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John Elwin has invaded the Ardennes for the 2004 Spa 24 Hours, over a beer
or three he advanced his theory of who will win the race……..later we made
him write it all down……..will he be proved right?  Time will tell………………

Substitute me for him
There’s no substitute for experience, according to the wise old sage, and I have a
sneaking suspicion we are going to see that fact proven when the chequered flag
falls at the end of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. Yes, I am sticking my neck out
and predicting a victory for one of the Schnitzer Motorsport-run BMW M3 GTR’s –
and that despite the fact they only qualified 11th and 14th overall.

The Schnitzer Beemers have not been regulars in the FIA GT series this year.
Strictly speaking, the M3 GTR does not conform to the FIA regulations (and indeed
it is the self-same machine that frightened the ALMS brigade a year or two ago)
but it gets into the race via the ‘National’ class – effectively Class 2.

So why do I think they can win overall then?

What’s Going On?
Well, there are a number of reasons really. How about track record for starters?
Schnitzer have won the Spa 24-Hours five times before and you can add to that a
win at Le Mans in 1999 together with numerous touring and sportscar successes
all over the world. Most recent success was the Nurburgring 24-Hours just over a
month ago and only an hour down the road from Spa. Significantly, that came
courtesy of the Mullers Jorg and Dirk and veteran star Hans-Joachim Stuck Jnr. at
the wheel of an M3 similar in spec to the car they will race at Spa – differing rules
allow them to run ABS brakes but not traction control for instance. And therein lies
one of the secrets of Schnitzer’s success…

Charly Lamm, one of the very best team managers in the business, has long
overseen Schnitzer’s activities. He and his team have a wealth of experience, the
majority of the crew have been with the team for many years. In other words they
work well together as a team. They know to put a car together and they are used to
adapting to different rules and regulations. Their teamwork pays in the pit stops
too. Whilst certain other outfits may resemble Fred Carno’s circus the Schnitzer
will give off an air of ordered calm.

It’s the Pits, Man
At Spa, for example, Schnitzer have been further aided by their choice of pit garage.
Whether by accident or design, they have ended up in the upper Formula One pit
lane where their ETCC cars also based (yes, Schnitzer will also compete in the
ETCC rounds at Spa earlier on the same day… ). There are several advantages
here; for one the pitlane is on the level and considerably less cramped than the
downhill facilities enjoyed by most of their rivals.

So, just as Ferrari has put itself on a different plain to the competition in Formula 1
through sheer hard work and professionalism, so I think that Schnitzer BMW will
win through in Spa for similar reasons.

And remember, last years’ winning car did not come from the top class either.
Admittedly the weather played a part but at the end of the day the N-GT Freisinger
Porsche driven by Ortelli, Lieb, and Dumas scored a magnificent victory largely
thanks to expert management by Norbert Singer and slick pitwork whilst others
around them fell apart. So, don’t be surprised if a Schnitzer BMW wins in Spa. The
question is will it be the car driven by the experienced Muller/Muller/Stuck or will it
be the Mollekens/Lamy/Garcia/Priaulx machine?

John Elwin
July 2004

sportscarpros Scrutineering Bay

John Elwin and others on technical and other non racing activities
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