The Nürburgring 24 Hour race isn’t until the middle of May, but preparations for the race have already begun. For many teams, that means entering their cars in the Nürburgring Langstrecken-Series (NLS). Langstrecken means “long distance” in German, and the series holds nine rounds on the Nürburgring between March and October.
There was a total of five M4 GT3s entered in the first round of the NLS last weekend, which was a four-hour race. Walkenhorst Motorsport qualified on the pole with their #34 M4 GT3 driven by Jakub Giermaziak, followed in third by the #98 M4 GT3 of ROWE Racing. The other three M4 GT3s in the field qualified in seventh (#99 ROWE Racing), eighth (#35 Walkenhorst Motorsport), and ninth (#44 BMW Team RMG). Works drivers Maxime Martin and Dries Vanthoor were the drivers in both the #98 and #99 ROWE Racing cars.
The pole sitting #34 M4 GT3 fell back from the start, while the #44 car driven by works drivers Max Hesse, Neil Gerhagen and Dan Harper was involved in some banging at the start that set them back and finished in fifth, while the #34 car was forced to retire and the #35 had some technical issues. The #98 ROWE car was unable to complete the race distance as well, so the focus went to the #99 car, which was ultimately driven to the victory by works drivers Maxime Martin and Dries Vanthoor.
The victory came on the same weekend that M4 GT3s finished one-two in the GTD class at the 12 Hours of Sebring here in the US and bodes well for a strong performance in the 24-Hour racing coming up at the ‘Ring in May. “The race was the perfect start to the season, although it was closer than it perhaps looked,” said ROWE Team Principal Hans-Peter Naundorf. “There were a lot of crashes and Code 60 phases (cautions) on the track, which made it tiring and demanding. However, both drivers did a perfect job and we don’t have a single scratch on the cars. As we only had two drivers at the track today, we had to decide whether to just make up the numbers or go for the win. We decided to go on the offensive and, after one and a half stints, put all our eggs in one basket–the better-placed car–and took the #98 out of the race. The success shows we made the right decision.”
The new G82-generation BMW M4 GT4 also took a win in the NLS opener, with the FK Performance Motorsport team and drivers Michael Schrey, Thorsten Wolter, and Nick Wüstenhagen getting the victory in the SP10 class. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BMW, Gruppe C Photography]