BMW Team Schnitzer’s Augusto Farfus believes the German marque needs to rely on clever strategy and durability if it is to repeat its Total 24 Hours of Spa win from last year.
The pair of Pro-class BMW M6 GT3s struggled for pace in last night’s qualifying session, with neither of the cars making it into the top 20 for Super Pole on Friday evening.
Farfus, John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk had the best run, qualifying 31st with a combined average time of 2:20.829.
The 2018-winning No. 34 Walkenhorst car of Christian Krognes, Mikkel Jensen and Nicky Catsburg lapped 35th quickest, meanwhile.
Farfus told Sportscar365 that the hot conditions were unrepresentative of BMW’s potential pace on a calmer Spa track, but said it still has a way to go to catch its rivals.
“I think the race will be cooler which will be a help for us,” said the Brazilian.
“But people are catching up. Last year BMW won because they didn’t have the best car; they just did better work.
“None of the cars got penalties and they had trouble-free races, they were spot-on with the strategy, and we will have to be the same.
“We will not win this race on performance. We will never win this race beating people like that. I think it will be about being a bit smarter, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Tomczyk’s best flying lap during the first mini qualifying session was compromised by a red flag period, leading to the car’s Pirelli tires losing performance for the later runs.
Farfus felt the BMW could have secured a Super Pole berth in a clean session, but felt that the qualifying format restricted its ability to perform.
“The loss of power and all these things add up,” he said. “I think that potentially if we had an extremely clean lap, we would have been maybe good enough to be just in the top 20.
“But of course if you give the chance to every car to do a perfect lap, then everyone would have been faster.”
Farfus reckoned the evolution of BMW’s performance between the pre-event test and this weekend has been out of sync with the evolution of the other GT3 manufacturers.
“Will be better in the race, but will this be enough? I don’t know,” he said.
“The pace that we have seen people doing is incredible because at the test, which was 20-plus degrees cooler, we did around a 2:19.3, but now it’s 20-plus degrees higher.
“It’s normal that you lose performance [in the heat] but people from the test – instead of losing, they gained. I think that’s a clear indication of what they did in the test. We did what we could.”
Bentley “Seven to Eight Tenths Off”
M-Sport Bentley factory driver Andy Soucek feels that the British manufacturer is almost a second off the outright pace.
Like BMW, Bentley struggled for pace in qualifying, with none of the four Pro-class Continental GT3s making it into Super Pole.
Soucek revealed that an ABS issue was the reason behind his car’s disappointing quali run to 49th, but nonetheless felt the Bentley has been lacking in pace to its competitors.
The highest Bentley on the grid is the No. 107 car of Jordan Pepper, Steven Kane and Jules Gounon which qualified 21st and missed out on Super Pole by 0.006 seconds.
“It would be nicer to start up front, but of the [Pro] cars that didn’t make it to Super Pole, the lineups are good, so that means we are lacking some pace,” Soucek told Sportscar365.
“That’s probably down to BoP because the car feels really good. If the chassis is good and we feel comfortable with the car and we’re driving well, it could be related to that.
“We’ll see what they decide to do for the race because it can be possible that we are seven to eight tenths off in the dry.
“In the wet, it’s a car that we haven’t driven much so it’s a bit of an unknown, but we are preparing ourselves for thunderstorms.”
John Dagys contributed to this report