Successful Nordschleife premiere with BMW M4 GT3: Schubert Motorsport gain experience and post kilometres in lead
Schubert Motorsport’s first outing on the Nordschleife with the BMW M4 GT3 was a success. The Oschersleben-based outfit competed in the legendary Green Hell with the new GT3 car from BMW M Motorsport for the first time at the weekend and immediately had a strong showing. BMW works drivers Jesse Krohn and Alexander Sims plus GT3 rookie Niklas Krütten finished fifth in the season opener of the Nürburgring Endurance Series after leading the race at times. On taking the chequered flag, they had the best-placed BMW M4 GT3 in a huge field of 128 entrants.
Apart from being in the vanguard of the SP9 class, Schubert Motorsport also fielded a BMW M2 CS Racing once again in the one-make cup. Team founder Torsten Schubert and sons Stefan and Michael von Zabiensky experienced a turbulent start to their season during testing at the Nürburgring. However, the three of them had an error-free drive in the four-hour event on race day, taking fifth place in class.
Laps in the lead and top-five result on debut with BMW M4 GT3
The 67th ADAC Westfalenfahrt marked the start of an intensive round of preparations for Schubert Motorsport in the run-up to the 50th ADAC TOTAL 24-hour race scheduled to take place this year from 26th to 29th May at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The NLS season opener presented drivers and team with the ideal opportunity to post their first few kilometres in the new BMW M4 GT3. Some technical challenges had to be dealt with on Friday in order to ensure that the car was ready for qualifying and the race.
Despite not having had much actual driving time during practice, qualifying looked extremely promising, as Krohn set the fifth-fastest time of 7:52.889 minutes. The 31-year-old Finnish driver was only two and a half seconds adrift of pole position on the 24.358-kilometre track variant. He took advantage of his excellent position at the start by gaining a position in the early stages. Schubert Motorsport went into the lead halfway through the race.
Contesting his first GT3 event, 19-year-old junior Krütten had a scrap with drivers in the leading group that was well worth watching. The German kept pace with the competition and handed over to British driver Sims for the final stint, who crossed the line in sixth place after four hours of racing, less than a minute behind the winner. The driver in fourth place was handed a penalty, so Schubert Motorsport moved up one position in the overall classification.
Jesse Krohn: “The weekend went very well all in all. We lost a bit of time on Friday and had to take part in qualifying with just a few kilometres of testing under our belts. We did a good job there by securing fifth place and then led the race for long periods of time. It was great to see us out in front. Ultimately, though, keeping up the fight for victory to the very end would have been tough, as we were a little down on top speed along the straights. Nevertheless, we can be well satisfied with our first outing in the BMW M4 GT3 on the Nordschleife. The team did an excellent job and we have a good basis, on which we can build.”
Alexander Sims: “We had a really great first outing with the BMW M4 GT3. The team made an excellent job of the rollout, because our setup was on point right from the start. Although Friday didn’t go according to plan, we immediately felt good about the car as we posted our laps towards the end of the day. We made a couple of changes for qualifying that showed we were heading in the right direction. Jesse posted a terrific lap and we had a clean race after that. The car ran flawlessly, and it was important to see for the first time exactly what the car was like under race conditions. If we can keep on working like this, then we’ll have a fast package for the 24-hour race.”
Niklas Krütten: “I’m really pleased with my first GT3 race. After losing valuable time on Friday, getting to know both track and car at the same time was a big challenge for me. I set off on my first stint, having only posted eight laps and found in the race that I had a couple of things to learn. The Nordschleife is extremely demanding, but I felt very comfortable in the car. The car’s balance was great and I was able to stay with Laurens Vanthoor and Christopher Mies over the course of several laps. I found it most enlightening to be able to learn from them in traffic and study the lines they took. The car ran like clockwork. The team did a great job on and off the track, and I’m already looking forward to our next race.”
Team come back strong with BMW M2 CS Racing
Friday did not get off to an auspicious start for the squad’s BMW M2 CS Racing in the one-make cup. The car was involved in an accident that morning, and Schubert Motorsport’s crew had to work late into the night to get the 365-bhp BMW M Motorsport sportscar in a state fit to race. After the crew’s amazing tour de force, the three drivers were able to take part in qualifying as planned on Saturday and secure fifth place on the grid.
The drivers used the race primarily to prepare for the upcoming season at the Nordschleife. Torsten Schubert and Stefan von Zabiensky had not posted any laps on test day and so, during their stints in the Eifel, were finally able to end the period of inactivity necessitated by the long winter break. After producing a flawless performance, the two of them plus team-mate Michael von Zabiensky finished fifth in the BMW M2 CS Racing Cup classification.
Torsten Schubert: “Of course, our focus is on preparing the BMW M4 GT3 for the 24-hour race where we ultimately intend to finish out in front and achieve a podium after being so close so many times before. Driving the BMW M2 CS Racing along with my sons is simply the best feeling in the world for all of us. Unfortunately, Stefan wasn’t able to take part in last season’s 24-hour race, but we’ll make up for that this year. Being back in the car for the NLS opener is great for us all. It was tremendous fun, and we were especially pleased to see fans back at the track, as we really missed the atmosphere they provide.”
Michael von Zabiensky: “We had a tough start to our weekend. I made a mistake during Friday testing and the car was badly damaged. The repairs kept us busy until 4:00 am Saturday morning. I would like to thank the mechanics and everyone in the team for their amazing work. The race went quite well. Our pace improved continuously over the distance. After such a long night, we really wanted to have a clean race and cross the finish line. We accomplished that and even managed to achieve a solid result with P5.”
Team Manager Marcel Schmidt: “The season opener in the Nürburgring endurance series was a vital first test to prepare for the challenges ahead at the Nordschleife. Our team and drivers had everything thrown at them during the weekend, but we produced an absolutely flawless performance on race day after things went awry on Friday, resulting in much hard work. Our BMW M4 GT3 ran really well on its first outing at the world’s toughest race track. Jesse and Alex did a great job and Niklas’ performance was impressive in every respect. We’re on the right track with our package and are really looking forward to the next round in the Eifel.”