【NLS(Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie) Round3 ／ Nürburgring】
Walkenhorst #34 Car Misses Out Back-To-Back Win, 2nd Round Winner Becomes Victim Of First Lap Accident
NLS Round 3
|Date||15 April 2023|
The third round of Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie (NLS) was held on April 15th, Saturday. Since the curtain raiser on the third weekend of March, the series has had a race every two weeks without any complication, especially with bad weather so far.
In the previous round two weeks ago, two Walkenhorst Motorsport run BMW M4 GT3s in the SP9 Pro class attracted much attention because of their new ADVAN-livery. They answered expectations with superb performance, particularly the no.34 car claimed an overall win. For the third round, the team added one more car that competed in the SP9 Pro-Am class, so they ran three identical cars.
The no.34 car was again shared by the second round’s winners, Jakub Giermaziak and Jesse Krohn. Thomas Neubauer and Jens Klingmann continued to race in the no.35 car and, this time, welcomed the addition of Jake Dennis, who skipped the second round. And the team owner, Henry Walkenhorst, was joined by Jörg Breuer and Peter Posavac to drive the no.36 car in the SP9 Pro-Am class.
The 90-minute qualifying session was run on Saturday morning. The track surfaces were dry, and there was no concern about rain at all. But the dry conditions don’t mean an easy job, particularly at Nürburgring, and in fact, there was a big accident in which a car crashed heavily into the guard rails.
Giermaziak, at the wheel of the no.34 car, set the ninth fastest time on his first timed lap and then improved it to the second fastest. After that, he pushed even harder to beat the session leader, the no.5 Audi R8.
Even though Nürburgring is an exceptionally long – more than 24km – race track, having a clear lap in the qualifying session is always challenging because more than 100 cars with vastly different performance levels tried to qualify at the same time in this series. Thus, Giermazik couldn’t better his own time and had to settle for fourth place, as two BMW M4 GT3s, cars no.98 and no.44, surpassed his best time in the session’s final minutes.
However, the gap between the no.34 car and the pole sitter was only 1.336 seconds. Despite missing a shot at a back-to-back pole position, the car showed again that the speed was there and it was still one of the favorites to win the race. The no.35 car qualified in 14th, and the no.36 was fifth in the SP9 Pro-Am class.
As was the case in each of the previous two rounds, the starting time of the 4-hour race was set at noon on Saturday. On the starting grids, the no.34 car sat on the outside, relative to Nürburgring’s Turn 1, which is a right-hand corner, of the second row. The sky was overcast, but there was no sign of imminent rain, so the track surfaces were dry. However, the wind blew, and it was chilly even in the daytime since the temperatures were similar to those in the previous two rounds, although it was already mid-April. Therefore, most people on the crowded starting grids wore long-sleeve jackets.
The formation lap got underway at 11:42. Giermaziak was behind the wheel of the no.34 car. And expectations for his rocket start in Walkenhorst’s garage grew when the marshal car that led the field headed to the pit lane. Then the whole field began all-out acceleration, which made the exhaust notes echo throughout the forest of Eifel, and the race started.
When they ran down to Turn 1, the no.34 car was in the middle of the track width. However, one of the opponents tried to overtake Giermaziak from his left-hand side and hit the no.34 car’s left-front corner. The impact then caused a second collision with another vehicle on his right-hand side, and, as a result of this unfortunate accident, he had to make an unscheduled pit stop to check the damage on the car’s right-front suspension.
The team’s mechanics were able to fix it, but they lost a certain amount of time for repair work, so the no.34 car was already dropped out of contention for the overall win when the team sent the car back to the track. Nevertheless, the team opted to continue to use the rest of the race as a testing session for the 24-hour race. Eventually, the no.34 car withdrew after collecting as much data as possible, so it was classified as DNF (Did Not Finish) on the final result. Still, they exploited this valuable opportunity for sure.
The no.35 car steadily moved up through the field after starting from the 14th grid and was running in seventh toward the end of the race. But, on the verge of seeing the checkered flag, an electrical problem hit the car, and they couldn’t finish the race. Meanwhile, the no.36 car in the SP9 Pro-Am class ran smoothly with no problem or accident and ended the race in third in the class, two places higher than where they started.
Masaaki Miyoshi [The Yokohama Rubber Co.,LTD. Motorsports Tire Development Dept. No.1 Tire Development Division]
“Since last year and until today, in NLS, we have focused on sharing the agendas, such as how to choose the tires under given conditions or how to use the selected tires, based on the feedback from the team and the drivers. The ultimate target is, of course, to fully extract the performance that the tires have.
“The no.34 car ended the qualifying session in fourth, but the gap with the top was marginal. It is important to secure a good starting position, but we have never pushed for the fastest qualifying time because NLS is the endurance race series. Having said that, a better qualifying result always leads to confidence, and we are positive about this result in the qualifying.
“For this race, we mainly worked on the car setup that was best suited to the tires we provided from Friday’s practice. Unfortunately, the no.34 car’s race was ruined by the very early accident, but they continued after that to find better setup options to exploit the tire’s performance, which bore fruit without a doubt. On the other hand, we still have some issues to be solved, so we have been discussing them with the team.
“Now the first three rounds are done, and the 24-hour race and its qualifying round prior to it are ahead of us. The qualifying round will have two races in the night and the daytime. This means the conditions may be critically different between the two, so we are committed to achieve excellent results by supplying the tires that perform consistently even under widely varying conditions.”