With a third place in the Am class at Silverstone, Matias Henkola has continued his streak of podium finishes in the Blancpain GT Series. At the home of British motor racing the Finnish driver brought the Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 from second-to-last on the grid up to third place in the Am class before handing over the car to his team mates, who held on to the position and came across the finish line in third in the Am Cup and 42nd place overall.
On Wednesday the call came: “Do you want to race the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup in Silverstone?” It took Matias Henkola only seconds to say “yes”. Having missed the second VLN race due to family circumstances and with limited seat time at the Qualifying Race for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, the driver from the Finnish town of Porvoo was eager to step into the BMW for some additional race time before the Eifel endurance classic.
Teamed up with 2015 VLN team mate David Schiwietz and team owner and driver Henry Walkenhorst, the trio went into the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup race weekend.
“The track was new and I didn’t have any time to prepare, so it was a tough start to the weekend,” Matias Henkola reflects. “We got as good of a setup as we could have made without any prior testing.
“I did our qualifying and messed it up a bit: I made a mistake on my first fast lap and got traffic on the second. I came in to balance the tyre pressure and on my outlap the session was red-flagged. We therefore went into the race from second-to-last place.”
Another mistake in qualifying by his team mate meant Henkola had to serve a drive-through penalty during the race, throwing the BMW far back into no man’s land.
“I had a clear track in the first 25 minutes of the race, I almost felt like I had Silverstone all to myself.
“After 30 minutes the safety car came out, but a car in front of the pack of cars that I had caught up to didn’t speed up to catch the safety car, it was driving around at 80 kilometres per hour.
“While the rest was running at safety car pace, we were stuck behind this driver going 80.”
Having been held up under the full course yellow, Henkola had to deal with the oncoming leaders once the race went back to green.
“I got a call from my engineer about the situation and tried to ‘live and let live’ by giving a bit of track to the leaders without destroying my own race. It was quite cool to get to run with the leaders and I tried to adapt my rhythm to theirs.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who blocks the fighting leaders, but wasn’t going to roll over and be pushed out of the way either.
“Obviously, we didn’t have the pace of the frontrunners, but that made the challenge all the more fun.”
When shortly before the end of the first hour the yellow flag came out once more, Henkola turned into the pits to hand over the number 36 BMW to his team mates for the remaining two hours. Both Schiwietz and Walkenhorst kept the pace steady to secure a well-deserved third place in class.
“It felt really good to score a podium in the Blancpain GT Series. This was my third Blancpain race and my third class podium, so the odds are looking good!
“But on a more serious note, the Am category is really competitive. The best Am car finished in position 35 overall, that’s quite impressive considering Blancpain GT is one of the toughest GT championships in the world.”
Next up is the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen at the Nürburgring from 25 to 28 May. There Henkola returns to the Dunlop-sponsored Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 co-piloted by Christian Krognes, Michele Di Martino and BMW Junior Nico Menzel.
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