After a strong showing in last month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, the ROWE Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Daniel Juncadella, Nico Bastian and Stef Dusseldorp has emerged as a title contender for the Blancpain Endurance Series crown.
Bastian and Dusseldorp face a nine-point deficit on WRT Audi drivers Stéphane Ortelli and Frank Stippler heading into next month’s season finale at the Nürburgring, where 25 points are still on offer.
The German-Dutch duo entered the Nürburgring round of the ADAC GT Masters last weekend, where Sportscar365.com caught up with Dusseldorp.
“We were unlucky at Spa, but that’s just how it goes in a 24-hour race,” the 25-year-old Dutchman said about the retirement caused by an alternator failure 45 minutes form the end.
“The night was very good for us. We we’re able to put in a very good pace and keep the lead of the race quite easily.
“In the morning we had to make a scheduled brake change, where we lost quite a lot of time, and as the temperature started to rise the handling of the car also became a bit more difficult.
“We couldn’t match the pace of the Audi and BMW anymore, but in the end we lost the most time with the pitstops.”
Despite not crossing the finish line, the ROWE Mercedes was still classified in 16th place overall and ninth in the Pro Cup.
“The race wasn’t totally destroyed, as we scored the maximum amount of points at the six and twelve-hour marks,” Dusseldorp said.
“It wasn’t really part of our strategy to go after these points; we just kept on driving without mistakes and no issues, while others struggled in the difficult circumstances.”
After a decent start of the season at Monza and Silverstone, the German team has quickly adapted itself to the Blancpain Endurance Series and is now a serious contender for the Pro Cup drivers’ title in its maiden season.
“It would have been a lot easier if we finished on the podium at Spa, but we’re up for the challenge,” Dusseldorp said.
“I know it’s going to be very difficult. Last year Audi won here in the six-hour race and we came second, the Mercedes is good at this track, but so is the Audi.”
The results of the ADAC GT Masters Eifel round (also running on Pirellis) proved this point, as Audi won both races and almost locked-out all podium positions.
“There are just so many cars that are still in contention,” he said. “The Bentley was a little bit unlucky at Spa but was quick as well, Nissan already won a race so we’ll have to keep an eye on everyone, and not just focus on the Audi in front of us.”
After making a name for himself with the Hexis McLaren team, Dusseldorp has now emerged as one of the leading Mercedes SLS drivers.
“HTP Motorpsport and ROWE Racing are both very professional teams,” he said. “HTP changed to the Continental GT3 while I wanted to keep a link with Mercedes. I didn’t really feel confident in Bentley.”
Dusseldorp is satisfied with his current situation at ROWE, but adds that nothing is fixed for next season, even though he has already set his mind on another 24-hour classic.
“I definitely prefer the endurance races, so I’ll stick to that,” he said. “I also want to start driving on the Nordschleife, and ROWE Racing is a perfect fit for that, there’s a lot of potential.
“I still have to get my permit after this race and might do a VLN race later this year. Hopefully I’ll be at the Nürburgring 24 next year.”