BMW and ROWE Racing were pleased with a second-place finish in the Nürburgring 24 coming from 31st on the grid, but were also left with a feeling of being unable to match the winning Ferrari 296 GT3 on outright pace.
Sheldon van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, Marco Wittmann and Maxime Martin finished 26.9 seconds behind the No. 30 Ferrari from Frikadelli Racing Team, delivering the BMW M4 GT3’s first podium finish at the Eifel endurance classic after its debut last year.
The result came after a recovery drive following a back-of-the-grid start for the No. 98 car, which started outside the top 30 after van der Linde slid off at Pflanzgarten at during Top Qualifying 2.
While ROWE beat factory-supported Mercedes-AMG entries from GetSpeed and Haupt Racing Team to secure second, the team was unable to mount a challenge to the Frikadelli Ferrari for the victory.
The margin between the two cars stretched to nearly three minutes on Sunday morning before coming back down in the final hours as Frikadelli dealt with damper issues.
After the race, team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf praised ROWE’s performance, describing it as “faultless.”
“I still feel like a champion,” Naundorf told Sportscar365.
“There was nothing we could do about it. We did a very faultless race and had a very intense preparation.
“There is nothing we would change [about that]. It’s a podium in a 24-hour race, which is something special.
“Especially when you see how many dropouts and mistakes you have, so many competitive teams and drivers.
“To do a faultless job and ending up 26 seconds short is a success. We can’t say it differently. For our partners and sponsors, it’s a success.”
Naundorf added that while he didn’t want to comment on the Balance of Performance, he felt the German cars were on a “very competitive, similar” level to each other.
“We have been stronger in the night, because of the turbo,” he said. “The Mercs were stronger during the day. Porsche was on the same pace and Audi has been very similar.
“But you have never seen a car overtaking a Ferrari in a straight line. I think this says a lot.”
Head of BMW M Motorsport Andreas Roos addressed the deficit to the winning car, similarly lauding ROWE’s performance but stating that the Ferrari had the edge on pace.
“We have to say the Ferrari was too quick for us in the last 24 hours,” said Roos.
“We tried everything with a perfect job, but it was just too quick for us. They also did a perfect job.
“We were hoping we could maybe make it, but they did a perfect job and so did ROWE.
“It was difficult today to touch the Ferrari. At the end, we were not quick enough today for the Ferrari, but that’s sometimes how it is.”
Audi: Italian Cars Were in “World of Their Own”
Audi Sport’s head of customer racing Chris Reinke took a stronger stance when it came to the strength of the Ferrari and also Lamborghini in comparison with the German brands.
Reinke expressed the view that the German manufacturers were in a similar performance window, but that there was a disparity between them and the Italian cars.
“I think the German manufacturers here – BMW, AMG, Audi Sport [and Porsche] – were all on even battling and had our disasters happening,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“Yes, it hit us when we caught that penalty and thereafter the [No. 1] car slid out on oil, seconds before another car hit the same oil. So that was a bit unfortunate.
“I think others were hit as well. Just performance-wise, the Lamborghini and the Ferrari were in a world of their own.
“As a few of our cars hit trouble early in the race, their performance was not relevant for the remainder.
“From the Ferrari side, one came through tidy and therefore could utilize the performance advantage.”
Reinke pointed out that the event organizers had limited data to work with on the new cars, as the Ferrari and Lamborghini had covered relatively little mileage on the Nordschleife compared to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG.
While the Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R made its event debut, Reinke believed that similar issues with that car were not a factor.
“I think we knew before that it would be challenging for the new cars because there weren’t too many showings for them,” he said.
“And also with the Lamborghini, only one [EVO2] entered. That makes it very challenging for the BoP committee.
“I believe the Porsche, from my point of view, they were quite well leveled in. On the Ferrari and the Lamborghini side, I think they have failed on the challenge.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report