24h Nürburgring: in the lead, night-time retirement hard to swallow

29. Mai 2022 Zurück zur Artikelübersicht »

The 24-hour race at the Nürburgring at the weekend presented the next highlight of the season for Marco Wittmann. A celebration of Eifel motor racing, with 230,000 fans at the Nordschleife – saw Wittmann with a chance of victory in the #98 BMW M4 GT3 from ROWE Racing. However, the car was in the lead when forced to retire unexpectedly during the night.

Wittmann was sharing the cockpit in the #98 car with Sheldon van der Linde, Nick Catsburg and John Edwards. It was the first appearance of the new BMW M4 GT3 in the classic Eifel mountains race. Everything was looking great; after some very good results during preparation, everyone was looking forward to the race that started at 16:00 on Saturday afternoon.

After Top Qualifying, the #98 car began the marathon race from 13th on the grid. Wittmann was at the wheel for the start, and he and his team-mates saw the car safely through the extremely hectic opening hours that saw several favourites retire after accidents. Everything was going according to plan, and continued to do so during Wittmann’s second stint. The BMW M4 GT3 quickly moved up through the field, taking the lead during the night. However, any dreams of a victory at the Nürburgring were shattered around 23:30. A technical issue saw Wittmann’s team-mate  van der Linde go off the circuit and smack into the crash barriers. The race was over.

“It was extremely disappointing for us to retire while in the lead,” admitted Wittmann and concluded: “The opening phase of the race was totally mad, with a load of accidents and retirements. Our approach was to stay calm and not to cause any accidents, which we managed to do perfectly. In general, the car was feeling really good as night fell, in excellent working order. We drove some cracking laps and moved into the lead. The race was looking really good for us and we were feeling very confident. That makes it all the more disappointing that a technical issue caused the accident with Sheldon in the car. It is a massive shame, as opportunities like that in a 24-hour race don’t come round all too often. We had such great set-up, such a good race car, and I felt so comfortable as a driver. I think that we prepared the BMW M4 GT3 very well. Of course, defects can occur, but that was very hard to swallow. I hope that we’ll have another chance next year and return to the Nordschleife even stronger, and complete the unfinished business we now have.”

Despite the disappointment and regardless of the manner of the retirement, Wittmann did enjoy his time at the Eifel track: “Overall, it was a mega event and it was brilliant to see spectators back at the circuit again. It was unbelievable to see so many fans, including at the grid. The formation lap was really special, with all those people lining the circuit. It was something unique, a real highlight.”

 

Wittmann will now return to his Green Machine, the#11 BMW M4 GT3 from Walkenhorst Motorsport for the third event of the season in the DTM 2022 which will take place from 17th to 19th June at Imola, Italy.