Alexander Sims reckoned the BMW M6 GT3’s prowess in drying conditions was integral to ROWE Racing overcoming Audi and scoring its first-ever victory in the Nürburgring 24.
Sims, who shared the win with fellow Brit Nick Yelloly and Dutchman Nicky Catsburg, told Sportscar365 that the M6 GT3 was significantly more suited to the period of the race held after the overnight red flag when a drier line became available.
Saturday’s seven hours of running took place entirely in wet conditions with Mercedes-AMG’s GetSpeed and HRT cars leading away from the factory-supported Audis and the best of the BMW crews.
But when racing resumed shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday, after more than nine hours of stoppage, the track gradually dried out which raised the possibility of teams fitting the slicker ‘drying wet’ tire compound and, with three and a half hours to go, full slicks.
Sims explained that the bunching of the field under the red flag, followed by the BMW’s pace on the drying wet, enabled it to contend with and eventually supersede the best of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos.
“A mixture of the Mercedes tripping up and the red flag brought us right into contention, to close the gap back down,” he said.
“I have no idea what would have happened if it stayed green, but it brought us right back into the mix. In the end, our pace on the drying track seemed to be pretty strong.
“In the first stint this morning on full wets we weren’t fast at all, to be honest. I dropped back. But on the drying wet we were really strong and super-fast.
“The conditions were good for us because we had a lot of time on a drying track, and strategy-wise at the end, the other Audi doing an extra lap on the slick tire before pitting for wets gave us a big gap.
“It ebbed and flowed, but that really was the differentiation.”
Sims added that ROWE Racing suspected it might have a more favorable package in the second half of the race when better weather was forecast.
“I would say it was in the back of our minds,” he said.
“We didn’t know if it was going to be red-flagged or not, but our priority was to keep the car in one piece and get through the night without any significant mistakes.
“All of us did an awesome job of that. There was not a single scratch on the car.
“When it was normal wet conditions yesterday it did seem that we didn’t have the pace so we were clearly keeping one eye on today and hoping that the race would come back to us.”
‘I Could Be the One that Loses Victory’
Catsburg, who brought the No. 99 BMW to the checkered flag, told Sportscar365 that the return of rain with just under two hours remaining made for a tense conclusion.
The Dutchman took over from Yelloly at ROWE’s penultimate stop but had only done two slick laps when the dry line suddenly disappeared, forcing him to pit for drying wets.
The pit call proved to be crucial, as Audi Sport Team Car Collection kept Haase out for a costly extra tour on slicks, which swung the momentum in ROWE’s direction.
Haase took on full wets at his next stop and brought the lead gap down from 50 seconds to around 14 seconds, but the margin stabilized in the final stint as Catsburg held firm.
“I got in the car on slicks and I was hoping for a nice consistent end to the race,” said Catsburg.
“But as always at the Nürburgring there is always a surprise, and because it’s so cold immediately the track was wet again, so we had to stop.
“The team chose to go onto the drying wet compound. I thought it was the right decision but in the beginning the Audi was gaining massively.
“I was nervous because they [ROWE] were saying that I needed to go faster and pick up the pace, but I was sideways everywhere. I already had it in my mind that I could be the one that loses the victory.
“But then the track started to dry and I started to go faster and faster, and I was gaining a lot, especially in the last two laps of the [penultimate] stint.”
Haase, who shared the No. 3 Audi with Markus Winkelhock and Mirko Bortolotti, explained how the lead was lost from Car Collection’s perspective.
“It started to drizzle at Brünnchen and our weather forecast said it would be in this location [only],” the 2012 and 2014 Nürburgring 24 winner told Sportscar365.
“That’s why we stayed out, but then unfortunately the rain moved over the whole lap.
“This cost us a lot of time. I was just trying to survive. In the end we were fast, but we could not recover that time lost.”