Heading into the final WEC race of the calendar year at Shanghai next week, the MTEK BMW crew are full of confidence after a strong outing last month at Fuji Speedway. There, the Bavarian marque scored its best result in WEC competition, a second in GTE Pro with its #82 M8 GTE.
It’s been a real learning experience for the MTEK-run team, which is new to the championship, and has had to deal with racing at Le Mans on its second ever start, and a constantly rotating set of drivers, who have had to dip in and out of the WEC due to clashes with other commitments.
One of those drivers is Briton Tom Blomqvist, who made his second start at Fuji, having raced at Spa and sat out Le Mans and Silverstone.
Despite the huge gap between outings, Tom-Blom starred in Japan, and was right on the pace immediately, going on to set the second fastest time in GTE Pro Qualifying, before finishing second in the race proper with Antonio Felix Da Costa, just 12 seconds behind the winning Porsche after six hours of racing.
“We came to Fuji aiming for a good result,” he told DSC. “We didn’t know how well it’d go. And early on we struggled with the car but made great progress. We had a quick car in qualifying, and the race came to us, we made no errors as drivers or as a team. It was a faultless race and we had the pace at the right time. It wasn’t enough for the win, but at least we can fight now.
We have good car when the tyres are new, but the car does suffer drop off and that made a big difference in the last stint on old tyres at Fuji
“We have good car when the tyres are new, but the car does suffer drop off and that made a big difference in the last stint on old tyres at Fuji. That hurt us. It’s a tough area for us, so we need to work on it for the future.”
For him, it was a completely different story to Spa, where BMW, and for that matter, Aston Martin, struggled with their new cars to keep pace with the proven machinery from Ford, Porsche and Ferrari (there, BMW finished fifth and eighth in Pro, two and three laps off the lead respectively). After BoP adjustments, and more experience competing in the WEC, Blomqvist feels BMW is now in the fight, and can realistically aim for wins before the end of the season.
“Aston was quick in Qualifying at Fuji, we were too. It seems like everyone is in the pack now, whereas before it was just Porsche and Ford miles ahead with Ferrari,” he explained. “Now it’s more even which is what the BoP system is there for. It’s great.”
There’s still plenty of learning to do though for Blomqvist and the team, who feel that the car still has more performance and durability to unlock as the ‘Super Season’ heads into its second half.
“We’re still learning, we still haven’t unlocked all the potential from the car. We know the weak areas, and once we improve those it will be more consisent and it’ll hit the ground running. Early in weekends, we’ve had to make so many adjustments and fine tune all weekend. Hopefully we’ll be in a better position going forward.”
Learning the rules and strategy is hard, we don’t have a database, we’re learning on the go
“Another big thing is the team being new to the WEC. Learning the rules and strategy is hard, we don’t have a database, we’re learning on the go, so the team is having to adapt and not overreact to everything. But the team is hitting its stride now.”
Unfortunately for Blomqvist though, there’s been no decision taken on whether he’ll race in the WEC with BMW in 2019, something he is eager to do. In Shanghai though, he’ll be back for his third start, racing alongside Felix Da Costa once again.
“I’ll be in Shanghai, then after that I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I’ve had clashes with DTM, so it’s not decided how we’ll move forward. I’d love to though. It’s not ideal jumping in and out, not because I have to keep getting used to the car again, but because of the little things like rules and regulations, all the little knobs and dials in the car.
“I enjoy driving the car, I enjoy this style of racing so hopefully I get more chances.”
Featured image courtesy of BMW