With yet another podium finish, David Pittard ended his 2019 Nürburgring campaign with a trophy for third place. In his second year with Walkenhorst Motorsport, the driver of the #34 BMW M6 GT3 came home in fourth in VLN9 but was promoted onto the podium following a post-race penalty for Falken Motorsports.
The road to third was a rough one that began with co-driver Jody Fannin struggling to get heat into his Yokohama tyres and fall down the order in the opening laps of the 44. DMV Münsterlandpokal. When that hurdle was taken and the PlayStation-coloured BMW came alive once the rubber got up to temperature, Fannin and later Christian Krognes sent it to the front, only for Pittard to run into a different kind of trouble the moment he got the leader in his sights.
“I had a little fight with the Manthey Porsche as it came out of the pits,” David Pittard said. “I managed to catch him napping coming out of the pits and nab the place. But then the BMW just lacks straight-line speed, so as soon as you get compromised in the final sector before Döttinger Höhe you’re just a sitting duck in a straight line. I actually had a few car lengths on him and he towed up behind me, got around and I pulled back around him afterwards because we’re just so slow in a straight line.
“The M6’s strengths is in the corners and I think the Balance of Performance overall is very good, but it just makes it so hard for us to race because you can’t pass in the middle of the corner which is the M6’s strength and then all the other cars have to do is sit close to us onto the straight and they can just drive past easy. This is very frustrating as a driver because you feel you’re driving better through the corners and then just get driven past in a straight line which anyone can do – it’s very annoying, that was a bit frustrating.
“I kinda settled in behind the Porsche. Once he got past me, I showed my nose a few times, but I never really had enough to pass him, there wasn’t enough of a pace differential. I know that if I got ahead of him, I’d have got away – and I had the pace to do that because I kept reeling him in in the clear bits but then there was a bit of traffic and he gaps me again.”
Pittard’s second stint, the one that would wrap up the season, saw the Brit brawl his way to the end, first getting into a tangle with the #4 Falken Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Patrick Pilet, and then with race winner Maro Engel in the #6 Black Falcon Team AutoArena Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“I came out behind the Falken and Phoenix cars, and again there wasn’t really a pace differential to get past them,” Pittard continues. “I had one proper look at the Falken car around the outside on the GP circuit on the back straight – like what I did to Stippler in VLN4 – but the Falken car just completely turned out and fired me off the track. I appreciate he probably didn’t see me in his mirrors because I was kind of in his blind spot, but I don’t just disappear into thin air so I would have liked he would have predicted where I was. Either way, it was just left-hand down and potted me off, a bit of rally crossing action but the car was fine, luckily. Again, I never really got close enough to have a proper opportunity on the Grand Prix circuit: I got a bit of traffic, and I felt like I got compromised a lot by traffic this time around, which is just the way it goes but it is very frustrating.
“And then Maro Engel came up very fast in the ‘Black Falcon Merc’ and through Wehrseifen… I don’t think there was any malice, but there was a Black Falcon GT4 car ahead so I slowed down for that into Wehrseifen through the left, and then in the kink right afterwards, I believe he felt like he had an overlap and just drove me off the road there and just nipped past and he was away again. I felt very hard done by that, I felt I got bullied around a bit which was quite frustrating. He was clearly on a mission; he clearly had the pace to do that. I’d love to have given him back but he’s a works driver so doesn’t have to pay for his damage. I’d love to have repaid the favour but it will cost me far more than I can afford. It was a shame.
“Then I think I lost my head a bit, really. In the final five laps of the race I lost it completely, which is very frustrating. I don’t think it would’ve changed the result, but we would’ve been more competitive and closer to the top three at the end.”
Response from Maro Engel: “I’m quite surprised about his comments because there was definitely more than just overlap: I was well beside him on the exit of the left-hand corner at Wehrseifen. He just ran me off the track on the exit and everything that resulted after that was a consequence of me being two-thirds on the grass. I think it’s quite surprising to hear those comments because when you run another car off the track like that then I don’t think you should complain if after that you lose out in the duel.
“Anyway, there are no hard feelings from my side. It was a bit of a strange day with that car [#34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3] anyway, after getting torpedoed by that car – I’m not sure which driver – in qualifying in turn 2 that hit me really hard in the rear left. But no hard feelings, let’s keep racing and obviously I would have preferred not to have been squeezed off the track. If that hadn’t happened then there wouldn’t have been any further contact anyway.
“Regarding the GT4 car, I think there definitely was no malice in that because it held me up for another good sequence of corners after that. I think the driver at that point just wasn’t aware of us GT3 drivers behind him.”
Image courtesy of Maro Engel
The BMW squad was eventually promoted to third place in the results after the long-leading Manthey Porsche lost it all in the final kilometres and the Falken Porsche was slapped with a time-penalty after the podium ceremony, giving Pittard his fourth Nürburgring podium of the season.
“In the last lap I saw the Manthey Porsche completely 90 degrees to the racing line going into the Karussell and doing a three-point turn to get going again – very odd. There was a TCR car on the exit of the corner with front suspension damage. I don’t know if they came together in some way. Whoa, I was not expecting that, I must admit!”
Last year the former British GT competitor came to the Nürburgring with the goal of catching BMW Motorsport’s eye. Now, after two seasons with BMW customer team Walkenhorst Motorsport, Pittard feels he’s taken a good step towards reaching that goal.
“It’s been a mega year! It’s been up and down, and the goods have been really good and the bads have been really bad, but overall, when I look back on myself as a driver, I think I’ve really proven what I’m capable of which is why we came to the Nürburgring in the first place. I’ve been getting lots of good feedback from the German commentators, from the team, from BMW Motorsport, and I hope that it all adds to my CV going forward to becoming a BMW driver.
“We’ll see what happens. I’ve still got another year with Walkenhorst, so it probably won’t happen over winter, but I hope medium-term 2021. That is my goal, if there’s space for me. Obviously, BMW have their own plans, but I would like to try and wiggle in if I can.”
With Christian Krognes as his co-driver in the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, the 27-year-old has a benchmark to compare to.
“I know a lot of things have to go in your favour. It’s a very steep pyramid, it’s a sharp pyramid at the top. I think Chris is regarded as one of the quickest guys around here and if I can match him and, in some cases better him, that’s all I can do.”
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