TUCK TAKES MAIDEN NLS WIN IN THRILLING DOUBLE HEADER FINALE!
For BRDC SuperStar racing driver Ben Tuck, the playing of the national anthem on Sunday was indeed a special moment. But the tune in question was not “God Save the Queen” ahead of England’s historic European Football Championships Final clash with Italy. It was, in fact, the German national anthem, played several hours earlier as Ben stood atop the Nürburgring podium with his teammates in honour of his team Walkenhorst Motorsport, having achieved their true potential in only their 4th full attempt this season by winning Round 6 of the NLS Championship on the legendary Eiffel circuit.
The victory came after one of the most thrilling battles seen by the historic championship, in the second of two 4-hour races across the weekend. The result represented the Bedfordshire based driver’s first win in the Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie (NLS) and also his maiden GT3 victory. It was the first long awaited race this year that has been free of any issues for Tuck and his regular NLS teammates and experienced Walkenhorst GT3 drivers, Norwegian Christian Krognes and fellow Brit David Pittard.
Even though the weekend ended on a high on Sunday, the opening race on Saturday served up more misfortune for the trio, newly assembled for 2021 by Walkenhorst, when the car, running a new livery, suffered a puncture whilst running in second place charging down the leader for the win.
Two weeks earlier Ben qualified the BMW M6 GT3 in third position, just less than a second shy of the lap record, only for the car to retire in the race after a gearbox problem, and this weekend began amid an ominous weather forecast of thunderstorms and heavy rain, which ultimately did not come to pass.
However, encouraging pace in practice was not fully converted into a solid grid position on Saturday due, as is often the case at Nurburgring, to a number of incidents and slow zones throughout the 23km lap.
Starting in 7th place, Saturday’s race got underway smoothly with Scandinavian Krognes flawlessly driving the opening two stints to deliver the car back to the pits in first position some 2 hours later. From there Ben stretched the lead from 5 to 20 seconds to build advantage over the chasing BMW Junior factory team car in 2nd place. As the final round of pitstops played out, the team found themselves in second position with Pittard now able to take the fight to the leader. But with 22 minutes of the 4-hour race left to run, a puncture halted progress and dropped them to 5th, a creditable but ultimately disappointing result given their lightning pace.
Sunday’s race provided a quick shot at redemption and the crew of the #34 BMW M6 GT3 did not waste time. With qualifying duties falling to Krognes this time, he produced a stunning lap to snatch a new qualifying lap record, a record he had held himself for almost 1000 days up until the last race.
Starting in pole position, the Walkenhorst Pro crew had their best opportunity of converting this momentum into a victory. On a similar strategy to the day before, Pittard took the opening stint, this time for another early first stop, with Ben taking the second stint and driving away in the lead as he again stretched the advantage to build a buffer to offset a longer final stop. It fell to Krognes to drive the final two stints, and as the last of the pitstops were completed the #34 BMW ended up in 2nd position just seconds behind the leader. What followed was a thrilling battle after which Krognes pounced with just a lap to go. Having taken the lead on the GP section of the track Krognes brought the car home for a stunning maiden victory for the crew.
For Tuck, a visit to the top step was long overdue. “I’ve had a class P2 and P3 and things like that, but I’ve never actually had a class win, so my first win at the Nürburgring is the overall win in GT3. It’s amazing to be honest; awesome” he said. “It’s the first time that me, David and Christian all together have had a really good race without any issues, so yeah, it was really well needed for sure.”
Tuck was pleased with his stint “It was a lot of pressure because even though it looked boring because we came out a little bit ahead, with the [minimum] pit stops times, because we pitted one lap early in the first stint, we knew that we still needed a gap of between 15- and 20-seconds to be ahead or with the leaders by the end of the race after the last pit stop due to the sliding scale of stop times required.”
The result is concrete proof that the new crew are firing on all cylinders and Ben was full of praise for his team and teammates. “A massive thank you to the team and Christian and David because there’s pressure, but everyone has made it so easy for me to perform, and to feel like I can perform and build my confidence. All the help received from the team and my teammates has got me to this point.”
And now they have shown what they can do, what’s next? “Hopefully more wins!” thinks Ben, “That’s honestly what we’re aiming for every time, we know we can do it, we know that we should’ve been able to do it even a couple of races ago but just with bad luck [it didn’t happen].”
Ben next races for Walkenhorst Motorsport in the BMW M6 GT3 in the Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie on 11th Sept 2021.