70 minutes of the race, with instructions to maintain position to the chequered flag.
But, with just 15 minutes left to run the third placed Mercedes retired with a mechanical problem, promoting into third place the Manthey Porsche, which was subsequently involved in a collision within sight of the finish line. These two incidents elevated the Marc VDS Racing Team to fourth place at the finish of what is, undoubtedly, one of the toughest endurance races in the world.
Maxime Martin: "To come to such a prestigious race for the first time and finish fourth, behind only the factory teams, is incredible. The team did an amazing job, not just over the weekend, but also with all the preparations for this race. When you look at the calibre of some of the teams that lost time to mechanical or reliability issues it underlines just how much hard work our guys put in. We couldn't have asked anything more from them, and for that I thank them all. They say it isn't over until you see the chequered flag, and we definitely saw that today. We'd settled for sixth, but we'll happily take fourth, thank you very much. It's been a great weekend."
Markus Palttala: "What we did this weekend is a huge achievement for newcomers to this race. Experience is important at the Nordschleife and, while our knowledge of this race is limited, we're an established team with years of experience gained together in other endurance races, such as Le Mans and Spa. That's important, as it allowed us to adapt quickly to the unique aspects of this race. This weekend we were quick when we needed to be, but we didn't go out there to blitz the lap record, only to have our race ended prematurely with a crash or a mechanical issue. We weren't overly aggressive, but all three of us were very consistent, easy on the tyres and easy on the car, which is probably why we didn't experience any mechanical issues. To finish fourth at our first attempt is fantastic, even if missing out on the podium by so narrow a margin is also a little frustrating."
Bas Leinders: "I'm extremely proud of all the team and what we've achieved this weekend. It hasn't been easy; the guys and the engineers form BMW have had to work extremely hard to make sure we arrived here with a competitive and reliable package. I think today's result, and some of the issues experienced by the other teams, shows quite clearly what a great job they did. We came here to finish the race and I think the key to doing so was to remain calm throughout the 24 hours, to progress step by step and to improve quickly. I think we achieved that. Like I said, I'm proud of what the Marc VDS Racing Team have achieved today, not just here at the Nürburgring but also at Le Mans, where Scott Redding finished third to give us our first Moto2 podium of the season and Mika Kallio followed him home a close fifth."