Stef Dusseldorp knows all too well what this win means to Falken Motorsports, the team that has been searching for its maiden Nordschleife victory since 1999. Before the race, the BMW works driver felt today of all days could be when they write history. Four hours on and that’s just what they do as Dusseldorp himself takes the chequered flag in victory.
“This is fantastic,” an ecstatic Dusseldorp says. “We’re reaping the fruit of our labour. This team has worked for so long and so hard for this. They’ve been regulars for years, it’s a popular team that has often been close but never won. To take the first win feels fantastic.”
Early in the race Falken pulled the race towards them. Having started from second and taken the lead in the second lap, Jörg Müller made a dedicated push through traffic, repeated in the second stint by Dusseldorp. This left the rest of the field behind and Falken to race towards a seemingly–but never really–easy victory.
“It’s never simple here. The weather was hot, which usually is pretty good for our tyres. From the beginning, we pushed and with the different strategies you can never be completely sure how things will turn out, but we knew early on that it looked good. When in the last couple of laps, I heard that the Porsche in front of me was coming in and I had a 30-second advantage. It was nice, but you still need to finish it. After all, overtaking here isn’t without danger.”
Racing together with BMW veteran Müller added to the competitive spirit throughout the weekend.
“I’m happy that BMW Motorsport placed me with Falken. I think that the combination of Jörg and myself, BMW and Falken delivered some excellent work today.
“Jörg, he’s 20 years older than me and has over 20 years more experience. When you walk around here with him, everyone knows him, that’s great. He knows the car and the track very well, that also helps the team.
“But, we have also done a lot of preparation work for the 24 Hours with the other drivers, so I also must thank them.”
Now a GT household name, Dusseldorp was once a single-seaters racer dreaming of Formula 1. That dream is no more as he has found his place in the world of sportscar racing.
“Actually, this is much more fun. All those boys in single-seaters really want to make it to Formula 1—I wanted that too—but sometimes you’re so focused that you don’t enjoy it anymore. I’ve found that enjoyment back again triplefold in GTs.
“Besides that, there is much more of a future in GTs than single-seaters.
“I’ve really found my place. The races are much more fun. Things happen here: You can overtake, are overtaken, the pit stops and all the other teamwork. We’re often the main event, so you’re not just doing races at 8 in the morning or 18 in the evening. People really come to see you. The complete package is much better.”
Although the 24 Hours of Spa is just around the corner and Dusseldorp a regular since his first foray into GTs, he won’t be racing there.
“Maybe I’ll be there for the first time since 2011 just as a spectator. But, well, it is how it is. You’ll want a seat with a little bit of quality, so sometimes it’s better to just not do it and wait another year for your chance.”
Instead, his next race will be the Rowe 6 Stunden ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen in August. Dusseldorp is aiming for a repeat of his VLN4 win, but is realistic about the ever-daunting competition.
“We’ve shown that the car and tyres work fine. It’s always a battle, you always start over again. I think we can fight up front, but you always have to see race by race how things stand.”