Last year’s winner BMW, winner of three of the last four Spa 24 Hours races — and with 24 overall victories the most success manufacturer in the history of the race — brings back its successful team from 2018, Walkenhorst Motorsport. At the same time, 2016 winner Rowe Racing left the fold to go it with Porsche, leaving only Walkenhorst and BMW Team Schnitzer to enter a full-Pro BMW M6 GT3.
The privateer team from Germany saw the writing on the wall after the Spa test day last year: They might actually have a shot at the win. And so they did, from provisional pole position to grabbing the lead during the race at night to an unchallenged victory on Sunday afternoon, the 2018 Spa 24 Hours was Walkenhorst’s finest hour.
Now the real question is, was last year a fluke or has Walkenhorst really joined the heavy weights? At the Nürburgring the team has showed glimpses of brilliance with a race win in the highly competitive Nürburgring 24 Hours Qualification Race to boot. Over in the Intercontinental GT Challenge things are a bit more of a mixed bag. The team was nowhere to be found at the Bathurst 12 Hour, but then ran at the front in Laguna Seca.
2015 Spa 24 Hours champion Nick Catsburg and fellow BMW works driver Mikkel Jensen join Christian Krognes on the #34 Walkenhorst BMW.
David Pittard has been a revelation at the Nürburgring but still enjoys the advantages of being a Silver-rated driver, so is eligible to join Walkenhorst’s Am line-up along with team-owner Henry Walkenhorst, Anders Buchardt and Donald Yount.
David Pittard: “The big thing is getting experience in the Blancpain GT championship, that is something I’ve always aspired to for a long-long time. It’s where the best of the best go to race and to just be on the entry list with people like both Vanthoors and sharing a garage with Christian Krogne – the reigning champion – Nicky Catsburg and Mikkel Jensen will be a fantastic learning experience for me to see how those guys operate both on and off the track. I’m very fortunate that I’ve got some amazing team-mates to learn from. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same car so there’s no excuse for me to not be able to qualify as good as some of the Pro runners as well.
“I’m in a relatively pressure-free environment where I’m using my coaching background to bring the Bronze drivers on as well. Ultimate, they will make the result in class so obviously I will do anything I can to help them.
“It’s a big adaption with the tyre, especially. The Yokohama is amazing compared to the Pirelli tyre, so changing my style will take a bit getting used to. And the power of the Blancpain GT car is fun as well — suddenly you can’t pull gears fast enough which is mega fun! If we could have a Yokohama tyre and Blancpain GT Balance of Performance combo, that would be fast!
“It’ll be a fantastic experience and I’m looking forward to it. Everyone’s assured me that Spa is one of the best races to attend and be a part of. I’m just hugely fortunate and lucky to even be in that position.”
#34 Walkenhorst Motorsport
Christian Krognes/Mikkel Jensen/Nicky Catsburg
#36 Walkenhorst Motorsport (Am)
Henry Walkenhorst/David Pittard/Anders Buchardt /Donald Yount
BMW Team Schnitzer
Long-time BMW racers Schnitzer Motorsport, competing under the moniker BMW Team Schnitzer, are back to add more victories to its tally of four. With Spa 24 Hours wins going all the way back to 1985 and participation to the team’s early days in the 1970s, Schnitzer is the oldest competitor on the grid but as eager as ever. Now under leadership of Herbert Schnitzer Jr. after Charly Lamm’s retirement and unexpected death earlier this year, the team has contracted BMW’s John Edwards, Martin Tomczyk and Augusto Farfus for a fully factory-supported assault on the Ardennes classic.
If Bathurst and Laguna Seca are any indication, Schnitzer will be challenging for Spa 24 Hours victory in the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
#42 BMW Team Schnitzer
John Edwards/Martin Tomczyk/Augusto Farfus
Belgian’s Boutsen Ginion Racing enters a single Am class BMW M6 GT3 for Marc Rostan, Karim Ojjeh, Gennaro Bonafede and Eric Maris. Rostan and Ojjeh currently stand 8th in the Am Cup.
#9 Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3 (Am)
Marc Rostan/Karim Ojjeh/Gennaro Bonafede/Eric Maris
Another one of BMW’s Am teams is 3Y Technology. Now in its third year of existence, the French squad is best known as a competitor in the French GT Championship where it races the BMW M4 GT4.
#37 3Y Technology (Am)
Philippe Haezebrouck/Philippe Bourgeois/Jean-Paul Buffin/Gilles Vannelet