'Girls Only' take first class win of the year with new BMW M4 GT4
"I enjoyed the new car, a big step from last year" – Célia Martin, alongside Carrie Schreiner and Pippa Mann took a convincing class victory at NLS2 in mixed weather conditions, at the 'Girls Only' second race with the new BMW M4 GT4.
The 2023 Nürburgring Endurance Series was off to a highly promising start for 'Girls Only' by WS Racing team, which have been tackling the mighty Nürburgring Nordschleife since 2018. The German squad, with its all-female line up of drivers, mechanics, engineers and management, is back at the Green Hell with its new BMW M4 GT4 but with the same ambition to win.
While the first NLS round ended with an unfortunate penalty for exceeding the noise rules for 1dB, Carrie Schreiner, Fabienne Wohlwend and Beitske Visser – at her first race with the team – had shown impressive pace and were leading in class comfortably before the disqualification. A few weeks later, Schreiner was joined by other team regulars Celia Martin and Pippa Mann, as the team continues its preparation for the main event of the season – the Nürburgring 24 Hour race.
The same trio, alongside Christina Nielsen, won in class the 2021 edition of the prestigious race, navigating through adverse weather. Last weekend's NIMEX 47. DMV 4-Stunden-Rennen represented Pippa Mann's return to the Nordschleife since last year's 24 hour race, thanks to the Bell Techlogix partnership with Shift Up Now.
The NLS2 was also the first race of the season at the Nordschleife for Célia Martin, as drivers of the all-female team progressively learn the new machinery.
On Friday, drivers were welcomed by the classic Nürburgring weather, with fog and rain accompanying the practice session. The conditions remained extremely tricky on Saturday morning during qualifying and Célia Martin, on her final and only lap, set the team's fastest lap which put the Girls Only by WS Racing BMW on top of the time sheets in the SP8T class and in group 1 for the start.
When the 132 cars lined up on the grid, the forecasted rain had not come yet – and Célia Martin took the brave decision of bolting on cut-slick tyres instead of wets, unlike most of the cars around them.
“Great to be back Racing at the Ring". she told us. "I did the start and first stint. We went to the grid on wets but then I could see the track was drying so requested cut slicks. I was confident it was the correct choice and it was."
The French woman, who is now a Nürburgring local having moved to Germany to pursue a racing career, could rely on her local knowledge and experience of the Ring and the call turned out to be the right one. With a very competitive first stint, Martin retained the lead in SP8T and climbed the overall order, battling with the SP10 GT4 cars. At the end of her driving shift, Martin was P33 overall and second of all the GT4 cars, still unchallenged in SP8T.
"I had a good opening stint, lots of overtaking and some good battles", she summed up.
Next up in the car was Carrie Schreiner; while the weather improved and she completed the whole stint on slicks, the track was still insidious, with several accidents along the almost 25-km layout that brought out slow zones. Schreiner kept her nose clean and handed over to Pippa Mann for the final 90 minutes of racing.
All the cars remained on slicks, but sudden showers required some extra care in certain areas of the track. Nevertheless, Mann found her rhythm and improved constantly, showing good confidence in the new BMW M4 GT4 and eventually setting her first lap under the nine minute mark at the Nürburgring.
“The mixed conditions this weekend threw a lot at me, but I’m so much better prepared for the 24 Hour Race now, having gotten to compete this weekend in NLS2" – Pippa Mann commented. "The new BMW M4 GT4 is by far my favorite GT4 car I’ve ever driven, and I’m pretty pleased with getting below the nine-minute mark on this layout in the race. I can’t wait to come back and do this again in May.”
At the end of the four-hour race, Girls Only by WS Racing came home with their first win of the season in the SP8T class, as further proof of the team's positive trajectory.
With strong performances by all its three drivers, Martin, Schreiner and Mann were 44th overall.
"I enjoyed the new car, a big step from last year", Célia Martin told us. "Still some small set up to do, but it’s fast for sure.”
"I finally collected some kilometres with our new M4 GT4 in wet and dry conditions", Schreiner added, as she combined a GT racing program with her return to single seaters in the brand-new F1 Academy championship.
Making her return to the Nordschleife after her first visit for NLS1 was American two time IMSA TCR champion Taylor Hagler, who is aiming for her permit ahead of her ADAC 24 Hours debut. Hagler is part of a Hyundai factory effort, partnering Mason Filippi and Harry Gottsacker in a Hyundai i30n Fastback. At her second outing, Hagler finished P11 in the VT2-FWD class.
Sophia Menzenbach was sixth in the VT2-R+4WD class, while Kristie Zhu completed the race in eighth place in the same class. Sophia Gachot finished fourth in V5, 104th overall; Desiree Muller was P5 in the V4 class.
Touring car expert Michelle Halder – who has recently announced a full time entry in the Danish TCR championship – made her first start of the season at the Ring, finishing P4 in the TCR class, in her Halder Motorsports Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR.
BMW took victory in the overall race, as Walkenhorst Motorsport's Jesse Krohn and Jakub Giermaziak prevailed over the #21 Rutronik Racing Porsche of Matteo Cairoli/Julien Andlauer and the #44 BMW Junior Team driven by Daniel Harper/Max Hesse/Neil Verhagen.
The NLS3 round is scheduled for April 15, while the ADAC Total 24 Hour Race will take place on May 20-21.