BMW has had a strong presence in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe championship this year, in both the shorter Sprint Cup races as well as the longer Endurance Cup races. They won their last time out at the Spa 24 Hour and the ROWE Racing trio of Nick Yelloly, Marco Wittmann, and Philipp Eng were leading the Endurance Cup points going into the penultimate round at the Nürburgring this past weekend. Unfortunately, they were no longer in the points lead when the race was over.

The SRO organization that sanctions GT World Challenge Europe have been dinging the M4 GT3 with balance of performance adjustments all season. The adjustments have resulted in a loss of 80-millibar of turbo boost since the Sprint Cup round at Misano in Italy back in mid-July, with the latest adjustment coming just before the Nürburgring race. “I’ve never seen such a drop in boost pressure,” commented ROWE Team Principal Hans-Peter Naundorf before the race. “We come here with mixed feelings, but we are trying to make the best of it.”

Unfortunately, the BMWs were well off the pace in the three qualifying sessions, where each driver gets a turn and lap times are averaged out. The #98 ROWE Racing M4 GT3 of Eng, Yelloly, and Wittmann was the fastest BMW with an average lap time of 2:10.156, but that was only good enough for tenth overall on the grid and was around a second off the average time of the pole-sitting Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO. The next fastest BMW was the #32 Team WRT car of Dries Vanthoor, Sheldon van der Linde, and Charles Weerts, but they were down in seventeenth overall and behind some of the lower-class Bronze and Gold Cup entries.

Things didn’t go much better in the race. The #98 car of Eng, Yelloly and Wittmann was hit early in the race and suffered damage to the side skirts and diffuser. They chose to stay in the race instead of taking a long pit stop for repairs, but ended up in fifteenth and scored no points. The win went to the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes that started from pole, which put them in the lead in the championship with one race to go. “This is a disappointing race for us as we didn’t score any points and at the same time our main rival for the Endurance title took the win,” said Wittmann after the race. “That obviously puts us in a very difficult starting position for the last race in Barcelona. Our car was slightly damaged from the start and badly damaged after the collision with the Lamborghini. The complete left side and the diffuser were broken. But in general, you have to say that we couldn’t keep up with the speed of our competitors here.”

Most of the other BMWs did not perform well in the race either. The highest placed M4 GT3 was the #32 Team WRT car of Vanthoor, van der Linde, and Weerts in seventh in the Pro class. The #998 ROWE Racing car of Neil Verhagen, Dan Harper, and Max Hesse finished eleventh overall and tenth in the Pro class. The only BMW that made it to the podium was the #30 Team WRT car of Jean Baptiste Simmenauer, Calan Williams, and Niklas Krütten, which finished third in the Gold Cup class.

There’s only one GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup round left, on the weekend of September 29th-September 1st in Barcelona. The BMW trio of Eng, Yelloly, and Wittmann still have a shot at the championship, but it’s going to take some help from the series in balance of performance adjustments to get them back on par with the Mercedes.

—David Haueter

[Photos courtesy SRO, ROWE Racing]



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