Max Koebolt and Simon Knap make maximum use of possibilities in season opener
ZOLDER – With a pair of fifth places from the two GT4 European Series races behind the wheel of their MDM Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, Dutch drivers Max Koebolt and Simon Knap made maximum use of their possibilities. Thus, the duo scored valuable points in the season opener. “Prior to the meeting, it was quite clear that, given the ‘balance of performance’, we wouldn’t be in contention for a podium finish here. Bearing that in mind, we are certainly happy with two fifth places,” defending GT4 champion Max Koebolt said after the first race meeting. “A solid, clean start of the season,” was the verdict of Simon Knap, who visibly enjoyed his return to racing at an international level. “It is great to be able to race in such a nice and strong field,” he said.
With 44 cars on track for the season opener at the former Grand Prix circuit in the Belgian province of Limburg, it was obvious that traffic would be playing a major role. As a result, the qualifying sessions became even more important with a view to the starting grid positions for the two races. Max Koebolt was behind the wheel in qualifying for the first race in which he was classified 13th. “I only had a relatively clean track on my fourth lap, but at that point, the tyres already were beyond their peak, so I couldn’t post a faster lap time,” he explained. In qualifying for race two, Simon Knap showed what could have been as he claimed fourth position on the grid as the best-placed BMW driver. “For me, finding a clear lap was difficult was well. There was a lot of traffic out there, but I am certainly happy with the result,” Knap commented.
Koebolt took the start of the first race and he lost two positions in the usually frenetic opening stages, but then made up no less than seven places, bringing the BMW back into the pits for the driver change in eighth place. His comment: “I had some nice fights and I was able to make good progress. We knew that the second part of the race mattered most for us and Simon did a great job in bringing it home.” Knap’s stint included a safety car intervention that brought the field together. That helped Knap to make up further positions and the duo finished fifth as a result. “We lost some time during the pit stop that wasn’t flawless, but after that, I was able to move up nicely, also thanks to the safety car intervention,” Knap said.
In race two, Knap started from fourth place. “It was our aim to defend that position until the pit stop and that worked out well. During my stint, there were two safety car interventions and then I was able to hand the car to Max in fourth place,” Knap reported. After that, Koebolt had to deal with degradation of the front tyres, a problem that had already occurred during the first half of the race. “I was unable to attack as a result, I just had to defend. Then, an opponent pushed me off the track, making me lose one place. Thus, we again finished fifth”, Koebolt commented afterwards.
The next round of the GT4 European Series is scheduled for the first weekend of May at the circuit of Brands Hatch. Familiar territory for Koebolt: “The track suits me. Apart from that, I expect the balance of performance for the BMW to be adjusted, so that we will be able to do better there. We will go for victory at Brands Hatch!” Knap, on the other hand, only knows the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch so far. “That means that I will be practicing a lot on the simulator at the Technical University in Delft. I am looking forward to it.”