Nürburgring, Germany - Mike Hezemans, Bert Longin and Henri Moser in the Marc VDS Racing Team's #4 BMW Z4 GT3 took a hard fought eighth place finish in the penultimate round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nürburgring today.
The #3 BMW, driven by Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala, wasn't so fortunate. The Marc VDS trio saw their hopes of wrapping up the driver's championship dashed by a crash at the halfway point of the race.
Both cars had a difficult start to the race, with Leinders dropping back to third position in the first turn after starting from pole, while Hezemans also lost places and completed the first lap in 14th position.
Both Marc VDS drivers took advantage of the safety car deployment to pit in, with Leinders handing over to Palttala and Hezemans switching with Longin.
Palttala was running strongly in fifth place when he was involved in a collision with Dino Lunardi's Sainteloc Racing Audi in the braking zone for the chicane.
The collision caused the #3 BMW to spin off the track and into the tyre wall, with the impact leaving the car too damaged to continue.
Longin drove a safe stint in a car damaged in the collision between Hezemans and Mike Stursberg, before handing over 13th position to Moser, who immediately started to close the gap on the cars ahead of him on track.
The Swiss driver quickly forced his way through into tenth, before gaining a further place when the #88 McLaren ran off track as the race entered the final ten minutes.
Moser eventually took the chequered flag in eighth position, to secure the Marc VDS Racing Team six valuable points in the team's championship.
The crash for Palttala means that the championship will now go down to the wire and will be decided only at the final round of the season, which takes place in Navarra, Spain on 13th October.
Leinders, Palttala and Martin will take a reduced three point lead into the season finale, after their closest rivals for the title - the Audi trio of Mies, Haase and Ortelli - finished fourth at the Nürburgring today.
In the team's championship Marc VDS have dropped from first to second place and now trail WRT Audi by just four points.
Henri Moser (#4 BMW Z4 GT3): "Eighth place is a good result, but we could have achieved more today because the car was really competitive. We lost a few places under the safety car, as we probably should have pitted a little but earlier, but my stint went well.
There was some damage to the car after the earlier collision, so the steering wheel wasn't straight, but I got used to it after a few laps and was able to start pushing.
I was quite surprised with the lap times, and also my consistency, and I'm really happy with my stint and also my driving today. The team did a great job and were very encouraging.
I also learnt a lot and if we can have a little bit of luck for once at the next race then we're going to be even closer to the front, for sure."
Markus Palttala (#3 BMW Z4 GT3): "What can I say, I'm gutted for the whole team. We had the pace to win here today and we were in a pretty good position to do exactly that. I was with the leading group and had found a good rhythm when there was a collision in front of me at the final turn.
I managed to avoid it, but I lost a place as a result. I tried to retake the position on the brakes at, but I just wasn't quite close enough. At the chicane I was defending my position when I felt the hit from behind; the next thing I know I'm in the tyre wall and we're out of the race.
I haven't seen the footage, so I don't know exactly what happened, but for us it is the worse case scenario. We leave here with no points, which means we face an even tougher battle for the championship next time out at Navarra."
Bas Leinders (Team Principal): "Eighth was a good result for Mike, Bert and Henri today. It's been a difficult season for them so far, but they've continued to work hard on the car with their crew and, today, they reaped the reward for their efforts.
I'm sure we'll see them even closer to the front of the race next time out in Navarra. Markus was unlucky today. The crash was a racing incident and could have happened at any time, it was just unfortunate it happened when it did.
We've seen our lead in the driver's championship cut to just three points as a result of the crash, while we're now trailing WRT Audi in the team's championship by four points. We will fight to the very end for both championships, which should make for an exciting final round at Navarra!"
Source: Marc VDS Racing Team