02/08/17

Successful 24 Hours of Spa debut for Blomqvist

A great recovery from Tom Blomqvist and the #98 BMW M6 GT3 ensured finished the 24 Hour of Spa in 10th place as mechanical issues jeopardised their hopes of a podium in Belgium.

Teaming up with Rowe Racing, Tom was drafted in to drive the #98 BMW M6 GT3 with fellow BMW DTM driver, Bruno Spengler, and Nicky Catsburg. Making his debut at the 69th edition of the Ardennes marathon, Tom and the team finished the first practice session of the weekend in 18th place as the team recorded a 2:21.653 lap time.

Hoping to make it through to the super pole shootout, Tom and the team were extremely unlucky in the weekend’s qualifying. On the team’s first flying lap they were on track to set a competitive lap time before they reached traffic on the final sector of the lap – hindering the team from fulfilling their true potential. As the team prepared for a second lap, they encountered a technical issue with the brakes, forcing the #98 BMW M6 GT3 to call an early end to their qualifying – resulting in the team starting the 24-hour race from 42nd on the grid.

Catsburg started the 24-hour race from 42nd and made a good start to the race before he handed the car over to Spengler on lap 24. 2015 Spa winner, Bruno Spengler, had a great first stint and made up an impressive total of 14 positions. The first two yellow and safety car phases of the race came during Spengler’s first stint before the 2012 DTM champion made up further places before handing driving duties over to Tom.

On his first ever appearance in the race, Tom’s first stint was extremely impressive as he navigated the #98 BMW up the order and inside the top ten to seventh place as night fell in Spa.

Approaching 3:00 a.m., Catsburg was behind the wheel when the rain started to fall. The team decided to make the mandatory brake pad change during his pit stop and then sent him back into the race on slicks despite the wet track. This gamble paid off as the rain eased off and the Dutchman subsequently moved up to fifth place as other teams were forced to make another pit stop to switch onto slicks.

Catsburg handed the wheel of #98 over to Spengler running in fifth place and Spengler made up another two positions and put the #98 BMW into the podium places. Running in third place, Spengler then pitted at 7:00 a.m. to switch with Tom, who came out and kept the BMW M6 GT3 on course for the podium.

On the 365th lap of the race, Tom built on his third place and took the lead of the race – setting up for a tense finale. When Tom handed the car over to Spengler, the team were then forced to return to the pit with a technical issue just four and half hours before the end of the race.

Consequently, the #98 dropped out of the top 10 but Tom, Spengler and Catsburg battled back and finished the race in tenth place – a fantastic result from 42nd on the grid.

Tom reflected on a memorable debut at the race.

“We’ll be kicking ourselves a little bit because the pace was there to get a podium. We stayed out of trouble, avoided penalties and ran well, so it was a big shame to have a mechanical issue cost us time. I’m happy with my performance at least, and enjoyed my first 24 Hours of Spa experience a lot. I want to come back next year and challenge for victory again!”

Tom now had a well-earned break from driving before he returns to the DTM in mid-August for round six of the season at Zandvoort, Holland.