Marco Wittmann (DE) and Uwe Alzen (DE) will line up for BMW at the Nürburgring 24 Hours (DE). Wittmann, driving for BMW Team Vita4One, is making his debut at the endurance classic. Alzen, twice an outright winner, will be calling upon his many years of experience for BMW Team Schubert. In an interview, the two drivers discuss the fascination of the “Green Hell”.
Marco, Uwe, how have you been preparing for the 24-hour race?
Marco Wittmann: “It is crucial to know the Nordschleife track. That is why we have been racing in the VLN Endurance Championship. That has been very helpful. I now feel right at home on this circuit. The preparations also focussed on the process during pit stops, technical aspects, and the interaction with fellow drivers. I am now really looking forward to the start of the race weekend.”
Uwe Alzen: “It goes without saying that I have also been competing in the VLN. I have obviously known the Nordschleife for a long time now. Despite this, it is important every year to get as many kilometres of the track under your belt as possible before the 24-hour race, in order to find a good rhythm. I am not going to try to predict the outcome of this marathon. There are an immense amount of cars that are capable of competing at the front of the field. It will be a 24-hour sprint.”
Marco, working together with three other drivers is a new situation for you…
Wittmann: “Yes, that was a bit strange for me at first. Up until now, I have contested every race all on my own. Now I am sharing the car with several other drivers. It is an interesting set-up. If a team-mate sets the fastest time in qualifying, then you are delighted for the team. You have to work as a team if you want to be successful. That is one side of endurance racing that I really like.”
Alzen: “I agree entirely. You have to work in perfect harmony with each other. I have known my team-mates Jörg Müller and Dirk Müller for a long time. In the case of a new driver line-up, it takes a bit of time to develop that team spirit. I have no concerns over Marco in that regard, however. He and his colleagues are highly rated.”
Wittmann: “Yes, the experience of Richard Göransson and Pedro Lamy is a great help. Pedro already has a number of wins on the Nordschleife to his name and can give valuable advice. That is important at a 24-hour race.”
What do you see as the biggest challenges?
Wittmann: “The biggest challenge for me will be driving in the night. I have driven in the dark before, but it will be very different during a race. Another challenge will be maintaining concentration for 24 hours. That applies to both the team and the drivers.”
Alzen: “Even after so many years, the 24-hour race is still a huge challenge for me. Driving at night time is indeed very different. You can see far less but still clock the same lap times as during the daytime. I have been doing that for long enough, but the young drivers learn very quickly nowadays.”
What makes the Nordschleife so special?
Alzen: “There are not many run-off areas. The circuit does not forgive any mistakes. Just one excursion into a gravel trap and your race is over. The track is very narrow, which makes it more difficult to overtake slower cars. The crowds at the circuit create a sensational atmosphere. You only get this combination in the Eifel Mountains.”
Wittmann: “Even after just a handful of races on the Nordschleife, I can already confirm that this track is very special. It is just great fun being out there for over 25 kilometres just for one lap. Then there are the many corners, the great atmosphere, the enthusiastic fans and the forest sections. It is a unique mix.”
How nervous do you get before the race?
Wittmann: “I cannot really say just yet. I have driven in a lot of races in various categories, and am always a bit excited. However, I am not the kind of person who gets really nervous prior to the start. I guess I will have a few butterflies when I am about to start my first night stint. It will be exciting.”
Alzen: “You are obviously tense. After all, you want to live up to your own expectations and the hopes of the fans. Luck definitely plays a major role when you have such a diverse field consisting of so many cars. I have driven in so many 24-hour races that I know exactly how it all works. We know what we are capable of. At the moment I am still relatively relaxed, but that will all change just before we get started.”
How well suited is the BMW Z4 GT3 to the Nordschleife?
Alzen: “The BMW Z4 GT3 is fantastic to drive. I also really like the appearance. The car looks aggressive – and that can help when overtaking. The results so far have shown that we can compete at the front with this car, and that is precisely what we are aiming to do this weekend.”
Wittmann: “I can only agree. We are particularly strong in the corners, thanks to the BMW Z4 GT3’s excellent downforce. We have a good package. The preparatory races all went well. The race pace is good. It is now up to us to fully utilise the potential of the car.”
Jeff has been with us since Monday, March 12, 2007.