Lucas Luhr is still pinching himself after helping earn a come-from-behind victory in last weekend’s hard-fought and mixed-condition Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The BMW factory driver, who teamed with Nick Catsburg and Markus Palttala, gave local squad Marc VDS Racing its long-awaited first overall win in the Belgian endurance classic, in what proved to be an up-and-down race from the start.
“The very first stint, I started the car and it was extremely dangerous,” Luhr told Sportscar365. “ There was so much standing water and lakes crossing the track.
“I almost lost the car first time going into Eau Rouge. I was completely blind there and it was full of fog from the weather.
“Then I struggled a lot with our tires because we thought it would be just a short shower and it would dry out, so we played the tire pressures for that and not for the heavy rain. They were by far too low.
“I was praying on the radio that they’d change something but they said just hold onto it! That’s what I did.”
The Bas Leinders-led crew opted to put the No. 46 BMW Z4 GT3 on slicks earlier than others, a move that saw them drop outside of the top-30 overall by the third hour.
“We were unlucky because we ran out of time and had to pit,” Luhr said. “At that time, the track was starting to dry.
“It was a wrong decision, but the track was drying so quickly but then the track temperature dropped and we sent Markus out. I really felt for him because he was just a sitting duck.
“At that moment we were a little bit disappointed because we really didn’t have to gamble at that point. But then we said, ‘Screw it, we’ll just push like crazy.’
“We slowly, but surely came back. I think the real turning point for us was [Sunday] morning when the sun came out, the asphalt heated up and suddenly our car came to life. It was quick and very competitive.
“I think if it would have been colder or had rain, we wouldn’t be standing here as winners.”
While Catsburg took over the lead in the 19th hour, it was effectively because of the demise of the team’s sister No. 45 BMW of Dirk Werner, who spun and stopped on track due to a seized engine.
According to Luhr, it left the No. 46 crew with some concerns until the checkered flag, especially considering the team’s run of bad luck at Spa.
“We have seen 24-hour races where suddenly everything is in order and with one-and-a-half hours to go, [something] hits,” he said.
“You’re always wondering if you’re going to be the next one. Then you see a BMW going off in smoke, it’s not what you want to see if you’re sitting in a BMW.
“But our baby ran fine until the end and we won it!”
The win was Luhr’s first overall triumph at Spa, following his GT2 class win in a GruppeM Porsche in 2005.
It was also his first major victory with BMW, having joined the German manufacturer’s GT program last year and coming up short on numerous occasions since.
“It’s huge, especially for me,” Luhr said. “Last year was my first attempt [with BMW] and we finished seven seconds behind.
“Then at the Nurburgring this year, finished second, 40 seconds behind. To win it now here, by almost two laps, is huge.
“For a driver it’s always good but for a manufacturer, and especially for a Belgian team like Marc VDS to finally win it after trying so many times with so much effort.
“I’m very happy. It’s not often that I’m speechless. I’m very happy and proud of what we’ve achieved here.”