Action-packed Zolder round brings first Top6 for Jacqueline Kreutzpointner, Schreiner taken out
The second BMW M2 Cup round is in the books: at Zolder, Jacqueline Kreutzpointner claimed her best result so far with a remarkable sixth place, while her sister Alesia was back in the top10 in Race 2. More bad luck for Carrie Schreiner and Mery Czepiel - the former taken out from both races. Sophia Menzenbach continued to show promising improvements.
It was a sounding success at its inaugural weekend at Lausitzring – and the brand-new BMW M2 Cup confirmed to be an action-packed, highly entertaining and very propaedeutic championship at its second round at Zolder, Belgium.
The series is aimed at young drivers eager to climb the ladder of one of the most exclusive European racing series – the DTM – which hosts the BMW one-make series on its support schedule. Supported by BMW Motorsport and organized by Project 1, the series is a cost-effective entry to help close the gap between grassroots racing and GT cars, whereas single-seaters can often pose an accessibility issue due to the sky-rocketing budgets.
In its inaugural edition, the 2021 BMW M2 Cup will run on 6 DTM race weekends and features 12 races plus two test days. The opening two rounds attracted a respectable number of entries - among them five female drivers: the experienced Carrie Schreiner, a GT3 specialist that is combining several racing programs and is competing in the Schaeffler #8 car; the two Kreutzpointner twins Jacqueline and Alesia - who have previously raced in the ADAC GT4 championship and are building their experience at the mighty Nurburgring Nordschleife; Marcelina Czepiel, a young Polish driver with experience in the national touring car scene; and Sophia Menzenbach, also stepping up to the championship after several programs in touring cars.
At Lausitzring, Schreiner had a positive first race but was unfortunately forced to retire in the second one - while Jacqueline Kreutzpointner emerged as a real contender for a steady position within the top-10, just marginally ahead of her sister Alesia – as the two were racing for the first time alongside each other and not sharing the same car.
Czepiel and Menzenbach had learning-oriented weekends, with the Polish racer enduring an unlucky weekend marked by an early accident.
With cars being allocated by a draw before the event to guarantee fair and exciting racing, liveries changed - but the spectacle continued.
Rodrigo Almeida scored the pole position ahead of Georgian racer Davit Kajaia and Immanuel Vinke – as the top three confirmed the earlier practice session's standings.
Carrie Schreiner was eighth fastest, just ahead of Jacqueline and Alesia Kreutzpointner – who had made a good step forward compared to FP1.
Menzenbach had also made significant progress and slotted in 14th place, ahead of Marcelina Czepiel.
The opening laps were nothing short of action-packed and chaotic: front-runners Henkefeld, Vinke were involved in a contact while battling for second and dropped down the order, as well as von Zabiensky, who hit the wall but was able to continue.
Jacqueline Kreutzpointner was able to avoid accidents and made her way up the field, soon advancing into sixth place.
With 18 minutes left, rally driver Fabian Kreim overtook Rodrigo Almeida and moved into the lead, while the star of the race, Salman Owega, was charging through the field having started from P16 on the grid after a qualifying issue.
Carrie Schreiner, dropped to tenth in the early laps, was also trying to make up positions and battled Alesia Kreutzpointner for eighth.
With 8 minutes to go, Kajaia and Oeverhaus made contact when battling for fourth and the German driver had to pit and subsequently retire with front suspension damages.
This handed back Jacqueline Kreutzpointner the sixth position, with Alesia Kreutzpointner and Carrie Schreiner in ninth and tenth place, in a four-car battle for position. After serving a drive through penalty, Kajaia ended up in this train of cars – just as Schreiner attempted a move on Alesia Kreutzpointner: the two drivers lightly touched and Alesia saved her car from a spin. Not as lucky was Schreiner, who had to retire soon after with suspension damages.
On the final laps, Almeida seemed to be able to attack Kreim for the race victory, but the driver of the #46 BMW M2 went wide and into the grass, leaving a 3 second gap to Kreim, who crossed the finish line to win his first race in circuit racing.
Salman Owega made a stunning recovery to finish third and preceded Nicolas Hancke and Louis Henkefend.
With a remarkable drive, Jacqueline Kreutzpointner secured her best finish in the series with sixth place – half a second ahead of Vincent France at the chequered flag.
"I have never been to Zolder. But the track is something special and very technical. That's why I started the weekend with not too high expectations." – told us Jacqueline.
"In the first race I had very good fights, could overtake and was very happy with my performance. I was able to finish the race in sixth place."
Having battled throughout the race within the point-scoring positions, Alesia Kreutzpointner was ultimately 11th, while Sophia Menzenbach was also a solid 12th with a clean race.
Marcelina Czepiel swapped positions with Menzenbach throughout the race and eventually finished P14.
The second race's starting grid was shaped by the second-fastest lap in qualifying and saw Davit Kajaia, the most experienced racer on the field, take pole position from Immanuel Vinke, Louis Henkefend and Nicolas Hancke.
Carrie Schrainer, hoping for a cleaner race, started from seventh, while the Kreutzpointner twins shared the fifth row of the grid, with Jacqueline just ahead of Alesia.
One tenth faster, Menzenbach snatched 14th from Marcelina 'Mery' Czepiel, who slotted in 15th place ahead of the second and final race of the weekend.
With a great start, Henkefend moved into second place at the start, closely following the early leader and pole-sitter Kajaia. Hancke dropped down fast, as Vinke and Kreim moved into third and fourth.
But Henkefend wasted no time and pulled off a great move at the final chicane to take the lead of the race, as Oeverhaus also charged through and passed Hancke and Kreim.
Jacqueline Kreutzpointner had a good start and took advantage of the battles ahead to advance into seventh place, followed by Schreiner and the fast approaching Almedia. In the DHL car, Alesia Kreutzpointner had dropped to 12th, just ahead of the fast improving Menzenbach.
Almeida spun out in the gravel on Lap 5, requiring the intervention of the Safety Car.
The race resumed on Lap 8 and Henkefend held off Kajaia, with Oeverhaus making a move stick around the outside of Turn 1 for third place one lap later.
Schreiner came under pressure from Michael von Zabienzky; on lap 11, Carrie was hit and spun around by von Zabiensky and, once again, was forced to a premature end of her race.
It was another unlucky race for Mery Czepiel as well, who pitted with a puncture with 3 laps to go. Nevertheless, her race pace has been competitive, which could soon translate in her first top-10 of the season.
In the final minutes, the top-four continued to break away from the pack and ran at a very similar pace: Henkefend defended from Kajaia, while Oeverhaus had his wing mirrors full of Race 1 winner Fabian Kreim. Meanwhile, Salman Owega, once again started from the back of the grid, had made his way up to fifth,
Jacqueline Kreutzpointner battled hard throughout the race around seventh and eighth position, despite having to overcome braking issues. She ultimately finished ninth after a late pass by Vincent France.
Nevertheless, Jacqueline was the highest finisher among the ladies on track and scored more valuable points for the championship.
"On Sunday I unfortunately had brake problems, which prevented me from getting the maximum out of myself and the car." – she said. "Nevertheless, I was able to defend my position very well."
"The weekend has made me stronger again as a driver and I'm really looking forward to further development steps. Project 1 and everyone involved are doing a great job!"
Alesia returned to the top-10 after the second race at Lausitzring and brought home a P10.
"For me it was the first time in Zolder." – said Alesia. "Driving on this track is so much fun because it is very technical one."
"I am very confident that the third round of the BMW M2 Cup can be very good for me, especially because I got to know the car well in the first two weekends and I have already driven at the Nürburgring."
Sophia Menzenbach had her strongest weekend so far with two P12 finishes on the Belgian racetrack. The German continued to show significant improvements and always looked comfortable in the battles just outside the points-paying positions.
"I am really happy with my result." – said Menzenbach.
"The switch is really not that easy for me, but it will be! I get more feeling for the car from lap to lap. I'm really happy and having fun, you shouldn't forget that", she added.
Despite another unfortunate round, Marcelina Czepiel continued to build important experience for the remainder of the season.
"The round on Zolder gave me a lot to think about." – she told us. "As it turns out, there is something I still have to work on. In all the sessions I had a good start, but the final results did not reflect what I really can do. A flat tire in the second race did not help either."
"The most important thing is to know what to work on" – she continued.
"I rate the weekend itself as a fantastic experience, I learnt a lot, because so far I have driven much slower and "simpler" cars, and the M2 is a powerful beast full of technology."
"I am waiting impatiently for the Nürburgring, I believe that soon I will put everything together and show what I can really do." – concluded Czepiel.
With three DNFs over four races, Carrie Schreiner's journey in the new BMW series hasn't been off to a perfect start: the 22-year old driver was taken out of both races at Zolder and will try to bounce back in two week's time at Nurburgring, where the BMW M2 Cup will follow DTM for the third round of the season.