Instructive 24 Hours of Dubai for Schubert Motorsport: BMW M4 GT3 sees chequered flag on maiden run
The 2022 motorsport season got underway for Schubert Motorsport last weekend with the 24 Hours of Dubai. The January event in the United Arab Emirates has established itself as the first test of strength in the new year. For the Oschersleben-based outfit, it was also the first opportunity to send the new BMW M4 GT3 into competitive action. The maiden outing for the new GT3 model supplied by BMW M Motorsport turned out to be highly instructive, with Nick Yelloly, Jordan Witt, Marcel Lenerz and Jens Liebhauser finishing tenth in the GT3 class.
Schubert Motorsport gain first insights into the BMW M4 GT3
With a busy year ahead in GT3 racing, Dubai offered Schubert Motorsport the perfect opportunity to familiarise themselves with the successor to the BMW M6 GT3. The team sent a delegation to BMW headquarters in Munich in December to take delivery of their first BMW M4 GT3, and the drivers for Dubai completed a shakedown in wintry conditions at Oschersleben shortly before Christmas.
The 24-hour race at the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome on the weekend of 13th ‑ 15th January officially opened the new chapter with the BMW M4 GT3. The drivers of the number 30 car made the most of the test days in the week leading up to the race and then showed their mettle in the opening practice session with a tenth-best time in the GT3 class, making them the fastest of the BMW contingent. In qualifying, the team booked a respectable P19 on the grid for the 24-hour contest.
The first three hours of the race initially went according to plan, with Schubert Motorsport advancing to fifth position in the GT3 class. In the following stint, however, the team suffered a setback when Lenerz was involved in a collision through no fault of his own. While the driver responsible for the accident continued on his way, the Schubert Motorsport crew had a job on their hands repairing the damage to the BMW M4 GT3. After one and a half hours, the driver quartet were able to return to the action.
The team then concentrated on completing its programme as planned. The focus was on collecting data and experience with the new car. The pace steadily improved, enabling Yelloly to fully exploit the potential of the car in the final stint and match the Top Five for lap times. The encouraging progress as the race developed plus the fact that the car saw out the full 24 hours meant that Schubert Motorsport could chalk up the debut of the BMW M4 GT3 as mission accomplished.
Nick Yelloly: “Our pace was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, Marcel was involved in an accident which cost us a lot of time. The mechanics did a great job to get us back on track. Without this setback, we could have made it into the Top Six. Aside from that, the BMW M4 GT3 worked fantastically well. It is much nicer to drive than its predecessor, especially on long runs. This race was just the beginning for the new car, and I’m sure Schubert Motorsport and BMW Motorsport will win many races with it in the future. I’m already looking forward to getting back in the cockpit at Daytona.”
Marcel Lenerz: “For me, it was my first time in a GT3 car and also the first time I’ve competed in Dubai. I’ll come away from this weekend with a lot of new impressions. This has been a big step up from GT4. Everything is faster, and it all feels much more direct. It was great fun. and I quickly got to grips with the BMW M4 GT3 despite not having much practice time. I was happy with my pace in qualifying, and it was also good in the race itself. The car is very easy to drive and gives the driver a lot of confidence. The only annoying aspect was the accident in the evening – I was hit by an opponent in the middle of a corner and had no chance.”
Jens Liebhauser: “We were well placed in the race until Marcel was taken out. That was a real pity, because we had been feeling quite confident after the first stint. Despite that, it was a rewarding weekend. We got to know the car better with every lap. The setup as well as the balance developed in the right direction over the course of the race. The entire Schubert Motorsport team did a great job, and the drivers avoided making any errors. The BMW M4 GT3 impressed me right from the start. It is very easy to drive and comes across as the finished product. I’m sure that with the right balance of performance, drivers are going to enjoy competing in it.”
Also on the grid, the BMW M2 CS Racing
Starting alongside Schubert Motorsport GT3 flagship in the field of 81 cars and making its Dubai debut was the team’s BMW M2 CS Racing. Schubert Motorsport had a special line-up for the 450bhp all-rounder: team founder Torsten Schubert shared the cockpit with his two sons Michael and Stefan von Zabiensky, and they were contesting their first ever endurance race as a threesome.
Having been driven in the Nürburgring Endurance Series and the legendary 24-hour race on the Nordschleife, the car built by BMW M Motorsport for one-make cup competitions also cut a fine figure in the desert. After posting solid Top Ten lap times in the practice sessions, the driver trio secured a decent starting position in qualifying for the race. The 24 hours went almost without a hitch, with only a half-hour interruption for repair of a radiator damaged by flying parts from a wrecked vehicle. The trio eventually crossed the finish line sixth in their class.
Michael von Zabiensky: “It was a really cool race. We put in a strong performance, and the team did a great job. Our pit stops were excellent, and we came through the race very well except for the unfortunate damage to the radiator. What happened there was a shame, because we lost half an hour in the pits. Without this stop, we could have made it into the Top Three in our class. All in all, it was still a great event. It was very special experience to be competing in a 24-hour race together with other members of my family. Many thanks to the team for the great effort they put in and to Dad and Stefan who both drove really well.”
Stefan von Zabiensky: “For me, this race has been very special. It was the first time I have competed in a 24-hour race together with my father and brother. It was unbelievable fun, and I am delighted that we performed so well. We had a good week and can be happy with what we achieved. The preparation in the free practice sessions went well, and we didn’t make any mistakes when it counted. It made me personally very proud to be given the honour of driving the final stint and taking the chequered flag. I’m really grateful to the team for everything we experienced together in Dubai.”
Team manager Marcel Schmidt: “The Dubai 24 Hours was an important test run for us with the BMW M4 GT3. We wanted to get up and running with the new car at the earliest possible opportunity, and an endurance race naturally presents the perfect occasion for this. We learned a lot last week, which we can now build on. Apart from the unfortunate incident on Friday evening, the weekend passed off without a hitch. And even the repair can be considered an important experience, because unpleasant situations like this are all part of motorsport and have to be catered for. Overall, we are satisfied with the debut of the BMW M4 GT3. The car showed its potential and the teamwork was impeccable.”