We all know about the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the toughest endurance race in the world is coming up this weekend in Germany—for GT cars anyway. The 51st edition of the Nürburgring 24 Hours will be held on Thursday through Sunday and will see 136 cars competing on the longest and most challenging road course in the world.
The ‘Ring 24-hour is the only race in the world that puts twenty classes of cars together on over fifteen miles of twisting and turning pavement, including nearly thirteen miles on the legendary Nordschleife, which has been raced on since before World War II. The track itself is challenging enough, but when you put well over 100 cars of widely varying speeds with drivers of widely varying skill levels on that track, things can get downright chaotic, especially if it rains.
There are 34 BMWs on the entry, including six M4 GT3 entries in the top SP 9 class run by the very experienced ROWE Racing and Walkenhorst Motorsport teams. The three entries that have works drivers sharing the cars are sure to be contenders. The BMW Junior Team of Dan Harper, Max Hesse, and Neil Verhagen will share the #72 M4 GT3. The #98 ROWE Racing car will be shared by Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, and Maxime Martin, and the #99 car will be driven by Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng, Connor De Phillippi, and Nick Yelloly. Works drivers Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn will also be driving two of the Walkenhorst entries.
The BMW entry is also bolstered by six M4 GT4s in the SP 10 class and two in SP 8T, and eight M240i Racing models in their own Cup class. There’s even an E46 M3 GTR on the entry, along with various other 3 Series cars. Curiously, there are no M2 CS Racing cars competing in the race. One of the more interesting M4 GT4 entries is from BMW Motorsport, with journalists Jethro Bovingdon, Christian Gephardt, and Guido Naumann sharing a car with BMW test driver Jörg Weidinger. Bovingdon’s name may be familiar, as he’s one of the hosts of the Top Gear America TV Show.
You never know what’s going to happen in the ‘Ring 24-Hour, but the BMW M4 GT3 has already proven to be successful on the Nordschleife, with wins in the first three rounds of the Nürburgring Endurance Series races that are used by many teams to prepare for the 24-hour race. The BMW Junior Team, ROWE Racing, and Walkenhorst all scored wins in those races. The M4 GT3s didn’t prove to be as quick in the two qualifying races that were held in late April, as the quickest cars were only fifth and sixth, but the cars should certainly be competitive with the works-backed entries from Porsche, Mercedes, and Audi over the race distance.
[Photos courtesy BMW]