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BMW Team Studie Sees Kruetten as Three-Year Project

Yasuaki ‘Bob’ Suzuki not expecting miracles from BMW Team Studie’s new signing in rookie SUPER GT season…

Photo: BMW Team Studie

BMW Team Studie owner Yasuaki ‘Bob’ Suzuki says he sees the team’s relationship with Niklas Kruetten as a three-year project, as he expects the German driver to take a season to get fully up to speed in SUPER GT.

Kruetten was revealed as Seiji Ara’s new full-time teammate aboard Studie’s No. 7 BMW M4 GT3 in February, with Bruno Spengler moving into a third driver role.

Although he is already familiar with the M4 from his campaigns in ADAC GT Masters and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, Kruetten first drove the car in GT300 spec with confidential Michelin tires in the official pre-season tests last month at Okayama International Circuit and Fuji Speedway.

While the 21-year-old’s performance at two unfamiliar venues impressed the team, Suzuki admits that Kruetten being up to the task of fighting for the championship as a rookie may be too much to hope for.

“Niklas was recommended to us by BMW Motorsport,” Suzuki told Sportscar365. “Last year he raced in GT World Challenge Europe, and BMW and WRT told us that they want to bring him up in an even more competitive environment, as he’s still young.

“We discussed it a lot with BMW, there were about five different candidates who all drove with WRT, but finally we chose Niklas, and we are very happy to have him.

“He is a very fast driver, he was able to adapt quickly to both Okayama and Fuji despite never having driven them before, and the tires. But how to let the GT500 cars pass without losing time is something he has no experience of.

“While I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to aim for the title in his first year, the main goal for now is to have a better result than last year.”

This year will mark Studie’s third season of running the M4 GT3 in SUPER GT, with Augusto Farfus coming on board for the car’s debut campaign in 2021 before Spengler was brought into the fold last year.

Farfus’s best result was a fifth place in the wet at Sportsland Sugo, while Spengler’s top finish of sixth came in similarly difficult conditions at Okayama.

However, Ara himself was able to win a race in both seasons in the absence of his regular teammates, both coming at Suzuka, to finish sixth in last year’s drivers’ standings.

Suzuki said the fact that experienced campaigners like Farfus and Spengler needed time to fully master SUPER GT is key to why he views the task of extracting Kruetten’s full potential as a longer-term task.

“In the past, when we have had a new driver like Augusto or Bruno, and when other teams that have used works drivers [from overseas], they often struggle in the first season but then they show their true ability in the second year,” Suzuki continued.

“That’s why we are not viewing this as a one-year program, but we have already discussed it in advance [with BMW] and we see this as a minimum three-year project. The contract is for one year, but that’s what we are thinking about.”

Spengler participated in five races for Team Studie last year, missing three races in the first half of the season due to his clashes with the Italian GT series.

The one-time DTM champion is set to contest a similar number of events this year, missing only the 300km races at Okayama, Sugo and Mobility Resort Motegi.

“Basically we’re planning to have Bruno for all the long races, so all the 350km and three-hour races, five races in total,” clarified Suzuki. “For us, it’s very important that he can act as a teacher to Niklas. That’s why we had him with us for the Okayama test.”

Spengler told Sportscar365 that while he will not return to Italian GT in 2024, he will combine his SUPER GT commitments with his ongoing testing duties with the upcoming BMW M4 GT3 Evo that is due to make its debut in 2025.

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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