Last minute change of BOP for GT3 cars in VLN Endurance Championship (SP9 and SPX Classes) could lead to GT3’s disappearing from the Nordschleife

Emotions have been cooking up boiling hot over the last couple of days with drivers, team principals, and fans in the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring. While a few weeks ago the issue of too fast lap times of the GT3’s on the North Loop (Nordschleife) was only a topic discussed in some statements (open letter of the DMSB, the German Motorsport Association, followed by statements made by the Race Director of VLN), it was believed from all sides it would not lead to further action.

However, the tide has suddenly changed a few days ago. FIA has recommended to the DSMB to tighten the BoP for the GT3 cars in classes SP9 and SPX, reducing power output by about 5%, in order to reduce the lap times of the GT3’s (which reached well under 8 minutes at the end of the last season.) The DSMB informed the car producers and VLN, and requested changes to be implemented, accordingly. The VLN technical commission has therefore adjusted now the BoP for classes SP9 and SPX – all that shortly before the cars will hit the track coming Saturday, March 16th, for the Test- and Adjustment trackday, with only another week left then after, for the start of the 2019 season with VLN Race #1 on Saturday March 23rd.

While the power output reduction by 5% – which is expected to translate into a power reduction of about 30 hp for the GT3 – sounds little, the effects could be significant. Already with last years’ BoP, the GT3 cars in classes SP9 and SPX struggled to keep up with other classes like SP8, SP7, Cup, and even TCR, in terms of top speed on the long straight, Döttinger Höhe. The BoP adjustment will only hit these 2 classes, Sp9 and SPX, while for the other classes there will be no changes. That could lead to a situation that SP8, SP7, Cup, and TCR cars, in fact could overtake the GT3 cars on Döttinger Höhe with higher top speeds – while the GT3’s will now attack and overtake even more than before in-, or before the narrow turns, using their aerodynamic advantages with higher downforce. This might result in more critical situations happening on the narrow track during the races. The other issue with this development, could be that the cars of the other classes might become very competitive and reach results finishing quite at the top of the overall classification – while the cost of deploying cars in these classes, are much lower than running a full season with GT3 cars. The factory teams have so far kept silent on this matter. But there have been first critical comments from various drivers. Furthermore, in the last couple of days some privateer teams who deploy GT3 cars, have responded with strong reactions.

Georg Weiss, Team Principal of Wochenspiegel Team Monschau – who have been racing in VLN and the 24h Nürburgring with two Ferrari F488 GT3’s  (prepared and supported by Rinaldi Racing) – already announced his intention to withdraw completely from racing on the Ring, including a no show at the Test- and Adjustment trackday this Saturday.

Team WTM Ferrari F488 GT3, VLN 2018,
Photo: Swoosh Motorsport Communications / Stefan Schneider

In a post on their Facebook page, WTM Racing said farewell to its fans at the Nürburgring: “We say Goodbye to the Nordschleife. Our journey continues. Due to the new BoP the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau doesn’t feel welcomed any longer on the Nordschleife.”

According to various motorsport news outlets, Georg Weiss and his team are now considering to enter in a few other racing series with GT3 participation, such as the Creventic 24h series, or races such as Spa 24h and Kyalami 9h. But they seem to be prepared to come back to VLN and Nürburgring 24h, should the BoP changes be withdrawn.

Georg Weiss’ reaction was seconded and followed shortly afterwards by the Team Frikadelli Racing, which is like WTM Racing an icon of racing on the Nordschleife, having been racing there for many years. The team was expected to participate in VLN and the Nürburgring 24h in 2019 with two Porsche 911 GT3 R’s.

Frikadelli Porsche, VLN 2018,
Photo: Swoosh Motorsport Communications / Stefan Schneider

Owner and Team Principal Klaus Abbelen voiced similar concerns about the new BoP,  the way the matter has developed, and the timing of the BoP change being so short before the start of the season. He announced that Frikadelli Racing would also withdraw from racing on the Nordschleife, right after the Nürburgring 24h race in June. “Should the BoP remain unchanged, the Frikadelli Racing Team will definitely withdraw from racing in VLN and on the Nordschleife in general, after the Nürburgring 24h. Unfortunately, right now we consider being forced into this step, due to the ‘Last-Minute-BoP’ of the DMSB. We are not alone with this decision. Many other teams right now are considering similar steps.”, Klaus Abbelen stated. He also mentioned his unhappiness with the timing of the new BoP. He said, “If I was told in November that we would be forced into another 5% power reduction, I would have immediately decided against a participation in VLN and the Nürburgring 24h. In the end, we want to decide ourselves, when and in which race we will participate. I’d like to thank the many fans who have followed us for so many years. I hope you all can understand the step we are taking now.”

So, more trouble might still come, with more privateer teams with GT3 cars considering similar moves. However, there are also different voices coming from other privateer teams. James Glickenhaus, the owner and Team Principal of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus – who are planning to return with the exotic Glickenhaus SCG003C in SPX class – issued yesterday on his Facebook account a quite telling statement.

Glickenhaus SGC003C, VLN 2018,
Photo:Swoosh Motorsport Communications / Stefan Schneider

James Glickenhaus wrote the following: “Our view on the new BOP at the Ring.  Our friends at Porsche have shown just how fast a car can go at The Ring and others have shown just how dangerous it can be when something goes wrong while flying through the Green Hell with it’s limited runoff. Over the years we have faced BOP. Our 003 likely has more of it than any other GT3/SPX. We race with 100 KG of Ballast and well under 500HP. We are an arrow. In some cases we race against bricks. BOP allows all of us to race together. Over the years I personally have found the organisers to be receptive and fair. I have not always been happy but neither have they been and somehow year after year we’ve found a way to work it out. I know that once again they will work it out and that they will slow everyone down so that the top class will still be faster than the next level and more importantly we will all have a safe and fun race. Fun to me is very important. I love the Ring. I love the fans. I love the smell of bonfires in the evening. I am grateful that unlike many other places they let me race my dreams. I am grateful that they let me drive my P 3/4 there on race weekend for an exhibition lap. I love the drifters, classic racers and seeing Stephens 959 lap with the 919. I have great faith that they will once again figure the BOP out. I’m glad that this year it won’t be someone who really didn’t understand the Ring doing it. We will be there and we will be back year in and year out. My Son has joined our small company and one day my Grandchildren will join our small company and Mr. Chinetti, Briggs, Carol and Jim H will smile as we drive by. We stand on their shoulders. More than that you do not get. See You At VLN One!

Fans of VLN and especially of the GT3 cars can only hope that there will be other teams and team principles that consider the matter in a similar way than James Glickenhaus.

There are plans that DMSB, VLN, and team representatives will meet this Friday at the Nürburgring, in order to discuss this topic further and eventually find a common ground in this discussion.

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