Walkenhorst 34 Abu Dhabi

The Asian Le Mans Series closed out its short 2022 season with two four-hour races at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on the weekend of February 19 and 20. They were the last of four races on the 2022 schedule, after the series decided to hold four four-hour races in the Middle East rather than a more complete schedule in the Asia-Pacific region, due to pandemic-related restrictions. The previous two races were a week earlier in Dubai.

Walkenhorst Motorsport was the only team competing in the series with a pair of M4 GT3s in the GT and GT Am classes. The team put their #35 car in the top ten in both races at Dubai, with a best finish of seventh. In Abu Dhabi, the #34 M4 GT3 driven by works driver Nicky Catsburg along with American drivers Chandler Hull and Jon Miller finished eleventh in both races, while the #35 M4 GT3 of team owner Henry Walkenhorst, Jorg Breuer, and Mario Von Boehlen finished fourth in the GT Am class in both races, out of five cars.

Jon Miller found the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi (where Formula 1 also races) to be a fun challenge. “The newly redesigned Yas Marina circuit made for a fantastic second half of the 2022 Asian Le Mans championship,” he said. “The new Turn 5 hairpin and high-speed Turn 9 sweeper are nice changes, and the lap is now roughly ten seconds faster for us than the previous layout. There are some aggressive curbs on corner exits that really punish you for being too wide and the tight section underneath the hotel is still challenging. The corners there have been slightly re-profiled, but the off-camber nature of the track is still the same, so you’re always chasing the balance in that sector.”

Miller has raced the M4 GT3 as much as anyone this year, as he competes for ST Racing in the Hankook 24H Series as well as for Walkenhorst in the Asian Le Mans Series, and one of the biggest challenges was getting used to the car and how it responds to the different tire brands used in each series. The Hankook series used Hankook tires, of course, while the Asian Le Mans Series cars ran on Michelins. “Chandler [Hull] and I raced the M4 GT3 with ST Racing in the Hankook Dubai 24hr just a few weeks prior to the Asian Le Mans series but switching to the Michelin tire gave us a new variable to wrap our heads around,” he said. “This car isn’t simply an evolution of the M6 GT3, so there is a mountain of learning to do. We’re building a new foundation. Some of the old tricks work, and we have great information from BMW as a baseline.”

Miller is also optimistic with the direction the M4 GT3 is going in development, as he moves back to competing in the car in the 24H Series. “We’re approaching the development of this car with an open mind and there are plenty of places that we still want to explore in a testing environment. We made great progress during the championship and had some great fights on track. In the first race at Abu Dhabi, I made up 14 positions on track and pitted from P1. It was satisfying to lead some laps for the first time in the new car. We showed that the potential is there.”—David Haueter

[Photos courtesy Asian Le Mans Series, Walkenhorst Motorsport.]

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