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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Walkenhorst Focusing on “Clean” Spa Race after 2020 Issues

Lead BMW squad Walkenhorst focusing on clean race at Spa after last year’s disastrous outing…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

Walkenhorst Motorsport is focused on running a “clean, fair and good race” in this weekend’s TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa according to team manager Niclas Koenigbauer, as the BMW squad aims to rebound from its double retirement last year.

Walkenhorst won Spa in 2018 with Philipp Eng, Christian Krognes and Tom Blomqvist but has not finished in the top ten since then.

Last year, both of its BMW M6 GT3s failed to finish. The No. 34 car incurred damage early in the race after Nicky Catsburg had contact with another vehicle, while the No. 35 withdrew after a heavy accident for Martin Tomczyk at Blanchimont during the night.

“Last year a lot of things went in ways that we did not expect,” Koenigbauer told Sportscar365 ahead of the Belgian enduro’s latest edition.

“We had contact on track: of course knowing the outcome, you will say that if you did this a different way, you would not have had the contact. With the incident we had with Nicky, it was super unfortunate but this can happen.

“With the slick and wet conditions, we tried to push to be more up front. And it can happen that a driver hits a wet patch and spins. I was very happy that nothing happened to Martin after this huge impact.

“We don’t want to over-push at the beginning or be super aggressive. We want to have a clean, fair and good race.

“We don’t want to get any penalties, and then we will finish in the top region.

“Everyone is focused on a clean and quick race. We’ve had team meetings and everyone is focused on one goal. That’s giving everyone positive momentum.”

Koenigbauer explained that a poor showing in qualifying forced Walkenhorst to push harder than it should have done in the early stages of last year’s race, as it sought to advance from its 24th and 32nd-place starting positions to catch up with the leaders.

“Last year we were coming back from Indianapolis with a one-two finish,” he said.

“Everyone was super excited, thinking this is no problem. We were fully into it. Maybe people were not aware that sometimes, if you’re in the mood, you’re up front… but then in qualifying, when it didn’t work out as expected, we decided that we had to push.

“We did not make one car into the top 20. Everyone was wondering, what’s going on here? So we had to push through the field and get positions.

“I think one thing added up to another and this was the outcome of the situation.

“But now we are all settled. We know everything can happen. The weather should stay at the same temperature for race week, so I think the pace we can show in qualifying will help us for the race, unlike last year.

“I’m positive. Also it’s the last year of the M6 GT3, so we want to take another win. It’s a stressful season this year with a lot of programs, but this is really a highlight.”

Koenigbauer suggested that the first two rounds of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season have been encouraging for Walkenhorst, despite the team’s cars encountering issues at Monza and Paul Ricard.

Neither BMW scored points in the 3 Hours of Monza, while both fared better at the Paul Ricard 1000km but still lost their chances of podium finishes due to late issues.

“We had a pretty bad weekend in Monza, especially with the tire issues,” said Koenigbauer.

“Overall, besides the result, we were quite happy to see where the BMW was. We did not expect to have the pace, but we really were competitive when it was dry.

“Despite some unlucky things happening, we left the event with a positive attitude. And we started well at Paul Ricard. The pace was there: we were promising over a stint.

“It was very unfortunate to have contact with one and a half hours before the end, which cost us a podium that was in reach. And also on the other car, they slammed the door and a hinge broke in the pit stop.

“Even though we finished P7 and P8, it was OK considering the stops and repairs.

“The result wasn’t there, but we still had a very positive attitude. We are keeping this positive momentum.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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