BMW made it two for two in the races they’ve entered in the Nürburgring Langstrecken-Series (NLS), rounds that are preludes to the big race–the Nürburgring 24 Hour that’s coming up in May. ROWE Racing won the first round a few weeks ago, and Walkenhorst Motorsport took the win on April 1st with works driver Jesse Krohn paired with Jakub Giermaziak in the #34 M4 GT3. They were joined on the podium in third by the #44 BMW Junior Team car driven by Neil Verhagen, Dan Harper, and Max Hesse and run by BMW M Team RMG.
The BMWs were fast from the get-go in qualifying for the four-hour race, as there were four M4 GT3s in the top five overall, with Philipp Eng driving the #99 ROWE Racing car to the second fastest time behind the pole-sitting Porsche. Jakub Giermaziak qualified the #34 Walkenhorst car in fourth, but drove to the lead after a brilliant opening double stint on a damp track, which is especially treacherous on the Nordschleife. Teammate Jesse Krohn maintained the lead once he got in the car to take the win.
The win was very satisfying to Krohn. “I simply can’t remember when I last won here on the Nordschleife,” he said. “It’s a brilliant feeling. A big thank you is due to the team, BMW M Motorsport, and our tire partner Yokohama, who have provided us with a fantastic package. We were competitive on our tires in all conditions. I always had total confidence in the car and it was a pleasure to be out on the circuit. We couldn’t have wished for a better start to the preparations for the 24-hour race.”
The drivers of the Junior Team #44 car had a challenging start, losing a few positions in the opening laps, but the combination of consistent fast driving and good strategy from the team got them to the podium in third. “The conditions were tricky,” said Neil Verhagen. “We took a risk at the start and went with slicks. I overdid it a bit at the start and lost a few places after some wheelspin. However, our strategy did pay off in the end. We changed our pit stop rhythm to get out of the procession of GT3 cars, where it is very difficult to overtake. With a clear track, our speed was great, and we caught up so much time that we reached the podium. We weren’t even thinking about that after the first lap.”
For the ROWE Racing team who won the opening round of the NLS, the second race was one to forget. Eng started the race from second on the grid and moved into the lead, but then spun on the damp track and went into the barriers in the challenging Flugplatz section of the track. That ended the race for Eng along with co-drivers Augusto Farfus and Nick Yelloly. The #98 ROWE car of Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde, and Connor De Phillippi finished in sixth after falling behind at the start. The #35 Walkenhorst BMW of Jens Klingmann and Thomas Neubauer finished in twelfth.
The winning #34 Walkenhorst BMW may look familiar to longtime BMW racing fans here in the US. With sponsorship from Yokohama, the livery on the car is very similar to the Yokohama livery that BMW Team PTG used on their E46 M3s in the American Le Mans Series back in the mid-2000s.
The NLS races again on April 15th, with another four-hour race. You can watch the action or see a replay of the previous two rounds on the series YouTube channel. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BMW]