【NLS(Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie) Round4 / Nürburgring】

Round Four Favored By Good Weather And Dry Conditions, Walkenhorst’s No.34 Car Marked Second Win Since Round Two

NLS Round 4

Date 17 June 2023
Course Nürburgring
Weather Fine
Surface Dry
Race Time 4Hours

The 2023 NLS (Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie) entered its halfway stage of the nine-race series with this fourth round, a 4-hour race held on June 17th. The forthcoming two rounds will be one 6-hour and one 12-hour race, which are regarded as important ones in the championship fight. So it was safe to say that this “normal” 4-hour race before them could be a good stepping stone to succeed in those longer races and, ultimately, in the championship.

Walkenhorst Motorsport ran two BMW M4 GT3s using Yokohama Tire’s products in the SP9-Pro class. The no.34 car was shared by the pair of Jakub Giermaziak and Christian Krognes, and the trio of Thomas Neubauer, Niklas Krütten, and Dylan Pereira drove the no.35 car.

Krognes, who returned to the Walkenhorst camp since the 24-hour’s Qualifier, has been highly rated for his speed and consistency. Krütten was a 20-year-old newcomer to the team but had already tasted a variety of racing disciplines, from single-seaters to touring cars. And Pereira from Portugal drove a Cup2 class car in this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race and finished second in the class.

In this fourth round, nine cars competed in the SP9 classes: five in the SP9-Pro, three in the SP9-Am, and one in the SP9-Am. Walkenhorst was the only team that ran BMWs, but many thought it would be interesting to see the battles between different models from different manufacturers, such as Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, Mercedes AMG GT3, Ferrari 296 GT3, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and Porsche 911 GT3 R.

The race day, Saturday, was favored by comfortable early summer weather, and the deep green of the forest of Eifel looked vivid and beautiful. In the qualifying session in the morning, which was run on the dry track, Krognes was behind the wheel of the no.34 car, and Neubauer drove the no.35 car.

Carrying the weight of expectations for a good result, Krognes took on one of the most challenging race tracks in the world. However, he encountered a few Code 60s, the speed-limit areas on the track, due to other cars’ incidents, which compromised his qualifying attempt. Nevertheless, he clocked 7’56″559 and claimed the second grid for the race, some three seconds behind the no.5 Audi, which was considered to be the main rival in this round. The no.35 car set 8’2″585 and sat on the fifth grid overall.

The formation lap for the rolling start got underway at noon. The air/track temperatures were at 24/38 degrees centigrade, according to Yokohama Tire’s thermometers, which were much higher than those in the second round in April.

With Giermaziak at the wheel, the no.34 car approached the first corner abreast with the pole sitter, the no.5 Audi, and the no.17 Aston Martin, which started from the third grid. He followed the no.5 car, but the Audi slightly lost its speed and blocked Giermaziak, allowing the no.17 car to pass him. So, he lost a position here but regained it soon after that when no.5 Audi ran over debris and had no choice but to return to the pit to replace the damaged tire.

Thus, the no.34 car completed the opening lap in second, 2.410 seconds behind the leader. Toward the end of Lap 2, Giermaziak gave way to the no.11 Mercedes AMG and fell back to third. However, he continued to run steadily, staying away from trouble in an eventful period on the track.

Giermaziak kept watching for an opportunity to attack the two cars, which used a competing manufacturer’s tires, ahead of him. On Lap 6, the no.11 car crashed into the barrier at Karussell and dropped out of contention.

Now running in second, the no.34 car made its first pit stop at the end of Lap 6, as with the no.17 car, which was just two seconds ahead of the Walkenhorst car. The team’s crew did a perfect job at the stop, and the car resumed racing still in second. Then, on Lap 8, when about an hour passed from the start, Giermaziak overtook the no.17 Aston Martin and became the leader of the more than a hundred-car field.

Meanwhile, Krütten, who started the race at the wheel of the no.35 car, changed to Pereira in the car’s first pit stop. They drove brilliantly from the fifth grid, and the car moved up to second on Lap 9. This meant that two ADVAN-shoed BMWs led the race in a one-two formation.

But it didn’t last long, unfortunately. The no.35 car hit the wall at Schwalbenschwanz, which damaged the left-hand rear corner of the car. Pereira could bring it back to the pit, but it took so long to repair the car, so the no.35 car’s race effectively ended here.

Giermaziak in the no.34 car came into the pit at the end of Lap 13 to change to Krognes, and the no.26 Ferrari, running in second, also stopped on the same lap. At that moment, the Walkenhorst car had more than one minute’s cushion over the Ferrari and was already in a position to control the race.

Still, anything could happen in this kind of race since so many cars were running on the track in wildly varying paces, which often provokes bizarre accidents. Some people say that in Nürburgring, there lives an evil spirit, and this four-hour race was no different from the 24-hour in that regard.

But Krognes steadily marched to the checkered flag and controlled the gap with the Ferrari in second. Toward the end, the gap increased further and became more than two minutes when the no.34 car crossed the finish line. It was the Walkenhorst team’s second victory of the season.

Unfortunately, the no.35 car didn’t receive the flag, but their one-two formation at a time in this race was another proof of the ADVAN-shoed cars’ superior performance.

Engineer’s Voice

Masaaki Miyoshi [The Yokohama Rubber Co.,LTD. Motorsports Tire Development Dept. No.1 Tire Development Division]

“Honestly, I was relieved to see the team’s second win this season. Many things can happen in Nürburgring, so I watched the race’s second half, hoping the no.34 car would lead it until the end. And my feelings seemed to be clear on my face, as a local tire engineer said, ‘Are you getting nervous?

“Last time we won was early April, and the temperatures were quite low. On top of this, the track conditions were mixed, including wet and damp. Compared to that, the track temperature was much higher, about 30 degrees at maximum. Having excellent results in these contrasting conditions confirmed that we could adapt to a wide temperature range, which is always a good sign.

“We are pleased to achieve this result together with the drivers, Krognes and Giermaziak, who have been our tire development partners. What happened in the 24-hour race was disappointing, but we could win in the NLS again today. Our aim is to attain the best possible result in next year’s 24-hour race, as part of the ADVAN Challenge. Bearing this in mind, we are committed to make efforts to gain solid results in the forthcoming NLS rounds in collaboration with the team and the drivers.”