Driver Spotlight: Markus Palttala
Driver: No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3
What are your thoughts heading into this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, a race which you won last year?
“I’m really looking forward to racing at Watkins Glen this weekend. It’s probably the track that suits the BMW Z4 best in the TUDOR Championship calendar and I personally like it a lot. Last year, Dane and I had our best performance of the season there leading the race practically from start to finish and it was incredible to win such a traditional event.
“It’s a bit of a longer race where strategy and pitstops play an even more important role and Turner Motorsport is really strong in both. We’ve had a tough start to this season. Sixth in Detroit our best result so far, and I’m hoping we could challenge for a podium result on Sunday.”
How much do you feel Balance of Performance has affected GTD this year?
“Well, I guess it’s OK to say that the BoP (or AoP, as you guys call it) took us out of contention in Daytona and Sebring where we were about 2 seconds off. In Laguna Seca and Detroit we ran quicker than in 2014 but were still clearly off because most of the field seem to have made a step forward since last season.
“It has been very frustrating but IMSA is working hard to level the field and I believe they are getting closer every weekend. At its best, BoP is great as it allows close racing between very different cars. At its worst, it rewards sandbagging and politics and that I truly hate. In the end, my job is to go as fast as I can with the car I have and that’s what I’m focusing on.”
Last year, you visited nearly all new tracks. Has it been easier this year with having that experience already?
“For sure it’s much easier now that I know the tracks plus I’m driving the same car in the same team, so I can prepare for each weekend with last year’s data. Last year I usually got up to speed quite quickly because I was allowed to focus only on learning the track for a few laps while Dane was doing the first setup runs and he also talked me through all the secrets which helped a lot.
“This season, it’s my turn to help my teammate Michael who moved up from CTSC. Mike knows all the tracks and has been many years with Turner but is new to the Z4 and GTD. We are working very well together and have been improving every weekend.”
What are some of the big differences between the BMW Z4 in GT3 vs GTD trim?
“The difference is smaller than most people think. It’s largely the same car and similar driving style works with both. The most obvious difference is the lack of ABS and traction control in GTD which makes it slightly more challenging. I’m not a fan of driver aids, so I actually enjoy the car without them. Of course, there’s a bit less aero, as well. We use other tires in Europe and that, in fact, might be the biggest single difference.
“For sure, I was able to help Dane and the team in the very beginning last year with my experience from Marc VDS and at the 24 Hours of Spa, when the electronics failed on our car a few hours to the end, I just had to switch to Turner mode and we kept fighting for the win. Doing two programs in a similar car is definitely an advantage, both ways.”
What are some of your hobbies when you’re not racing or traveling?
“Any kind of sports, really. I do most of it in order to be fit for racing but while it is part of the job I also enjoy it all. When I visit my home country, Finland, I like to go cross-country skiing and we’ve had a team in a 24-hour race the last few years. That’s pretty insane. Or I’ll go snowboarding and have fun on ski-doos and sit hours in sauna before dipping in a frozen lake.
“At home in Belgium I ride a road and mountain bike, go running, swimming, play tennis and badminton, go climbing, do driver specific training with a coach and even occasionally pop in at a local yoga class to show them how not to do most of the moves.”