Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala and Henry Hassid will drive the BMW Z4 GT3 at Estoril.
Gosselies, Belgium – BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS return to Le Mans style racing this weekend. The crack Belgian team take on the European Le Mans Series’ final round at Estoril with a single BMW Z4 GT3 in the GTC class. Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala and Henry Hassid will drive.
It marks a return to the driving seat for Leinders after he elected to concentrate on management at the 24 Hours of Spa, and he’s raring to go.
“I love driving this car, and I’m really excited to head back to Le Mans racing,” says the Belgian. “It’s been a good year for the ELMS – having struggled in the recent past they’ve reached a really high level, across all the classes. There’s been excellent racing, in a very good field, and that’s one of the main reasons we decided to come and race here.”
The last time the team raced in Le Mans Series competition, they won their class at Spa with the Ford GT1 – and a win is something Leinders believes is possible again.
The ELMS championship is of course an option for 2015, but for now we’re just evaluating this series.
“This year we’ve seen that Ferrari have been very strong in the GTC class, but the Estoril circuit is pretty technical so I think that will suit our car. We’ve reached a great understanding with the BMW Z4 GT3 now and it’s such a consistent car – that will be good for Markus and myself but also for Henry. Despite the fact he’s not a professional, he’s a wonderful driver and I’m really excited to race with him.”
The track is one Leinders knows well, having competed several times before – he’s even won their in junior formulae.
“Estoril is a great track. It’s got some really fast sections and some very technical parts too. The first corner is a real challenge, a big braking zone down to second gear after a long straight, so stability on the brakes is essential. You then flow into two long hairpins, where you gradually increase the speed – it’s quite similar in that way to Barcelona.
“The middle of the track is twisty and technical, and then you arrive at a chicane headed uphill. Traction is essential to get a good run out, so you need a good set up. You need a good balance because the last corner is also a challenge. It’s very, very long, and there’s a lot of weight transfer on the tyres, particularly the left front. It’s a cool lap.”
The ELMS is the only race this season that the Marc VDS drivers will have cars significantly faster than their own to contend with – particularly the LMP2 class. These prototypes lap faster than the GT3 machines in the GTC class, and managing them in traffic will be key to success.
“You want to go as fast as possible, and be on the podium in your class. You have to be careful of the faster traffic, but at the end of the day you have to race your own race. You have to be careful of course, to avoid getting tangled with the faster cars – and cars in your own class! – but really you just race your own race.”
For now, there are no set plans for 2015, and Leinders is clear on the reasons the team are racing here.
“As a race team, we have to look into all possibilities and there was a good opportunity to do this race,” he explains. “The ELMS championship is of course an option for 2015, but for now we’re just evaluating this series. We’d like to get a good feeling here. We want to enjoy whatever it is we do, and where we’re racing. We’re just concentrating on a good weekend.”
The race is a four-hour enduro, getting under way at 13:30 local time on Sunday October 19, with qualifying at 09:30 the same day.
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