With a Spa 24 Hours win already in the bag, it seemed like an odd place for Philipp Eng to be: instead of racing with BMW factory-supported Rowe Racing, the 2016 race winner was placed with the modest team of Walkenhorst Motorsport for the squad’s maiden Pro assault. Teaming up with a fully motivated and skilled crew and fellow BMW works driver Tom Blomqvist and Walkenhorst’s own Christian Krognes, however, changed the game completely: leading the charge in the tricolor Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3, Eng went on to win his second Spa 24 Hours.
“It’s amazing,” a drained Eng says.
“I can’t really show it right now because I’m really exhausted and tired. I’ve only slept one and a half hours and towards the end of the race I was in the car for almost 3 hours straight. It was very exhausting but I’m super proud of what we’ve achieved together with Walkenhorst and BMW.
“I must give full credits to all the guys back in Munich who have been working their asses off to get us this result. We just did a zero-mistake job from everyone involved and that’s how you win.”
Eng had arguably some of the coolest stints any racer could wish for: it was the Austrian who was assigned the start, sundown and the final push to the finish. The tone was set immediately in the first hour, when Eng moved up the field after starting from seventh place.
“Obviously, the best moment was crossing the finish line, but I was also happy to be able to do the start. This was a very cool moment. I overtook two cars and handed the car back to Christian in P5. It all just went from there.”
For all intents and purposes, the number 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 lived a flawless 24 hours: no mistakes, no wrong calls, and a crew, management and trio of drivers that were on-point from start to finish.
Luck, as well, was on Walkenhorst’s side for most of the race—but not when the perfect moment presented itself for the mandatory 5-minute service pitstop. It turned out to be the sole hiccup during the twice-around-the-clock.
“It was quite difficult with the mandatory service stop we had to do. We basically lost one lap because we had to do it under green: the rules say that if a Full Course Yellow is already out, you cannot do this stop. You need to be lucky and be already in the pits, and some other teams were: the Full Course Yellow came out and they pulled their cars into the garages to change the brakes while we had to do it under green.
“It put us a little bit on the backfoot, but we recovered with a good pace and consistency. It really was a zero-mistake job.”
The first signs that the team from the small German town of Melle would be bringing the fight to the well-oiled, factory-supported teams came earlier in the month during the collective test day at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I am a professional sportsman and racing driver so of course I always expect and hope for the best; I want to win in every race I compete in. At the test I saw this was possible with this group of people—it was clear this was the target.
“There I realised that they’re all pretty relaxed but do their job perfectly—they do everything that is necessary and more. It’s a very motivated group of people who also had their first opportunity to show what they could do in this race with a Pro car on the grid and this driver line-up. To me it was clear we could have a good result.”
Backed up by co-drivers Christian Krognes and Tom Blomqvist sealed the deal for Eng.
“I think we had a very good driver line-up: we were very consistent, made no mistakes and were quick.
“If this scenario presented itself again, I would immediately take the opportunity.”
SPA 24 HOURS GALLERY, PT.I | SPA 24 HOURS GALLERY, PT.II | WALKENHORST’S WEEK AT THE SPA 24 HOURS IN PICTURES | IN HIS OWN WORDS: HOW CHRISTIAN KROGNES WON THE SPA 24 HOURS | INTERVIEW TOM BLOMQVIST | LIVE BLOG