Blancpain Endurance Series, Nürburgring 1000km, 22/09/2013

Markus Palttala, Henri Moser and Nick Catsburg finished 6th in Pro Cup after a brake failure lead to a longer pitstop, which dropped the Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 #4 trio from podium contention. The sister car of Martin, Leinders and Buurman finished 2nd securing the Team Championship title for Marc VDS Racing Team.

“We really were not lucky this year in BES. Again, we were one of the strongest cars out there and were on the way to finish on the podium. However, one of the brake pads failed leading to unscheduled service and we had to settle with 7th overall, 6th in the Pro class. Still, we won the Team Championship and that was our main target this year. In car #4, we did our part for it during the season and we are all very happy with the first title the Marc VDS Racing Team has won during its 5-year existence. Congratulations and thank you to Marc van der Straten and every single member of our team. Thanks also to Henri and Nicky for being awesome teammates and to the amazing car #4 crew for pushing with us.”

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24 Hours of Spa, Blancpain Endurance Series, 28/07/2013

For the first 10 hours of the legendary endurance race, the Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 #4 of Markus Palttala, Nicky Catsburg and Henri Moser was either leading the 60+ strong pack of the best GT cars Europe has to offer, or hot on the heels of the leading Manthey Porsche. The intriguing battle between these two came to an abrupt end when Catsburg parked the #4 on the side of the track with a failed alternator.

“This is right up there with the biggest disappointments I’ve had in racing. We were doing so well and were leading the race for hours and had every chance to bring it home, but had to retire with a minor electric problem. In fact, it was just a cable of the alternator that was bent and broke off. Still, I’m really happy with our performance. We were quick throughout the week, starting from the first outing when I posted the 2nd quickest lap of the practice. Nicky then went on to qualify 4th in Superpole and all 3 of us were quick in the race. I’m really proud of my teammates who drove like heroes and the entire car #4 crew, because the entire week we were the strongest BMW and that is something considering our two sister cars were filled up with works drivers. To drop out was heart-breaking but at least we showed everyone what we can do and we also scored full points leading at the 6-hour mark which counts for the all-important Team Championship battle for Marc VDS.”

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Interview with Markus by

Published on by Frédéric Kevers on 19/07/2013:

This week, we’ll meet someone that is well known in Endurance and GT world.

Finnish by birth, but Belgian by adoption, Markus Palttala is a smart and funny guy.

Let’s discover it now…

« Let’s be serious » questions.
First of all, how do you feel before your « home race » at Spa?
I feel excellent, because I know that Marc VDS is 100% focused and prepared to the smallest detail ahead of our home race and the main event of the BES championship. Spa is a great circuit and 24h there is a great event. And we really want to do well in front of the home crowd. Competition will be tougher than ever, but we have been competitive in all the races so far this season. We are ready and we are hungry.

How do you feel inside Marc VDS Racing Team?
It feels like home to me. Marc is a very special person and in addition to wanting to win races, he also wants everyone to feel good in his team. Every team says they are like a family but with Marc VDS it really is so. I’ve been there now for 4 years and most people have been there for a long time. For this season, the team trusted me with a different role, « leading » the 2nd car, and I’m truly enjoying this challenge. The relationship with my teammates, Henri and Nicky, is really good – we have fun while pushing hard and we work as a unit, not as individual drivers trying to get along. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop when I get to race for a great team with a good car and quick teammates.

What are your expectations for the running season.
First of all, personally, my job has been to help make the car #4 competitive, to have both of our Z4s scoring results. We have been quite unlucky and 5th in Silverstone is our best result so far but we’ve had the speed to finish on the podium in every single race, so in that respect it has been positive. We finished 2nd in BES in 2011 and 2012 so obviously the target of Marc VDS is to win the championship this year and even more important is to get on top in the 24 Hours of Spa. We should have won it last year without starter motor issues, so I hope we will have a better run this time!

Who is the strongest competitor you’re looking to for the main race of Blancpain Endurance Series?
There are many of them, it’s going to be a very competitive race and so many cars have the chance to win the race. Audi is always strong and I don’t think they’ve yet shown all their cards ahead of Spa. Mercedes have been really quick this year, there are some very strong Porsches and I have the highest respect for their factory drivers, Ferrari is leading the championship, Nissan and Aston Martin are probably the two quickest cars at the moment, McLaren and Lamborghini are very fast and so on and so on..!

What do you think about the Balance Of Performance system, how would you improve it to get better balance overall, whatever the tracks and weather conditions?
Well, it is simply impossible to get all these different cars completely balanced for all tracks and conditions. However, I think that the BoP could be improved in many ways. First, I don’t like when there are adjustments based on race results, especially in endurance racing where so many factors affect the results. Also, many car manufacturers are sandbagging in the first tests and first races to avoid penalties and I would punish this more severely so that everyone would show their real performance from the beginning, BoP would be calculated and then the best teams and drivers would win. Our team and BMW have decided from the beginning that we go flat out in every test and race hoping that the BoP system will be fair but unfortunately this is not the philosophy of everyone out there.

Knowing that you’ve been racing in Belgium for a couple of years know, how would you explain that Belgian teams are that strong in GT racing?
I think there is a good culture for GT racing in Belgium and of course two well known international circuits with big GT events, so it’s natural that the locals focus on GT racing. Since 2001, if you wanted to do the biggest race in this country, the 24h of Spa, you needed to run a GT car. For example in Germany and the UK, the national GT series have boomed several years later and at the same time there have been popular single-seater and touring car championships attracting local teams and drivers.

As a pro driver, how do you manage to share the track with AM driver or Gentlemen Driver? Do you talk a lot with them, give them tips, or not at all?
I have spent more than half of my career sharing cars with gentleman drivers and I’m still coaching a few of them, so I know how they see and experience these situations. In the end, there’s room in GTs for both Pros and Ams. On track, it’s all about communicating between different drivers to avoid accidents. We don’t need the gentlemen to move away when we come, but we need them to show clearly what they plan to do. Same the other way around, we need to show them where we are planning to overtake and do it firmly but not too aggressively. Basically, it’s the same as in Le Mans and WEC where you have classes for different cars with different speeds. It all works fine when everyone stays focused and respects each other.

Marc VDS Racing Team is one of the best GT racing teams. Would you follow them if they were going to another challenge, like WEC in GTE or LMP?
Of course, if Marc VDS would decide to move up to WEC and ask me to drive a GTE or LMP car, I’d naturally be very happy to do it. I have always been loyal to my teams, because that’s the best way to build relationships and move forward. Marc VDS is one of the best teams out there, so there is no reason for me to need or want to change to another team.

What do you prefer, sprint races as GT World Series or endurance races like BES and 24 hours races?
Well, I have mostly done endurance races for more than 10 years and I think GTs are meant to do longer races, which is quite clearly proven by the success of BES after the failure of GT1. I feel the most at home in a 24-hour race, because I like the combination of pushing hard but at the same time playing the strategy and teamwork. Having said that, the few times I’ve gone back to sprint races, like visiting Porsche Cup races or the 1-hour GT1 races a couple of years ago, I enjoyed them very much.

What would be your achievement as Racing Driver?
First of all, I’m very grateful that I can do as a job the very thing I love doing most. I’ve been around for many years and enjoyed all of it. It’s still easy to stay motivated because there are so many things to reach for. In short-term, I’d really like to win big races such as 24h of Spa, Nürburgring and Le Mans.

« Let’s be less serious » questions.
Who are the funniest people, Belgian or Fins?
Belgians are a funny bunch of people, very social and outgoing, but if you give the Finns a chance, which might take a very long time, they have a good sense of humour. I guess it depends which kind of humor you like!

Would you prefer to drive with only one hand, or one eye?
I hope I never have to experience either of these. I need to call Nicky to find out how it is to be with only one arm..

Which language is easier, Dutch or French?
Well, I understand and speak a little French but can only say ‘dank u’ in Dutch, but I will never be fluent in French because I firmly believe that my mouth is not made for speaking it! At least I make people smile with my accent although they rarely understand what I try to say.

What are your goals within 5 years?
Same as today, winning races, getting quicker, doing my job well for the team.

Which is your ever dreamcar?
I grew up watching Knight Rider, so I have to say Pontiac Trans-Am although luckily I came to my senses later on.

What do you prefer, Mustamakkara (Finnish traditional meal) or Belgian chocolate?
Belgian beer.

When you were a kid, which job were you dreaming to do?
I started racing when I was 4 and since then I wanted to be a race driver but being a rock star was also high on the list.

What is your favorite activity when you don’t drive a racing car?
I enjoy doing all kinds of sports which is also important to being fit for the races. While living in Belgium I mostly go biking, running, climbing and to the gym. Back in Finland I used to play ice-hockey, football, badminton and tennis but they’ve kind of dropped out recently. I really like winter sports, as well. We’ve got a small hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere in the north of Finland and I try to go there as often as I can, because it’s the best place on earth to relax.

Which suggestions would you make to improve the attractivity of the show for fans at Spa 24 hours, that is the main event of Blancpain Endurance Series?
Same as the BES championship in general, we need more promotion and better TV. The product is excellent, the sportive level is real high, the entry lists are full – now we need to get the bigger public interested in it, because both Spa and BES deserve more attention. Personally, I think that focusing on brands of cars is nice, because there are so many cool cars, but in the end all series that are known world-wide have drivers or teams as the point of focus, not the cars.

What do you think about the idea to organize a book signing for fans outside of the Paddock area?
Good idea. I’m always happy to do this stuff for the fans, because it’s an honour to have people come to see us racing. We should do it more. Perhaps we could make a trip or two to the States to see how it is done there and learn from it.

« Let’s be everything but serious » questions
The Killing question > « When is it better to have sex, before or after the race? »
Before is also after and after is before, so always is good.

The question you don’t want to be asked to you >??? tell me icon wink interview with a... driver. Markus Palttala 
The question I hate is « Would you like to dance ». No, I wouldn’t. I can’t and look ridiculous if I try.

The question you want to ask me?
Where do you come up with all these questions? > Excellent question, I guess we are trying to discover who you are to allow readers to know you better.

This is a great meeting, a quick-witted man, to some distributed and has an undeniable humor and joviality.

And especially a pilot demonstrated ability, imbued with the spirit of team necessary to a successful career in endurance. faithful and honest, educator, and with specific and interesting ideas for improving the sport and spectacle.

No doubt we will seek his informed opinion on many occasions in the future.

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Blancpain Endurance Series, Paul Ricard, 30/06/2013

Markus Palttala, Henri Moser and Andrea Piccini finished 21st overall and 15th in Pro Cup at Paul Ricard, France, when an early race incident dropped the trio over a lap down and out of top 50 after a great start. The other Marc VDS BMW Z4 of Bas Leinders, Yelmer Buurman and Maxime Martin won the race getting Marc VDS back in the title hunt after a difficult start to the season.

“It is really frustrating that we’ve been very competitive but haven’t yet managed to get on the podium. I qualified 2nd in Q2 missing out on pole just by a tenth after I lost a few tenths behind a slower car. Henri was 6th quickest in Q2 and Andrea 9th in Q3, so we were one of the strongest line-ups and finally got to start from top 10. Henri took a good start but then got in trouble with Hummel’s Black Falcon Mercedes. The SLS had qualified 2nd but the gentleman driver was rapidly dropping down the order. Henri tried to overtake him a couple of times and got pushed off. The next attempt lead to a crash that damaged our car and got us a penalty so the race was practically over then. Too bad, because later on both Andrea and I were as quick or quicker than the leaders. We had a good car, which was also proven by our sister car taking victory – congratulations to them. Now it’s full focus on the 24 Hours of Spa where we and the entire team want to have a good result!”

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Blancpain Endurance Series, Silverstone, 02/06/2013

Markus Palttala, Henri Moser and Nicky Catsburg finished 5th in the 2nd round of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Silverstone, UK, despite having suffered a drive through penalty during the 1st hour of the 3 hour race. The Marc VDS BMW Z4 #4 trio started from 22nd on the grid of 57 cars but all drivers showed great pace fighting to top 5 to score valuable championship points.

”It was a very good race for us. Henri did a great opening stint taking us from 22nd to 11th. He then had to serve a penalty for passing under yellow flags and that cost us about a minute or so, but Nicky got us back to top 10 by the end of his stint. Both pitstops were perfect and I got up to 5th and started chasing the Ferrari of Zampieri running 4th. I caught him a few laps before the end but he kept pushing me off which was a bit over the limit, but I finally got him on the last lap. Unfortunately, by then the JRM Nissan that I was earlier pulling away from had caught with us, dive-bombed me and I dropped back to 5th. Anyway, it was good to finally score some decent points and it was a nice reward for the #4 crew who have been working hard for months. I did the 2nd fastest race lap and both Henri and Nicky were real quick, so the pace is there. The penalty cost us a podium this time but we’ll continue pushing hard to get up there in the coming races.”

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24 Hours of Nürburgring, 20/05/2013

Markus Palttala, Bas Leinders, Henri Moser and Richard Göransson were forced to retire when Leinders suffered a heavy crash with a slower car some 7 hours before the end of the race. Until the unfortunate accident, the BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS Z4 #26 was having a strong race and running currently on 3rd position. The sister car of Maxime Martin, Yelmer Buurman and Andrea Piccini joined by Göransson finished a superb 2nd, saving the day for Marc VDS and BMW Motorsport.

”The Nordschleife is always dangerous and even more so in such tricky conditions we had this weekend. Bas’ accident was a real shame as we were running in top 3 and our pace was very good both on wet and dry. We were ahead of the #25, which eventually finished 2nd, so there was more than a good chance to get on the podium. Well, that didn’t happen, but I’m really satisfied with how competitive we were and I’m real proud of the entire Marc VDS team. It has been great for us to act as an official BMW works team and I’d like to thank BMW for their support and confidence in us. Personally, I will go home empty handed, being the quickest BMW driver in qualifying the only small consolidation, but we all were cheering for #25 when Max got from 4th to 2nd during the last hour.”

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VLN, Round 2, 27/04/2013

Markus Palttala, Henri Moser and Richard Göransson finished 12th in the 2nd VLN race of the season. Having raced at Monza when VLN took off, this was the only opportunity for Marc VDS Racing Team to prepare for one of the highlights of this season, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, and the team decided to run 3 cars in order to collect as much information as possible.

”It was great to finally get to race on the Nordschleife after the long winter. Chances to prepare for the big one were limited to this one-day event, so we really approached it as a test. All 3 cars were on different set-ups, strategies and even tyres, to make sure we learn as much as possible. The race started wet, went to damp and then dried up, so we got to run in all conditions. We struggled a bit on wet in these cold conditions, as we were unable to put temperature on the tyres. For the rest, the car ran well and it’s just awesome to push around this magnificent circuit in a BMW Z4. We finished 12th in the #26 car and ahead of the two other VDS cars, so it was a job well done. We’ll next do a 24h simulation at Magny-Cours and will be ready for the 24 Hours.”

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Blancpain Endurance Series, Monza, 14/04/2013

Markus Palttala finished 36th in the opening round of the expanding Blancpain Endurance Series in Monza, Italy. The Marc VDS BMW Z4 nr.4 driven by Markus, Henri Moser and Nicky Catsburg was running as high as 6th, highest of the BMWs, when failing brakes forced Catsburg to pull in for repairs and the race was practically over.

”To be frank, we made a miscalculation that lead to this result which is a disaster for everyone involved. Nevertheless, the season has only just started and our pace in the race was very positive. We had some trouble prior to qualifying and hence started only 27th but we had already climbed to 6th and were closing in on the eventual podium scorers. We knew it’s going to be tough here as this circuit really doesn’t suit the BMW, so it was nice we were so competitive. I enjoyed my own stint having good fights and passing a bunch of cars while moving into top 10 and up to 6th. I’m also really happy with our driver line-up and the entire car #4 crew. We’re the underdogs, but we work well together and there’s loads of potential, so I’m sure we’ll be on the podium soon. Having said that, the BES is tougher than ever with 60 GT3 cars going for it and it’s not just quantity, but the level of teams and drivers is real high, so you really need to get everything right to score well.”

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