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BMW Spirits Boosted by Imola Performance

Sixth place in 6H Imola “a huge relief” for BMW M Team WRT, says Sheldon van der Linde…

Photo: MPS Agency

Sheldon van der Linde and BMW M Motorsport director Andreas Roos viewed BMW M Team WRT’s sixth place in the 6 Hours of Imola as a significant morale boost for the German brand after it battled for a top five finish in its second race in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Van der Linde, Robin Frijns and Rene Rast picked up BMW’s best finish to date in the Hypercar class during Sunday’s six-hour race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

The No. 20 BMW M Hybrid V8 was a consistent top ten presence at Imola and ran as high as second at the end of the penultimate hour.

Van der Linde in particular spent several laps engaged in battle with the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley before eventually dropping back.

“It’s a huge surprise and a huge relief to everyone in the program that we’ve made such a big step since Qatar,” the South African told Sportscar365.

“I think it really motivates the whole team. To even see our car and the Toyota in the same picture is obviously very motivating for everyone in the box.

“I think I had the most moments I’ve ever had in a race car. I was really on the limit with the slick tire in the wet, almost going offline or into the gravel a few times as well, which obviously cost us some time.

“But I think realistically it would have been maybe a P5 in the end, nothing more. I’m super happy with the result. I think we can be really proud of the step we made.

“We can’t expect to make the same step every single race now, but I think we’re a lot closer than we expected to be and that’s a huge and positive surprise.”

Roos struck a similarly upbeat tone about the result, noting that BMW could have aimed for a “realistic top five” at Imola and appearing pleased with the outcome of the race.

“We have to be realistic,” Roos told Sportscar365. 

“Yes, when everything maybe would have run perfectly, we could have ended up in the fight for the podium, but a realistic top five result was there. 

“This is, for us in a Hypercar field of 19 cars, a good result in [just] the second race. 

“It’s not a result we earned just because others had problems and others did mistakes or whatsoever, I think it was the possibility just because of pure speed and the pace we had in the car.”

Van der Linde notably laid down a challenge for third against Hartley under changeable conditions in the latter stages of the race.

The South African, coming close to passing the Toyota multiple times at Tosa, spoke afterwards that an overtake “just wasn’t meant to be” and reflected on just on difficult it had been to stay in the fight on the wet circuit.

“It was just about keeping your nerve on the out laps,” Van der Linde said.

“It was really tricky to know where the grip is because I had no reference in front of me or cars ahead to kind of gauge off them. 

“So I was fully alone and our out laps are still a small weakness. So this is something we need to improve on in the end, but I think we know where to improve and that’s clearly one of the main topics we want to tick off. 

“I think I could have [passed Hartley], but this track is so hard to overtake in the end. 

“So you really rely on a mistake from him or where he gets stuck in traffic, for example, which wasn’t the case. 

“I think he defended quite well. So in that case I tried, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

A top five run for the Munich marque was ultimately curtailed by a drive through penalty, which Van der Linde revealed was the result of contact with a mechanic during a pitstop.

“It was slippery under the gantry for some reason,” he said. 

“I came in at a normal speed, a respectable speed for these conditions and I just lost the rear with a rear lock. 

“So that’s unfortunate. Luckily the guy is okay. That’s obviously the most important thing. I hit him with the rear wing and that’s where we got the penalty in the end.” 

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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