31st July 2018
Tom Blomqvist recorded a memorable victory at the 70th edition of The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with fellow BMW works driver Philipp Eng and Christian Krognes in the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 - beating the best GT teams in the world on the team’s first entry into the PRO category.
Making only his second appearance at the biggest GT race in the world, Tom was drafted into the Walkenhorst Motorsport team and, despite their small size, the team were instantly battling at the sharp end of the timesheets - finishing the first session of the weekend in 3rd place, just three-hundredths off the pace.
Finishing pre-qualifying in 8th place, the team looked poised to make an impression in qualifying, with the top-twenty super pole well within their grasp. With the team missing the first of four qualifying runs due to them having three drivers like most pro-teams, Tom was nominated to drive first for the team in second qualifying and thoroughly impressed in the BMW M6 GT3.
The star of the show in qualifying, Tom finished his individual qualifying in 2nd place with a lap time of 2:18.988 - to be one of only two drivers out of the entire 221 drivers to break into the 2:18’s. Tom was also the only driver in the top-four teams to post the fastest lap time of their respective teams in the first qualifying run, where the car is running on its heaviest fuel load! With Tom’s teammates also delivering super quick lap times, the team took provisional pole to head into Friday’s super pole shootout as the team to beat.
“It feels fantastic to take provisional pole here at Spa 24, the team got the car dialled in and the balance was amazing. I felt my lap was almost as perfect as it could have been and then my teammates did a brilliant job to secure provisional pole. Hopefully, we can continue our pace into Superpole and secure a good starting spot for the race.”
Philip Eng was nominated for the Superpole shootout and was the final driver to head out onto the track as cars entered the circuit in one-minute intervals. Managing to record two flying laps, Eng’s fastest lap of 2:19.517 put the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW into 8th place at the end of the session but was later promoted to 7th after the pole-taking Audi was disqualified from the super pole qualifying.
For the start of the 70th edition of The 24 Hours of Spa, Philipp Eng was the first driver in the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW and kept the M6 GT3 out of trouble whilst slowly climbing the leaderboard through the opening stage of the race. Tom’s first stint in the race came around the three-hour mark and he instantly made an impact in the race pushing the team further up the order and inside the top-three as the race reached the first quarter mark.
As the race headed into the night at Spa, the M6 GT3 came alive with Tom at the wheel and was involved in a tight battle with the #29 Audi R8 LMS and the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport car for the top spot. However, the #8 Bentley ran into problems and fell away from the battle for the lead.
As strategy was becoming more important, the Walkenhorst Motorsport team were making all the correct decisions and led the iconic race at the halfway stage. With eleven hours remaining on the clock, the race was red-flagged following a heavy incident involving the #666 Lamborghini and the #31 Bentley.
Racing resumed just after 04:50 a.m with Tom and the #34 Walkenhorst-BMW remaining at the head of the field. The race, however, saw the arrival of a full-course yellow period following an accident for the #90 Mercedes and the team took advantage of the FCY and dived into the pits, remaining in the lead of the race after the stop with Christian Krognes at the wheel.
With the BMW suited to the cool temperatures of the night and early morning, Tom and the team continued to post impressive lap times but dropped back to sixth after taking their mandatory technical pitstop and the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 took the lead of the race.
As the race headed into the final hours, a three-way battle for the lead was on between Tom, leading in the #34 Walkenhorst BMW, the #4 Team Black Falcon Mercedes and the #99 ROWE Racing BMW. The #4 Mercedes was eventually passed by the ROWE Racing BMW at a FCY restart and a BMW battle for the lead ensued with the gap coming down to as little as three seconds between the M6 GT3s.
Fortunately, the team withstood the initial pressure from ROWE and began to stretch out a lead of over twenty-seconds at the front of the pack. As the clock hit in the 24-hour mark, Philipp Eng drove the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport across the finishing line to secure a memorable win at the biggest GT race in the world for Tom and the entire team - with BMW securing a historic 24th victory at the race with a one-two victory in Spa.
Underdogs heading into the race, Tom was amazed by the performance of the team and the car, leaving him lost for words after lifting his winners' trophy.
“Words cannot describe my feelings. Who would have thought at the beginning of the race that we could really win it? Not one single mistake by the team, not one problem with the car over the whole week – it’s unbelievable. What this small team has done is just fantastic. It is one of my special moments, to enjoy such a sensation with a team like this is just incredible.”