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Postcards from the

SCP's answer to Mystic Meg, John Elwin, tarnished his crystal balls at the
Spa 24 Hours when his bold prediction of an outright win for BMW did not come
to he reflects on what might have been and what did

It wasn’t in the waters….
  Okay, so that I feeling we had that BMW would win in Spa didn’t come to fruition.
Our predictions weren’t entirely fanciful though. And judging by the presence of
some Very Important People from Munich, not to mention the level of hospitality
and various journalists being shipped, BMW expected great things too. The official
line was that they aimed to win their class; they managed that, but it was a fairly
close-run thing. The give-away line came from Hans Stuck junior at the post-race
press conference when he promised that they would be back to win next year.

It Might As Well Rain Until September
  The pace at Spa this year was an unusually hot one with the race-winning Ferrari
completing some 538 laps – a new record by quite some margin. No doubt this
was aided by the intense battle that raged for much of the race between the
victorious BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 of Cappellari/Gollin/Bryner/Calderari and
the pursuing GPC Giesse 575 pedalled furiously by Mika Salo & Co. However,
there was another significant factor – the weather. Not a drop of rain fell on the
Ardennes throughout the course of the weekend and that in itself has to be some
sort of record. The weather remained as hot and sunny as the race pace itself.

Pressure Drop
  The race itself started well for the Beemers with both cars charging into the top
six and looking like they were going to fulfil our expectations. However it soon
became clear that all was not well, certainly with the ‘lead’ crewed by Stuck and
the two Mullers, Jorg and Dirk. Stucky did the first untroubled stint before handing
over to Jorg, but he had to make a couple of unscheduled stops for tyres before
handing over to Dirk on lap 59. Various accidents and a Safety Car period meant
that the track was very dirty. One lap later Dirk was back in the pits with an oil leak,
losing 31 minutes whilst an oil pressure pipe was changed. The damage was
thought to have been caused by running over some debris.

Satisfaction (Can't Get No)
  That was not to be the end of the drama for that car either. After working its way
back up the leaderboard and running well for some hours electrical gremlins
struck just after 3am and another 33 minutes in the pits curing an ignition
problem. That dropped the car from seventh to 15th place, but another heroic drive
back up the order ensued culminating in a sixth-place finish for Stuck and the
Mullers. The fact remains though that they lost 92 minutes to unscheduled pit
stops. That’s around 38 laps at Spa, and at the finish they were 33 laps down on
the winning Ferrari. Perhaps it’s just as well the drivers worked-out their
frustrations before the race began – Stuck by head-butting the team’s truck(!) and
the Mullers by competing in a pair of bruising ETCC races (they won, by the way).

Communication Breakdown
  The second car, driven by Kurt Mollekens, Pedro Lamy, Antonio Garcia and Andy
Priaulx was even less fortunate, despite upholding BMW honours in the early
stages. After getting up to fifth place they too lost time in the pits replacing a brake
disc after Garcia lost the left front wheel on the 62nd lap. They soon recovered
from that and in fact were up in third place when disaster struck just minutes
before half distance. There was some confusion as officials reported that oil had
been dropped, then that two cars were off, one of them the #143 BMW. The radio
was not working so the team were unable to talk to the driver, Garcia, but it seems
that electrical problems had struck just minutes after the sister car had had it’s
ignition problems. The difference was that Garcia was unable to re-start the car
and get it back to the pits so retirement was inevitable.

Long Promised Road
  It was perhaps not the result BMW, and in particular Charly Lamm’s Schnitzer
team, were looking for as they have a long and illustrious record at Spa, BMW
having won 21 times previously. You can be sure there will be some soul-
searching going on deep in Bavaria. However, it was unquestionably a tough race
and without wishing to belittle their achievements the competition was
undoubtedly stronger than that they encountered just down the road at the
Nurburgring a few weeks previously. Perhaps the last comment should be left to
BMW’s Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen: “There were occasions when the
BMW M3 GTR was setting the fastest lap times,” he commented after the race,
adding: “This proves the cars’ good performance here. Unfortunately some
unexpected problems hit us again and again. The car was developed for short
distance races and therefore has proved more difficult to service in longer events."

With BMW’s resolve and Charly Lamm’s determination you can be sure that Hans
Stuck’s prediction has more chance of coming to fruition than next July than my
offering this time around!

John Elwin
August 2004

sportscarpros Scrutineering Bay

John Elwin and others on technical and other non racing activities
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