With a lead of over two laps and under an hour to go the #79 car driven by Dirk Werner began to take it a bit easy. Was it letting up on a car that loves to be driven hard, a poorly designed part or just plain old metal fatigue that cost BMW a victory at the famed circuit is something we will never know; BMW ended up taking 3rd and 4th when all was said and done.

Press Release: Team BMW Motorsport finishes third and fourth at Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours.

Spa-Francorchamps, 1st August 2010. Team BMW Motorsport finished third and fourth at the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (BE). Dirk Werner (DE), Dirk Müller (DE) and Dirk Adorf (DE) completed 540 laps, covering a distance of almost 3,400 kilometres, before the number 79 BMW M3 GT2 with Werner at the wheel crossed the finish line in third place – first in the GTN class – on Sunday. The second car, number 78 driven by Jörg Müller (DE), Uwe Alzen (DE) and Pedro Lamy (PT), produced an impressive fight back, finishing fourth after several technical problems had hampered the team’s progress in the opening stage of the race.

Despite the results, the disappointment was immense for Team BMW Motorsport, as the 22nd overall victory for BMW at Spa-Francorchamps was literally within reach. Following a successful start, the two BMW M3 GT2 cars temporarily held first and second places before heavy rainfall on Saturday evening made conditions difficult. Although it stopped raining relatively quickly, for a long time the track remained too wet to switch to slicks. Once the 7.004 kilometre circuit had dried out sufficiently, car number 79 secured its lead and clocked consistently quick times over the final third of the race to establish the necessary advantage over the eventual winners in their BMS Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

With a lead of more than two laps, Werner seemed destined to guide the car to victory when, with just 40 minutes of the race remaining, the front-left track rod broke, causing him to crash into the barriers. Werner did make it back to the pit lane, but the necessary repairs forced the BMW M3 GT2 back into third place shortly before the finish. After two unscheduled pit stops, BMW M3 GT2 number 78 dropped back to 14th place and was at times up to nine laps behind its sister car. The team never stopped fighting though, and fought back to end the race in fourth place.

“We have experienced everything in motorsport,” said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen after the thrilling endurance classic. “There have been races, in which we have celebrated on the top step of the podium having started as outsiders. It was a different story here. We were excellently prepared. The team harmonised very well and produced excellent work over the course of the weekend. We dominated the race and ultimately missed out on victory thanks to a comparatively small technical fault in the last 40 minutes. That is a bitter pill for the entire team, especially after a 24-hour race, at which everyone is on their feet all day. But that kind of drama is also part of the sport. You have to get over it, be even better prepared for the next race, and then hope that you also have luck on your side. Despite all this, third and fourth place is a good result bearing in mind the strong field, and all the members of the team can be proud of what they have achieved. While many disappointed faces were to be seen here in Spa-Francorchamps, BMW Team RBM was celebrating in Brno where Andy Priaulx secured the 50th victory for BMW in the World Touring Car Championship. All in all it has been a successful weekend for us.”

The result means BMW still has 21 overall victories to its name at this endurance race, which was held for the 63rd time this year. No other manufacturer has won the Spa 24-Hours more often than BMW. 45 years ago Pascal Ickx (BE) and Gérard Langlois delivered BMW ‘s first triumph with a BMW 1800 ti, and 25 years later Schnitzer Motorsport first tasted success in a 24-hour race,and today BMW and manager Charly Lamm ‘s (DE) team narrowly missed out on the 22nd victory in Belgium.

Dirk Werner (Car Number 79):

“The disappointment is huge. I had already slowed down, so as not to take any risks and bring us home safely in first place, when the track rod suddenly broke and landed me in the crash barriers. I made it back into the pits, but the victory was gone. The car was really class, particularly in dry conditions. We really had a great race – until the last 40 minutes.”

Dirk Müller (Car Number 79):

“We worked very well together as a team over the weekend. Our car ran without any technical problems and we were able to complete what we set out to achieve. What happened next is something I have never experienced before in my life. We mastered the challenges of Spa very well with just three drivers.”

Dirk Adorf (Car Number 79):

“It was very special for me to be able to race for BMW at this classic. Initially the weather did not play ball. However, when it dried out again we produced a great performance. I had brilliant team-mates and we did not make any mistakes. Had we had the mishap in the third hour of the race, we could have caught up. So close to the end of the race, there is simply nothing you can do about it.”

Jörg Müller (Car Number 78):

“This race really was not easy. Firstly, the air conditioning in the cockpit did not function correctly, which made it really tiring for us drivers. Despite this, we still found our rhythm and consistently made up ground over the course of the race. This was my third 24-hour race this year, and I have to say: this race was the toughest of them all.”

Pedro Lamy (Car Number 78):

“The start phase did not go to plan for us. Two long stops for repairs cost us time, which we were unable to make up over the course of the race. That is a real shame, as we could have achieved a lot with this car. That is racing. Sometimes you can dominate proceedings and still not end up on the top of the podium. The pendulum is bound to swing back in our direction.”

Uwe Alzen (Car Number 78):

“That was one of the toughest races of my career. We had a few problems with the air supply in the cockpit. This made the Spa circuit, which is already a tiring one, an even greater challenge. After the long pit stops at the start of the race, we fought back brilliantly. I feel very sorry for my team-mates in the other car, who were denied victory so close to the end of the race.”

Image: PlanetLeMans.com