Former DTM champion Martin Tomczyk heads a contingent of seven BMW works drivers and a flying Brit “on loan” / Connor De Phillippi has happy memories of last year’s victory
ROWE RACING is ready for the biggest race in the world: after very good preparations, the St. Ingbert team goes into the 46th ADAC Zurich 24h race at the Nürburgring on 12th and 13th May with plenty of confidence and a dream. Having come home third twice and finishing runner-up last year, they are hoping it will be a case of ‘eighth time lucky’ as they strive for the team’s first overall victory at the “Eifel Marathon”. Victory in round two of the VLN and second place in the 24h qualification race has seen ROWE RACING establish itself as one of the favourites among this year’s field, which consists of 149 cars and roughly 600 drivers. The #99 BMW M6 GT3 achieved both these successes with a distinctive black bonnet, which will be on the car again this weekend as a lucky charm. The #98 car will sport the usual white bonnet.
Partner BMW Motorsport is this year putting its faith wholly in ROWE RACING as it strives for a 20th overall victory on the 25.738-kilometre combination of the GP Circuit and the iconic Nürburgring-Nordschleife, and is focussing its works support on the St. Ingbert team. With this in mind, the Munich-based manufacturer is providing seven BMW works drivers from the WEC and WTSC. These include former DTM champion Martin Tomczyk as the sole German driver, as well as Connor De Phillippi from the USA, who finished ahead of the #98 ROWE RACING car in a remarkable finish whilst still driving for Audi in 2017.
De Phillippi switched to BMW before the start of the season, and this year shares driving duties in the #99 BMW M6 GT3 with Britain’s Alexander Sims, who he defeated in last year’s race. Martin Tomczyk and Finland’s Jesse Krohn complete the quartet, which has already taken its place on the top step of the VLN podium this year with De Phillippi – and the black bonnet.
Dutchman Nick Catsburg and Brit Richard Westbrook, who has once again been borrowed from Ford this year, start in the #98 car for the third year in a row. They finished runner-up together in 2017 and 2015, and have their sights set firmly on going one better this time around. They will be ably assisted by BMW works drivers John Edwards from the USA and Tom Blomqvist from Great Britain. The son of the former world rally champion Stig Blomqvist switched from the DTM to BMW’s WEC and Formula E programmes in the winter.
Coming just one week after the opening rounds of the DTM and WEC, the ADAC Zurich 24h race is another absolute highlight for BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “The goal is to claim the 20th victory for BMW at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. However, you cannot count on victory at what is possibly the toughest endurance race in the world. You always need a little bit of luck too,” he said. “The 24-hour race is a real festival of motorsport.”
ROWE RACING can focus fully on the race set-up during the practice sessions, as both cars have already secured their place in the Top 30 Qualifying, courtesy of their results in the 24h qualification race. As such, they are also guaranteed the coveted blue light on the front windscreen, which makes it far easier to overtake slower cars, particularly during the night.
The big 24h weekend begins on Thursday (10th May) with free practice (13:20 to 15:00) and the first qualifying session (20:30 to 23:30). This is followed on Friday (11th May) by the second qualifying session (14:55 to 16:45) and Top 30 Qualifying (19:00 to 19:40), in which the top starting positions are determined. The race itself gets underway at 15:30) on Saturday (12th May) and we will know the winners by about 15:30 on Sunday (13th May). The race will be broadcast for the third year in a row by RTL NITRO, who will also show live coverage of the Top 30 Qualifying on Friday and will be live on air, non-stop, for more than 25 hours during the race. A comprehensive live stream, with more than 20 different camera perspectives, including spectacular onboard views from both ROWE RACING cars, is available at www.rowe-mineraloel.com/rowe/engagements/rowe-sports/motorsport/.
Hans-Peter Naundorf, team principal ROWE RACING: “Our goal for the 24h race is actually a very simple one, we want to go one better than last year’s second place. As simple as that may sound, it will be tough to achieve. At this unique race on the toughest circuit in the world, and against so much top-quality opposition, you need to remain fully-focussed and work precisely – not just for 24 hours, but for a full four days – and you simply cannot afford to make any mistakes. We have come really close to achieving our dream of overall victory on several occasions in recent years, but we have always been lacking that little bit of luck you need. We have prepared very well this year. Victory in the second round of the VLN and second place in the qualification race have shown that our goal is a realistic one. As we have already secured a place for both cars in the Top 30 Qualifying for the first time, we are able to focus fully on race preparation and checking and setting up the newly-assembled cars. We hope that the black bonnet will bring us luck again in the 24h race. Perhaps Connor De Phillippi will prove to be the missing piece in the puzzle. He won last year’s race and has provided a lot of valuable input and brought a lot of serenity to the team. Having an old hand like Martin Tomczyk, with his wealth of experience from 18 years of professional motor racing, on board is also a great acquisition for the whole team. He is a calm character who brings everyone together, and yet he – like all of us – is still hungry for the win. I am proud of the high-quality team of drivers we have assembled together with our partner BMW Motorsport.”
Tom Blomqvist, #98 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “ROWE RACING is familiar to me as I drove for the guys before. It is a great team so hopefully we will be able to get a good result. As a driver the 24-hour race is a spectacular event. The pleasure you get driving a race car around a circuit such as the Nordschleife is probably the most you can get.”
Nick Catsburg, #98 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “I am really looking forward to the Nürburgring 24 Hours – in fact, it is my favourite event of the year. We have a strong car and good drivers. Our results in the VLN and the qualification race have been very promising. I feel that we are very well prepared.”
John Edwards, #98 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “The Nordschleife is the coolest racetrack in the world. I am really excited every time I get to drive there. I have driven in the 24-hour race a few times, but have not really had good results so far. Hopefully that will change this year with ROWE Racing.”
Richard Westbrook, #98 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “After finishing second twice in three years with BMW a victory has to be the target. Of course that will be not be easy as ever the competition is very strong from several manufacturers. From our side preparations have gone really well. All my team-mates and myself feel good with the car and have completed a lot of running without any issues.”
Martin Tomczyk, #99 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “I am obviously really looking forward to the Nürburgring 24 Hours. I have driven in this race with BMW for many years. Unfortunately, I have not won it yet. We have come close a few times and could theoretically have won it twice – but that is part and parcel of the Nürburgring. It is a big challenge, and many different factors play a role there.”
Alexander Sims, #99 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “After last year’s second place, I would obviously really like to be one step higher on the podium this time. The BMW M6 GT3 looks good with the Evo package and has had some good results at the Nürburgring in the run-up to the 24h race. As such, we are in a good position. However, there is probably no 24-hour race in the world that is more difficult to win than the race on the Nordschleife. It is one of the biggest challenges for me as a racing driver, but it is also a lot of fun every time.”
Jesse Krohn, #99 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “I am delighted to be back at this magnificent event. Our squad of drivers at ROWE RACING is fantastic, and preparations have also gone very well. It is now all about being out in front when it really matters.”
Connor De Phillippi, #99 ROWE RACING BMW M6 GT3: “I am really looking forward to my first outing as a BMW works driver at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and with it the opportunity to repeat my overall victory from last year. The BMW M6 GT3 is particularly strong on the Nordschleife. We have shown our speed in the VLN races. We now hope we can repeat that pace at the highlight of the season.”