Following a breakthrough class victory last time out at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Jens Klingmann is looking to carry the momentium for Turner Motorsport and BMW into both organization’s “home track” in this weekend’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
The 26-year-old German, in his first full-season of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, has enjoyed an encouraging start to his U.S. racing career, in what’s been very much a development year for the new-for-2016 BMW M6 GT3.
Klingmann and co-driver Bret Curtis gave the BMW its first class win in North America, in only its sixth IMSA race, after a hard-fought closing laps that saw the BMW factory driver battle some of the most-established WeatherTech Championship drivers and ultimately come out on top.
“Achieving this victory meant a lot to me,” Klingmann told Sportscar365. “It was my first one in the States. I think the first one is always one to remember. I think I had quite a good move on [Jeroen] Bleekemolen to take the lead.
“It makes me really proud. I hope to get some more trophies for the team… From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, we’re able to at least fight for the podium and that makes me really positive.”
The win at CTMP has helped rejuvenate the Will Turner-led squad after a somewhat challenging start to the season with the new turbocharged car.
Aside from a runner-up class finish at Sebring, the No. 96 BMW, as well as the team’s sister No. 97 entry of Markus Palttala and Michael Marsal, had failed to post a top-10 result since the season-opener at Daytona, in what’s been a steep learning curve with the GT3 contender.
Klingmann, along with fellow BMW factory driver Lucas Luhr and Dirk Mueller, handled the majority of the car’s development in Europe in 2015, which the former Formula BMW ADAC champion feels has helped benefit the program as a whole, particularly with coming to grips of the new package.
“I had never developed a car, because when I joined BMW four years ago the Z4 was done, there was not much more that you could have done,” Klingmann said. “We started from from scratch.
“I’m glad BMW took me as one of the development drivers… It was also good for the team because I knew the car for at least eight months, but the team didn’t know anything, so it’s good to get them some background information that they probably didn’t get from BMW’s side initially.
“Also for me, because I know the car that well, considering the driving style and anything in testing like brake pads for example, I could tell them from experience that ‘this is the best one.’
“Also Bret, my teammate, I can help him out by adapting his driving style to mine, as close as possible, and for the moment it pays off.”
While having a number of years of experience with the BMW Z4 GT3 in Europe, primarily in ADAC GT Masters and VLN competition, Klingmann said the transition to the M6 hasn’t been that much of a difference from a driving standpoint.
However, the biggest challenge has come with the switch to the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, which is largely production-based.
“The car needs to be driven very clean and smooth and precise, and that always fits my driving,” he said.
“The Z4 was a bit more compromised so you could be a bit more rough with the steering and it could handle it but this car you can’t, you have to be really smooth.
“And with the turbo car, at the beginning we were really struggling just with power down to set up the boost because initially there was no boost on power down, then suddenly it kicked in and you lost the rear, so that was more of a challenge for the engineers, I have to say.
“They fixed the throttle application and now it’s so much better, but we are still learning because it is a complete new car.
“[The recent success] shows we’re not far off; we are coming closer. But there’s still a lot of work to do, like with the traction control. It’s a whole new system and it takes some time.”
While Lime Rock will be another new experience for Klingmann, whose only prior U.S. racing experience came with BMW Team RLL in the endurance races in 2015, both his team and manufacturer will be racing near home base, with Turner located in Amesbury, Mass. and BMW of North America’s headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.
Turner, meanwhile, is seeking back-to-back class wins at the Connecticut bullring, following Marsal and Dane Cameron’s win there last year with its Z4 GT3, adding even more pressure for a repeat this weekend.
“I like racing in the States because it’s fun,” Klingmann said. “It’s more old-school because the tracks have more character compared to the European tracks. I really love it. I don’t want to go back to European racing!”
With DTM not currently on his radar screen, Klingmann is hoping to carve out a long and successful career with the German manufacturer in the sports car racing world.
“I really like the GT racing,” he said. “I started in go karting and went to the formula cars and then switched to GT racing ultimately because I’m quite tall, 1.9 meters (6’2) , so it’s much easier to fit into these cars compared to the formula cars. I feel good here.
“Right now, I feel like home in this car, so that’s where I want to stay for many years to come.”