ROWE RACING optimistic ahead of Spa 24-hour race after two positive days of testing
Last year’s winners Eng, Martin and Sims reunited in the Ardennes / Spengler and Blomqvist test alongside Catsburg in second car
St. Ingbert, 6th July 2017 – 25 days ahead of the second big highlight of the season, the 24 Hours of Spa on 29th/30th July, ROWE RACING has made first contact with the legendary racetrack in the Belgian Ardennes, which features the famous Eau Rouge corner. The two days of testing at the undulating 7.004-kilometre circuit naturally evoked memories of last year, when the team from St. Ingbert won the endurance classic to claim its greatest success to date.
As defending champion, there is a lot of focus on ROWE RACING in the run-up to the 69th edition of the endurance race, which was first held back in 1924. With this in mind, the team worked flat-out in ideal weather conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday to ensure that the two BMW M6 GT3s are perfectly set-up for the marathon distance, and to give their drivers as much time as possible in the cockpit. The main focus was on reliability and finding the perfect race set-up, rather than on top times for a flying lap. In total, the team completed more than 3,000 kilometres over the two days of testing.
In action at the wheel of the #99 BMW M6 GT3 were the well-oiled trio of Philipp Eng, Maxime Martin and Alexander Sims. Belgian DTM driver Martin and the two BMW works drivers Eng (Austria) and Sims (Great Britain) were victorious together last year, and took their first steps towards defending their title at this week’s test.
Dutchman Nick Catsburg, who drove for ROWE RACING at the endurance classic in 2016, was joined in the #98 car by BMW DTM drivers Bruno Spengler (Canada) and Tom Blomqvist (Great Britain). While the 24-hour race in Belgium is still new territory for Blomqvist, Spengler has already made one appearance there – as part of an eye-catching project with Timo Glock, alongside double leg amputee and ex Formula 1 and touring car driver Alessandro Zanardi. Spengler and Blomqvist were given a particularly large amount of time in the cockpit, to allow them to get used to driving the BMW M6 GT3 at the iconic circuit.
Martin, Spengler and Sims travelled to Spa on the back of recent success. The DTM weekend at the Norisring had seen Spengler claim his first victory in the touring car series for four years on the Saturday. His team-mate Martin was runner-up in race one, but went one better to claim his third DTM win on the Sunday. Sims, meanwhile, guided the BMW M6 GTLM to its first victory in North America in Watkins Glen at the weekend.
All 66 cars registered for the race were in action at the official test day in Spa on Tuesday. Eleven different manufacturers are represented with GT3 cars in an impressive field.
ROWE RACING team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf: “Coming to Spa as the defending champion for the first time is certainly a special feeling. For one thing, we keep getting flashbacks to last year’s success. Plus, you are automatically the focus of attention for the fans that were at the circuit for the test day. That is a nice feeling, but also adds to the pressure. However, our goal is obviously to win again this year. We are very happy with the two test days, as we were able to work hard on our race set-up in ideal conditions, and to complete a lot of long runs on tyres with different degrees of wear. Our drivers also had plenty of opportunity to familiarise themselves with the track. We gave Bruno and Tom, in particular, a lot of time in the car for that reason. Top lap times were not part of our plan. We put far greater emphasis on the reliability and durability of the car. I believe we will return to Spa well prepared in three weeks’ time.”