ROWE RACING is ready for the second major highlight of the year: at the 75th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa on Saturday, 1st July, the team from St. Ingbert aims to further expand its impressive record at the world’s largest GT3 race, which this time features 71 entrants. After the emotional first victory in the endurance classic in 2016, in the team’s inaugural year with BMW M Motorsport, the second triumph was achieved in 2020, along with second-place finishes in 2018 and 2019. No other team has achieved as many podium finishes at this fascinating circuit during this time as ROWE RACING, which didn’t even compete in Spa in 2021 due to its foray into the DTM.
With a fifth podium finish at the 24 Hours of Spa, ideally resulting in their third overall victory, the team from St. Ingbert would also continue their success streak in the current season. In the last four events, at least one of ROWE RACING’s BMW M4 GT3 cars has always stood on the podium: second place in the third round of the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS), a double victory in the opening round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup in Monza, second place at the ADAC 24h Nürburgring, and most recently, third place at the 1,000km race in Le Castellet. With another top result in Spa, ROWE RACING and the three BMW M works drivers Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly can further extend their leads in the team and driver standings of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup.
Austrian driver Philipp Eng, who was part of the first winning trio for ROWE RACING in Spa in 2016 and triumphed there for a second time in 2018, will share the cockpit of the #98 BMW M4 GT3 with British driver Nick Yelloly and Marco Wittmann. The German DTM champion of 2014 and 2016 has been behind the wheel for all of ROWE RACING’s podium successes in the last four races and now dreams of his first 24-hour victory.
The sister car with the #998 will be shared by British driver Dan Harper, German driver Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen from the USA. The BMW M works driver trio from the former BMW Junior Team has unfinished business from last year when a late tyre issue prevented them from securing a podium position during their Spa debut, ultimately relegating them to fifth place. The #98 BMW M4 GT3, which finished sixth at the time, also experienced similar misfortune in the battle for victory, after both ROWE RACING cars had been in contention at the front for a long time, even leading in first and second positions around halfway through the race. Nick Yelloly had set the goal of achieving a podium finish next time after the 2022 race. Another victory in Spa would also mark the 25th success for BMW, the record-winning manufacturer.
La Source, Eau Rouge/Raidillon, and the ultra-fast Blanchimont – every motorsport fan knows these legendary sections of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The 7.004-kilometer Formula 1 track in the Belgian Ardennes is the longest circuit on the GT World Challenge Europe calendar and by far the most demanding. At many points on this rollercoaster-like track, traditional gravel beds offer little room for error, and the risk of tyre damage on the sometimes sharp-edged curbs adds another challenge. This can lead to full-course yellow phases and safety car interventions, further complicating the teams’ already complex strategies.
The race week in Spa begins with the traditional parade of cars from the racetrack to the centre of Spa on Wednesday evening (28th June). An autograph session and driver briefing will take place there, before the entourage heads back to the circuit. The Thursday (29th June) then features plenty of time on the track, starting with the 90-minute free practice from 11:20 to 12:50. Pre-qualifying is scheduled from 18:10 to 19:10. Each of the maximum four drivers per car will have a 15-minute qualifying session between 21:20 and 22:41. The busy day concludes with a 90-minute night practice from 23:00 to 0:30 in the morning. On the Friday (30th June), from 15:35 to 16:05, the 20 fastest cars from qualifying will battle it out for pole position in the Superpole – an individual time trial against the clock. This will determine the final grid positions for the race, which starts at 16:30 on the Saturday (1st July).
Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “Which participant doesn’t dream of victory at the 24 Hours of Spa? Considering our track record at this unique race and our results so far this season, thoughts of a third triumph for ROWE RACING are entirely justified. We naturally have the ambition to fight for podium finishes and the win. After all, since our switch to BMW M Motorsport in 2016, we have been the most successful team in Spa, and we currently lead the driver and team standings in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup this season. In 2022, only two late tyre issues prevented both of our BMW M4 GT3 cars from reaching the podium. We hope to avoid such misfortune this year. Another lesson from last year is that there were numerous incidents and retirements in the midfield during the early stages of the race, but very few neutralizations in the final phase. This indicates that we need to adapt our proven strategies a bit and position ourselves in the leading group much earlier than in the past. The first requirement for this is a strong qualifying performance and a successful Superpole to secure the best possible starting positions. This way, we can stay out of the chaos of the first few hours and then compete for the victory without making any mistakes on the track.”
Philipp Eng (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “It would be a great dream to celebrate my third victory with BMW and also the third one for ROWE RACING in Spa. I’m extremely excited about the event, it’s always a season highlight. The first two races in the GT World Challenge Europe went really well with a first and third place. We’re heading there as championship leaders and aiming to score big points, so that we can be contenders for the overall championship win at the end of the year.”
Neil Verhagen (#998 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “I’m really looking forward to the 24 Hours of Spa this year. It’s kind of coming back to everything now for the second time with the BMW M4 GT3. We had a pretty good year last year and we are trying to improve on that. That would definitely be the goal. Like last year the approach will be exactly the same. A clean race with as little mistakes as possible. We know that the pace is there. We had it last year. It’s an amazing event, it’s one of my favourite races of the year. I cannot wait to go back on the track there and just count the days down until we get driving.”