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Walkenhorst Keeping “Consistent Team” Through Switch from IGTC

BMW squad Walkenhorst aiming to repeat IGTC success in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup…

Photo: Jules Benichou/21 Creation

Walkenhorst Motorsport has worked to maintain a “consistent team” through its switch from the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup with two Pro-class BMW entries.

After winning last year’s IGTC races at Indianapolis and Kyalami and running series champions Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg, Walkenhorst is back in Endurance Cup’s top tier on a full-season basis for the first time since its series debut four years ago.

Team manager Niclas Koenigbauer told Sportscar365 that ongoing international travel challenges prompted Walkenhorst to re-assign its global IGTC program to Europe only.

“Since 2017 we have been in the SRO environment,” he said. “We feel pretty comfortable and like the surroundings. Last year and 2019 with the IGTC was a great experience.

“But due to the COVID regulations it’s very tricky to travel and it was not really easy for us to plan for a full season with the other programs, so the idea came up to enter the Endurance championship again.

“That was the starting point, to have two cars and try to be as successful as last year in IGTC.”

Koenigbauer explained that Walkenhorst’s Endurance Cup crew is “pretty much” the same as its IGTC squad from 2020. He wants to ensure continuity between the two programs, but some adjustment has been required due to the team’s other racing projects.

In addition to GTWC Europe, Walkenhorst is making its DTM debut with a BMW M6 GT3 for Marco Wittmann and also has several GT3s racing at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

“Some positions we had to swap, but I’m always focused on having a consistent team running the full program,” said Koenigbauer.

“I also have to think about countries, coming back with quarantines and so on, so it was quite difficult to take the right people for this program, to consider what happens.

“If the other race cars are coming back from the Nordschleife, work has to be done. So I had to split up the guys in an appropriate way to make sure that everything works out, so some of the [IGTC] people are now at the Nordschleife. Quite a lot from IGTC are still here.

“Also, my full-time guys cannot do all the races. We are aware that we’re quite a young team and the people need some weekends for private stuff.

“But I’m super happy that we have such a great team spirit and great guys within the team, to keep the motivation up.”

Some of Walkenhorst’s GTWC Europe staff will assist with the running of its DTM car this year, with the team opting to use existing personnel rather than create a new squad.

“One problem is that there is a clash between the Red Bull Ring and Nürburgring [GTWC Europe] and I do not want a key person to not do one race,” said Koenigbauer.

“I make sure that the key person for each program can stay there for the full year, and then we’ve got one or two in the background who are chopping a little bit. Everyone has one main priority, and if they still have time they will help out on another project.”

Walkenhorst’s Endurance Cup return comes with a set of new liveries, although the backers are familiar names within the BMW racing group.

CATL, which previously sponsored Joel Eriksson and Jonathan Aberdein in the DTM, and MultiBank which has been a BMW partner since 2019 are both involved.

“We are happy to have them on board for this program,” said Koenigbauer.

“This gives us the opportunity to run such a nice program with the high-profile drivers, together with David Pittard and Thomas Neubauer.

“Last year in IGTC we really liked the combination to link our full professional drivers with young talents. So we are very happy about the lineup and very happy to have them all on board.”

“No Concrete Plans” for IGTC Outings in 2021

Koenigbauer iterated that Walkenhorst is not currently in a position to commit to any IGTC races this year beyond Spa, which also forms part of the Endurance Cup season.

“The problem is the logistics and COVID protocols, and so on,” he explained.

“As we are doing Asian LMS, DTM, DTM Trophy, NLS… it’s too many events that we can risk not coming back in time. At the moment, we are not planning any other races.

“The program we have in front of us is tight and at this stage, it’s not planned [to do more]. But if there are some movements in the whole calendar and these opportunities, we are always happy to do as much racing as we can if we can do it in the proper way.

“But so far there are no concrete plans to go for any IGTC races in 2021.”

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

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