Though he won’t be competing as a driver at the Total 24 Hours of Spa later this month, Marc VDS Racing Team Principal Bas Leinders will still be at the forefront of BMW’s attack on the Belgian classic.
On the eve of the Spa 24 test day last week, Leinders announced he would be stepping out the driver’s seat, with Lucas Luhr taking his place on the No. 77 BMW Z4 GT3 next to Markus Palttala and Dirk Werner.
“The decision was taken after the Nürburgring 24. The team was missing a clear leading figure and I will take that roll on me, focusing on strategy and organization,” Leinders told Sportscar365.
“I’m very happy with Lucas joining the team. I’ve already known him for a very long time, as we competed against each other in German Formula 3 back in 1998.”
Leinders explained the reasoning behind the decision.
“Being a team leader and driving the car at the same time is hard, especially when demanding something from the drivers and not knowing everything that is going on around you.
“Marc van der Straten wanted me to drive, though, and it’s not the end of my career as a racing driver. The decision only concerns the Spa 24 for now.
“If we had won the Nürburgring 24, I think the decision could have been different… I already proposed to Marc that I stop as a driver in 2011, but things worked out and I was able to delegate certain things to other people.”
After facing bitter disappointment last year at the Spa 24 with the retirement of all three cars, the Belgian team returns with one car less, but with the hope of finally claiming victory in its biggest race of the year.
“We didn’t win the 24 Hours of Spa the past two years, so the pressure is on to deliver and we needed to optimize what we have,” he said.
“BMW Motorsport is also pushing us to reach the top step of the podium and is giving us even more support than before.”
Ever since switching from the Matech-developed Ford GTs, Marc VDS Racing soon managed to gain the trust of BMW Motorsport and already started receiving factory support after its first full season with the Z4 GT3.
“One day we want to be a real BMW factory team, but we are already working together very closely, closer than we were six months ago for example,” Leinders said.
“At the moment, our main goal is to strengthen our relationship with BMW and assure we keep working with them in the future.
“It remains to be seen where and how, but as there’s no new car on the horizon for 2015, the BMW Z4 GT3 is our only option.
“We wouldn’t mind doing the same program in 2015.”
The team knows the Z4 GT3 as no other, building up every car from scratch and leaving nothing to chance.
“BMW keeps developing the Z4, but the car is getting old, especially with new GT3s joining the field,” he said. “I think it’s clear there needs to be a new car by 2016.”
While not competing at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, Leinders remains keen to race at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
“Personally, I would really like to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans behind the wheel of a LMP2, even if it’s not with Marc VDS Racing,” he said.
“While there were some plans to do that with the team in the past, we aren’t any closer now than we used to be.”
Marc VDS Racing also remains open to other opportunities, as it even lodged a late entry for the new FIA Formula E championship, although it was not accepted.
“DTM is out of the question for now, but why not consider competing in the European Le Mans Series with a Z4 GTE ?”