David Pittard believes that qualifying high on the grid will be crucial for Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Pro-class BMW M6 GT3s heading into the 3 Hours of the Nürburgring.
The British driver – who is sharing the No. 34 BMW with compatriots Jake Dennis and Nick Yelloly this weekend – explained that while the Nürburgring GP layout does not naturally suit the M6 GT3, Walkenhorst is confident about its cars’ single-lap capabilities.
He noted that the event structure of this Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup round has presented teams with car balance challenges and enabled Walkenhorst to identify its stronger area heading into Sunday’s competitive track action.
Qualifying gets underway at 8:30 a.m. while the race doesn’t start until 2:45 p.m.
“What’s quite interesting is that the timetable this weekend has an early and a late session each day, so we’re seeing big temperature splits in the track,” Pittard told Sportscar365.
“That’s making the car balance very different. We’re almost building a qualifying car and a race car in two separate sessions, which is quite tricky because you can’t really carry one setup to the other since the track conditions are so different.
“Naturally the cooler conditions are always going to suit the M6 better in terms of tires and engine performance, so I think we should have a strong qualifying performance, as we have done all year.”
Pittard reckons the M6 GT3 should be able to rank at the sharp end of the three-part qualifying procedure based on how the team has set the car up so far this season.
“We’ve come to tracks that I don’t think the M6 is suited to very well but Max, our engineer, and the team have done a mega job to use the limited track time you have at a GT World Challenge event and put the car in the window to have mega performance.
“This is another track that we don’t think the M6 is suited to: it’s more suited to the big [Nordschleife] circuit. So we’re working hard and I think we have a pretty decent race car.
“It’s notoriously tricky to overtake here so we’re hoping to qualify well. The M6 is fast in a straight line and a big old car, so a lot of the race will be done in qualifying.”
Walkenhorst finished eighth and tenth in Free Practice on Saturday morning before slipping further down the order during Pre-Qualifying later that afternoon.
Pittard reckons that the teams running Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos will be strong in the race based on that car model topping both practice sessions. He noted that an important aspect for the Pro-class BMWs will be managing the drop-off rate of the Pirelli tires.
“The fresher the tire, the better we are,” he explained. “This surface is quite tricky anyway: it’s abrasive but not very grippy, so there’s a lot of sliding. We’ve looked good on new tire pace.
“Our race pace is actually half-decent as well, although we do drop off quite a bit towards the end. But I think we’re there or thereabouts, looking at the others.
“I think the Mercs are just so fast this weekend, certainly in qualifying. I haven’t had a look at the full race pace of the Mercs, but I think they’re the car to beat.”
Adjusted Driving Crew Serving as “Refresher”
Walkenhorst Motorsport is one of five teams impacted by this weekend’s date clash between GTWC Europe and the DTM, where three of the German outfit’s drivers are racing.
Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde and Timo Glock are all prioritized at the Red Bull Ring, requiring Walkenhorst to draft in three drivers for the Endurance Cup fixture.
Both of Pittard’s teammates, Yelloly and Dennis, are making their first GTWC Europe appearances of the season while Nicky Catsburg has stepped into the No. 35 machine.
Pittard suggested that having different drivers on board is proving useful, as M6 GT3 race debutant Dennis and Nürburgring 24 victors Yelloly and Catsburg share their different insights.
Walkenhorst runs Wittmann’s BMW in the DTM series, which again clashes with Endurance Cup at the end of both seasons next month.
“Jake’s never raced the car, but he’s tested and developed it,” said Pittard.
“The most interesting thing is that during engineering debriefs, Jake brings the latest technology from Formula E: some of the things he’s bringing up and the way he drives in the practice sessions to optimize the car, some of those things I’ve not heard before.
“That’s the coolest thing. I’ve worked with Nicky [Catsburg] and Nick [Yelloly] before, last year in Intercontinental GT. But it’s still good to bring those guys in too.
“Nick Yelloly in particular is so good at setting up the car, so it’s a nice little refresher as to what is possible from a factory driver perspective.”