It was a fantastic weekend for BMW M Motorsport on the most challenging and beautiful racing circuit in the world, the Nürburgring Nordschleife. BMW M4 GT3s swept the podium in the second round of the Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie (NLS), which was a four-hour race on the combined Grand Prix Circuit and North Loop or Nordschleife. Victory went to the #99 Rowe Racing entry of Augusto Farfus and Connor De Phillippi. Following closely in second was the BMW Junior Team entry of Dan Harper, Max Hesse, and Neil Verhagen, while third place went to the Walkenhorst Motorsport entry of Christian Krognes, Sami-Matti Trogen, and Andy Soucek.
The biggest race of the year on the ‘Ring is coming up on the last weekend in May with the 24-hour race, but most of the teams that compete in that race also compete in the NLS races earlier in the season. BMW had several M4 GT3s on the entry for NLS round two, as well as the new G82 M4 GT4, which was making its competitive debut and will be offered to teams for the 2023 season. Connor De Phillippi started from pole in the #99 M4 GT3 and proved to be the car to beat as it set the pace, but it was nearly overtaken by the Junior Team entry on the last lap.
The #44 M4 GT3 entered by the Junior Team took the lead late in the race when the #99 Rowe car pitted for new tires and a driver change, as Farfus took over for De Phillippi. With ten minutes left, Farfus got by Max Hesse and looked to have the race easily in the bag until the last lap, when he was held up by slower traffic. That gave Hesse the opportunity to close the gap, and the two had a thrilling duel in the final few miles of racing, running bumper-to-bumper and door-to-door. Farfus had the inside line on the last corner and ended up winning by a mere half-second over Hesse, with the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW in third. The new G82 M4 GT4 took the win in the SP8T class for unhomologated cars and finished 24th overall.
Farfus and De Phillippi certainly deserved the win, but it was an especially impressive performance by the Junior Team drivers, especially since they had to fight back from a drive-through penalty earlier in the race. If not for that penalty, they would have likely won. Hesse was running on older tires than Farfus late in the race and still managed to keep him in striking distance, and very nearly passed the veteran works driver. “The final laps were so, so tense,” said Hesse after the race. “I had a bit of bad luck after the airfield and Augusto was able to overtake me there. I was able to stay with him and then he had a bit of bad luck going up to Döttinger Höhe. We were even briefly on the grass. However, I think we can be happy with that, especially as we also had a drive-through penalty. We have definitely made good progress since NLS 1.”
The results at the second round of the NLS show that BMW is going to be a contender at the Nürburgring 24-hour, but you can never count out factory entries from Porsche, Audi, or Mercedes. You can watch the thrilling second round of the NLS here.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]