Tom Blomqvist capped a remarkable turnaround as he secured a sixth-place finish this past weekend at the opening round of the Blancpain GT Series in Italy.
Tom Blomqvist returned to competitive action venturing to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Italy, to participate in the first round of the Sprint Cup Blancpain GT Series. After receiving a late call up to fill the gap caused by Antonio Felix da Costa’s Formula E commitments, Blomqvist was drafted in to the Rowe Racing team to partner Philipp Eng in the #99 BMW M6 GT3.
Having made one appearance in the Blancpain GT Series with Rowe Racing last year, Blomqvist travelled to Italy eager to develop his skills behind the M6 and expand his knowledge of the Pirelli tyres. Fresh off the back of the official DTM tests and tests at the Nürburgring – Nordschleife in the M6 GT3, Blomqvist continued his busy schedule in the car with practice sessions on Friday.
A difficult Friday for Blomqvist and the #99 Rowe Racing BMW saw the team finish the first practice session in 28th place and the second session in an improved 25th. With only 30 cars on the grid for the weekend’s racing, things were looking bleak for the team but Tom remained confident in the car’s ability – acknowledging that one-lap pace was not the M6’s strength. Saturday’s qualifying saw the #99 secure 25th position on the grid for the evening qualifying race which increased the pressure to perform heading into the hour-long race.
Tom started in the car for the qualifying race and had his fantastic reactions to thank for avoiding an eventful start to the race. In the darkness of Saturday night, Will Stevens lost control of the #2 Audi R8 LMS and sent the car into a spin on a high-speed corner. With all the cars so closely packed together and with minimal visibility, one car collected the spinning Audi; resulting in a multicar pileup which caused the race to be red flagged and saw several cars retire from the race. When the race finally concluded, Tom and Philipp had navigated the #99 BMW up the order and passed the drama to a 16th place finish to secure them a slot on the 8th row of the grid for Sunday’s race.
With race pace evidently being the team’s strength, a top-10 finish was well within their grasp in the hour long feature race! Tom again manned the #99 BMW for the opening half hour and got a fantastic start off the line, moving up to 14th by the end of the first lap. The next five minutes saw Tom pass four more cars to lie in 10th place just before the 6-minute mark. Overtaking six cars in as many minutes, the #99 was flying its way up the order when it caught up with the sister #98 BMW. The #85 Mercedes separated the two Rowe Racing BMWs and Tom was pressurising the Mercedes to make a move. The #85 Mercedes then made an optimistic move down the inside of the sister #98 BMW, missing the BMW and clattering the Lamborghini infront – sending the pair of cars into a spin and allowing both BMWs to pass through unscathed to 7th and 8th position.
Trying to avoid the spinning Mercedes and Lamborghini, Tom then came under pressure from the #86 Mercedes from behind while also jostling for position with the sister BMW. The three cars then went three abreast down the straight with Tom stuck on the outside of the track. When they entered the braking zone, the #86 Mercedes out braked itself, pushing Tom wide with it and allowing the sister #98 car to swoop down the inside - demoting Tom to 9th. A spinning Audi then lifted Tom up into 8th position and a handful of quick laps put the #99 right on the tail of the sister BMW once again.
At the 25-minute mark, the pit window opened and a lap later Tom dived into the pits for the mandatory stop and driver change. An extremely quick stop saw the team rejoin the race a position better off than they were prior to the pit stops. Now running in 7th position and with Philipp Eng behind the wheel, the #99 BMW started catching the sister car at a rapid rate. With 12 minutes left on the clock, Eng’s sublime pace was finally rewarded as he swept passed the #98 BMW and claimed 6th place. Philipp Eng maintained his pace right up to the checkered flag and crossed the line to end a dramatic weekend of racing in 6th place and score the team’s first points of the year!
Tom reflected on a tricky weekend for himself and the team. “We made steady progress throughout the course of the weekend and 6th place was the best we could manage. The cars in front were simply too fast. It was definitely a testing weekend for myself and ultimately we didn’t have the pace to battle at the front of the grid which is disappointing. However, we persevered and picking up a sixth-place finish is always a good result – especially when you qualify down in 25th.”
Next up for Tom is a week in Hockenheim, Germany, for the official DTM tests in preparation for the first round at the beginning of May.