While last year’s winning lineup has been split up between various teams and manufacturers, Markus Winkelhock still believes he has a chance to stand on the top step of the podium once again in the Nürburgring 24.
The 37-year-old German will compete at the ‘Green Hell’ with Audi Sport Team BWT, one year after winning with the factory-supported Land Motorsport operation.
Despite remaining modest about his chances of a repeat victory, Winkelhock, the defending Intercontinental GT Challenge champion, has still has his sights set on back-to-back triumphs.
“For sure, the target must be to win again but as every year, it is very, very competitive,” Winkelhock told Sportscar365.
“There are very, very strong driver lineups everywhere. Every brand has got a strong car and a strong package.
“Doing this race, as every year, [is about making] no mistakes. The Nordschleife is really something special and you should focus on your job and thinking about winning again, and stuff like this.
“I’ll get in the car, I’ll do my best, and at the end of 24 hours, we’ll see where we end up.”
Winkelhock will be joined by Christopher Haase, Mike Rockenfeller and Nico Mueller in the No. 24 Muecke Motorsport-run BWT car, in the team’s first attempt in the race and first race with full Audi Sport support.
“There’s no problem because Muecke is a really experienced team,” he said.
“Maybe not in GT racing, but they did the whole last year in GT Masters, so they know what’s going on.
“They’re really professional, and you really feel that they did DTM. Their way of working is really high level.
“They’ve got the support from Audi because it’s a factory car so they’ve got good support from Audi as well and from that point of view, it’s not a disadvantage.”
As for his competition, Winkelhock is struggling to narrow down the 29-car SP9-GT3 field which includes factory-supported efforts from Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche.
Furthermore, his 2017 co-winners Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Mies and Connor De Phillippi are spread across two different cars, with Mies at Land, van der Linde at Land and WRT, and newly-signed BMW factory driver De Phillippi at ROWE Racing.
“It’s difficult to say,” Winkelhock admitted. “I think all the Audis, all the other manufacturers, they have all strong driver lineups.
“This is a must at the Nürburgring 24. If you have no strong driver lineups, you can stay at home.
“I think the Audi is a very reliable car and we have good driver lineups, and good, experienced, teams. I think the whole package should be very good.
“For sure, you also need to hope for a fair enough BoP, and then for a lot of luck as well.”