Christian Krognes makes his 24 Hours of Spa debut this weekend with the Walkenhorst Motorsport team. A Nordschleife specialist and VLN champion, it’s a whole new adventure for the talented racer from Norway. Follow Krognes this weekend in his daily blogs as makes his attack for Pro-Am class victory.
Well, wasn’t that quite a race! For us at Walkenhorst Motorsport and the number 35 BMW M6 GT3 it didn’t quite end as we had hoped for, but what an incredible experience it has been either way.
First of all, the 60-car GT3 grid at Spa is impressive by itself, but when you take into account that each and everyone of the line-ups are genuinely quick, you know you’re in for a tough race. Wherever you are on the track, whatever the time, there’s you can never catch your breath while you’re in the cockpit.
But that’s far from all. Outside the cockpit and inside the team garage there’s hectic activity everywhere day and night. The mechanics have to be on top of their feet every minute in case there’s an unscheduled pit stop coming. The engineers constantly have to rethink their strategy depending on what’s going on at the track. It’s all a finely-tuned 24 hours machine that rests a lot on preparations undergone beforehand. However, perhaps the most important part is the team’s ability to be hands-on with sudden events, since everything will never go as planned during a full 24 hour race. That’s the only thing we know for sure before we start a race like this.
That would prove to be the case for us along with most of the other teams. Due to a somewhat disappointing qualifying result as a red flag hampered our timing, we started 41st out of 64 cars. The plan was simply to stay on track and pick as many positions as possible during the next 24 hours. Markus Palttala would be our first driver in the car and already brought us up ten positions in the first hour. From that point on and into the night hours we kept pushing and advanced into the top 20 of the field, seeing a number of crashes combined with safety car and full course yellow periods.
Quite soon the whole top 10 from Super Qualifying was out of the race, underlining the importance of simply keeping it within the white lines and out of the barriers along the track. Speaking for ourselves, we had only one incident costing us time until 5 in the morning, as contact with a competitor had brought the car in for some cosmetical repairs. Moreover, we had shown some real promising pace, keeping up with the speed of the leading pack at many occacions during our stints. Unfortunately, I had a spin that hurt our progress a bit during a rain filled hour a little later. Coming out of the car after that I felt very sorry for the team, but there was really no time to be downhearted and the team kept charging as ever.
The longer into the race, the more it felt like our pace improved relative to the rest of the field, despite seemingly having some damage on the front axle disturbing the balance of the car quite a bit. Eventually, Markus brought the worn but beautiful M6 GT3 over the finish line at 20th overall and 5th in the Pro-Am standings. Again, it wasn’t what we aimed for, but considering the circumstances it was not bad at all. The team had done an excellent job the whole weekend with everything that a 24 hour weekend like this consists of. Moreover, the sister Am car managed to finish on the podium in its category, something that marked a successful debut for the Walkenhorst crew at the 24 hours of Spa!
Personally speaking, I am quite happy with how things turned out. As a rookie at such races it’s hard to anticipate an outcome, and one just has to get into the car and forget everything that is happening outside the cockpit. In the end it was disappointing to have this one spin, but that’s something to analyse and learn from. Luckily, the car was not damaged and in general we were closer to the top pack than ever before pace wise. Thanks to the whole Walkenhorst team as well as Nico, Markus and Matias for their superb efforts during the weekend. Can’t wait to be back for the last round of the championship in Barcelona!