A solid top 10 result for Matias Henkola in the VLN season finale at the Nürburgring. The pilot of the number 35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 and teammates Michele Di Martino and Henry Walkenhorst brought home a ninth place finish in the changing weather conditions of the 41. DMV Münsterlandpokal.
Hampered by a disappointing qualifying session where the tyres didn’t get up to temperature in the cold and wet conditions, Henkola took charge of the start, lining up 19th on the grid. From there the racer from the Finnish town of Porvoo maintained a steady pace throughout the first stint, not getting taken out by the rainy conditions the Green Hell is known for during its autumn races. Due to the heating issues with the tyres a quick push to the front wasn’t possible as the car only settled in near the end of Henkola’s stint.
“Considering the circumstances the start went quite well,” Henkola says. “As I knew that we couldn’t be competitive with a wet-weather set-up and on rain tyres, I wanted to go for the joker and use the cut slicks. Unfortunately, there was way too much standing water on the track and then it also started to rain just before the start, so instead I went with rain tyres and that turned out to be a good idea.
“We lost a lot of time in the rain. When the tyre doesn’t activate you don’t get any feedback from the car and then it’s just surviving. I tried to save as much fuel as possible and keep the car running. We managed to save enough fuel to do one extra lap, but it didn’t make a difference in the final results.
“At the end of the stint the car started to work somewhat normally, but by then it was too dry for the wet tyres.
“This was probably one of the hardest stints I’ve ever done. The Nordschleife in the wet is always challenging and to do it in a car with a non-functioning set-up is close to impossible. I had a spin on the GP track while on the radio with the team. It was that fraction of a second that made the difference between catching the car and having the rear snap out beyond recovery. The whole stint was like that, I was constantly trying to catch the rear.”
As the sun cracked through the clouds Michele Di Martino took over the PlayStation-sponsored GT3 from Henkola in 11th position, an improvement of eight since the start of the race. The final stint was for owner-driver Henry Walkenhorst, who brought the BMW to the chequered flag in ninth place.
Although the team ends the season with a top 10 finish after a string of retirements in previous races, Henkola has mixed feelings about the result.
“The first half of the race was really hard for us, so ninth is alright. I’m super happy that the car finished in one piece, because in the first hour it really felt like what would happen was out of my control.
“But when your goal is to be in the top 5 and you always aim for the podium, then you can’t be happy after a race where you finish ninth.”
With the waiving of the chequered flag a year that saw ups and downs came to a close.
“Looking at the big picture, we’ve had quite some bad luck and bad results this season, but there were also a lot of successes like a podium and other nice moments. I did a lot of kilometres on the Nürburgring in the M6 and really enjoyed most of them. All in all I think it’s been a good season and we need to take away the positives and use that to prepare for next year.”