The sequence of successes for ROWE RACING came to an end in the home race at the Nürburgring, of all places. In the fourth of five races in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, extensive changes to the Balance of Performance (BoP) meant that no BMW M4 GT3 from the St. Ingbert team had a chance of recording the next podium finish. After a weekend that proved to be as difficult as expected, both cars finished outside the points.
Two-time German DTM champion Marco Wittmann, British driver Nick Yelloly and Austria’s Philipp Eng had to be content with 15th place, as they were unable to make an impact in the #98 BMW M4 GT3, which was damaged early on by a spinning rival. Having claimed victory at the season-opener in Monza and in the 24 Hours of Spa, and secured third place in Le Castellet in between, this result saw the trio drop out of top spot overall in the Endurance Cup. Ahead of the season finale on 1st October in Barcelona, they are now 18 points behind the Mercedes trio who triumphed on Sunday (76:94), and ROWE RACING is now 15 points adrift in the team standings (81:96). The BMW Junior Team, consisting of Neil Verhagen from the USA, German driver Max Hesse and Britain’s Dan Harper, finished eleventh at the Nürburgring in the team’s #998 car, just missing out on a points finish.
In a qualifying session dominated by the rain, Nick Yelloly did at least manage to secure tenth place on the grid in the third sector of his final lap. However, he started that last lap just one and a half minutes too early to claim a better starting position as the track dried out. The team took a gamble with the #998 car, sending Max Hesse out on slick tyres. However, these only reached the requisite speed just before qualifying came to an end and the BMW Junior Team had to be content with 31st on the grid.
Marco Wittmann made a good start to the race in the #98 car, making good use of a tussle at the first corner. He was sandwiched by two rivals but still moved up three places to seventh. As he produced a great manoeuvre on lap nine to pass the Lamborghini ahead of him, that car accelerated and spun into Wittmann, damaging the left side of the car and the diffuser on the #98 BMW M4 GT3. From this point onwards, the two-time DTM champion, Nick Yelloly and Philipp Eng found their ability to race significantly handicapped and were primarily occupied with defending their position from the attacks of their rivals. The #98 car crossed the finishing line in 15th place, finishing out of the points in the Endurance Cup for the first time after two wins and one third place thus far.
In the team’s #998 car, Neil Verhagen started the chase by moving up twelve places to 19th on lap one before handing over in 13th position to Max Hesse, who settled into this area of the field. Dan Harper then took over for the final section, but finished eleventh to just miss out on the final championship point.
Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “The weekend proved to be as difficult as we had expected and our worst fears came true. We had no chance after the most significant BoP change of the season. We would have loved to have plunged into a direct duel for the Endurance Cup title on the track in Barcelona, but the adjustments this weekend unfortunately made a fair, sporting battle impossible. Even if the #98 BMW M4 GT3 had remained undamaged, we would not have been able to battle for the podium spots. After the collision with the Lamborghini, we stayed in the race to see if we could benefit from any other retirements. But that did not happen. It’s a shame when all the hard work from everyone in our team is just torpedoed.”
Marco Wittmann (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “This was a disappointing race for us, as we scored no points and at the same time, the win went to our main rival for the Endurance title. Obviously, that puts us in a very difficult position for the final race in Barcelona. Our car had light damage from the start and suffered some very bad damage after the collision with the Lamborghini. The whole left side and the diffuser were smashed up. But in general, we have to admit that we could not keep pace with the speed of our rivals here.”
Dan Harper (#998 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “To be honest, after that qualifying and being 31st on the grid, we didn’t have a chance. Generally, the BMW M4 GT3 didn’t have the pace that it showed in the previous races. However, the WRT cars also seemed to be faster than we were. The team worked perfectly and made no mistakes, so thanks very much for that!”