A Renault dealership racing a Mercedes-AMG GT4. It’s not the most logical combination if put it like that, but for Waldow Performance it made all the sense in the world. The Rheinbacher racing team brought a Mercedes-AMG GT4 to the VLN Nürburgring Endurance Series two weeks ago – and immediately won its first race with it.
NLS4 saw the first outing for Janis Waldow and his teammates Max Lamesch and Andreas Patzelt. In the competitive but small SP10/GT4 class, the trio raced to their first class victory since entering the category in 2021.
Replacing their beautiful yet unsuitable for the Nordschleife Alpine A110 GT4, Waldow Performance took delivery of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 just two weeks prior to the fourth NLS race of the season. The well-organised crew didn’t need much time to get up to speed with the impeccably engineered machine from Affalterbach.
“We got the car two weeks ago, so [Friday before the race] was the first time driving, the first roll-out – we didn’t have the time to do a proper roll-out before,” Janis Waldow sums up the weeks leading up to the 45. RCM DMV Grenzlandrennen.
“We have really good mechanics. Of course, there are differences between the [Alpine and the Mercedes-AMG] and you need to get used to it, that’s what we kind of did over the last two weeks.
“As I said, we received the car two weeks ago and prepared the car with all the specific stuff that we needed for the endurance races here and also getting familiar with everything, that helped a lot. There are no complaints, nothing that we weren’t able to do or solve right now. We also hadn’t had any issues with the car yet, so we’re going to see about that if there are issues coming up – but hopefully they won’t!
“We all were kind of inexperienced with the car. Saturday morning we directly brought it on pole position in qualifying, so that was already good, but four hours are long. In the end we managed a start to finish win, that is great. The race was without any issues, just how a race should go!
After a tough 2021 season that was ended prematurely when the garage and dealership flooded in the disastrous Eifel flood, and a few races in 2022 with the Alpine A110 GT4 – a car developed neither for endurance racing nor the Nürburgring – a win was exactly what Waldow Performance needed.
“It’s a great feeling to come with a new car and directly win in the first race, it feels amazing and puts a smile on all the mechanics’ faces – so also a big thanks to them of course, it wouldn’t be possible without them, and also to my other two teammates who did a fantastic job this race.
“It gives back strength to the team and is also motivation for the guys because with the Alpine we had quite many DNFs, so it’s kind of difficult to keep the motivation high within the team. Now, with the new car and directly winning, is really motivating.”
It’s not a definite goodbye to the Alpine, Janis Waldow says, but going with Mercedes-AMG was the right way to go.
“First of all, we still have the Alpine, it’s in our workshop and being rebuild. It’s not sure yet what we’re going to do with it, so all future planning with that is open. It’s definitely getting a rebuild and then we’ll look at what we can do going forward.
“AMG, for us, was just a good combination: a good performing car, the support package from AMG. In the current situation it was the best package for us, that’s why we chose AMG.
“AMG are here with support engineers and a spare parts truck. It’s a German brand and we’re in a German championship so that’s helping. For Alpine, we are the only ones with that car here. We did have a little bit of support from them, but it’s different if you are driving here with a French brand. If you compare it with other brands, if you’d come with a McLaren, I doubt there would be a support truck and everything as well. So that is the advantage of racing with a German brand in the NLS.”
Although small in numbers – only four cars are entered in the SP10/GT4 class for NLS5 – the GT4 class with its Balance of Performance and professional racing teams does offer good competition.
“That is also why we chose it,” Janis explains the decision to go into the SP10/GT4 class rather than the more ‘open’ SP8T.
“We could also go into the SP8T class with the Mercedes. Just as a reference: in SP8T, the car Balance of Performance-wise is around 15, 16 seconds faster. With the SP10/GT4 car we have 455 hp, which is kind of nothing, it’s like driving with the handbrake on, and we add 70 kg of ballast. So the car has a lot of performance taken out. We could go to SP8T and go faster, but there is no real competition there, the AMG will be the best car there and it’s most likely that you’re going to win. We like competition and that is why we said we’re going to go into SP10/GT4.
“For me as a race car driver, of course, you always want to win and you’re trying everything to win, but you cannot always win. For me, it’s better to have a good race with great fights and be tenth out of twenty, than first or second place out of two cars. When there are only two cars you go to the podium every week, but where is the challenge? A good race is when you have many cars and competitive cars, then you can be proud of what you have achieved.
“You always have to work for it, especially with a new car. We are not at the end of what we can do, also performance-wise. [In NLS4] we had competition but there were only two other cars in the class which is quite of disappointing, normally there are a bit more cars.
“But it is also quite a shame that you are allowed to go with SRO-homologated cars into the other SP classes. If you check the entry list and see how many other GT4 cars are driving in other classes than SP10, it’s a shame because of they were all in SP10 that would be awesome. But somehow that’s not how it works and we are doing with what we get here. But it’s still good, it is complaining about small things.”
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