Image credit: BMW Motorsport News
Le Castellet, France: BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS took a podium finish at the Paul Ricard 1000km, despite having to start dead last, from the pitlane. Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala and Maxime Martin steered the #46 BMW Z4 GT3 to third place.
The race was one of the best in the history of the Blancpain Endurance Series, with drama right until the final laps, with the top three covered by just 10 seconds.
For Marc VDS, though, a top-three finish was a fantasy at the end of practice. A problem meant the team had to have a new engine delivered overnight. The mechanics fitted it in just two and a half hours, to be ready for Saturday’s qualifying. Martin was able to qualify 8th, but regulations stated the team must start from the pitlane after the change of motor.
It was down to Palttala to take the start and he relished the challenge. Within 15 laps he’d overtaken half the 60-car field, and ended the first hour in 22nd. Both Luhr and Martin were able to make big chunks of progress up the order too, and twice during the race the car led overall. By the end of the six hours, the car had overtaken every single opponent at some point during the race, and all three drivers pulled off some remarkable overtaking manoeuvres, much to the delight of the French crowd. However, the #46 car didn’t quite have the pace to catch and pass the leading two cars at the finish, and had to settle for third spot.
Lucas Luhr, BMW Z4 GT3 #46
“A lot of the credit for this result has to go to the guys who worked so hard to prepare this car. They were up extremely early and worked hard right until the chequered flag. The car ran perfectly and every pitstop was perfect too. Markus and Maxime were both awesome as well. It’s great to be back in this series, because the competition is fantastic and the level is very high. It’s certainly been great preparation for the 24 Hours of Spa.”
Markus Palttala, BMW Z4 GT3 #46
“When I was sat in the end of pitlane of course, as a racing driver, I had a little vision of a podium but I didn’t really believe it. It was incredibly fun, chasing all these cars and making so much ground, especially in the first stint. We just had a really, really good race. From pitlane to podium is pretty awesome – I’m very, very happy. When you start where we did you’re not even sure if you can make it into the top ten in a field this strong. Now we look forward to Spa, a race that means a lot to me and everyone in this team.”
Maxime Martin, BMW Z4 GT3 #46
“When you start from the pits and finish on the podium it is amazing. The whole team can be incredibly happy and incredibly proud, the pitstops were brilliant and to change an engine overnight was a huge effort. I’m so grateful for that. During the stints Lucas and Markus did a great job, and I don’t think we could have done any more. Everything started wrong and finished right. It’s great for Marc too – we race for him, of course! Now the next target is Spa.”
Marc van der Straten, Team Owner
“Of all the races I have seen with this team, this is one of the most amazing. On Friday things looked gloomy, but an incredible effort from everyone means we end with champagne and trophies. I still can’t believe we’re on the podium! Now, it’s all about going for the big one, the 24 Hours of Spa. It’s a race I love, that’s very close to my heart, and I really hope we can do well there.”