With the IDM race in Zolder (BEL) a few weeks ago, the team alpha Racing-Van Zon-BMW had successfully completed its home race. Last weekend, the next highlight of the 2018 season was underway. At the Schleizer Dreieck in Thuringia, the IDM race with the highest number of spectators was hosted in a special racing surrounding in Schleiz on a nature racetrack. The team around Werner Daemen was complete again. In the starting grids: Ilya Mikhalchik from Ukraine, the almost recovered Christof Höfer and Julian Puffe, the local hero who is living only a few kilometers away from the Schleizer start-finish straight.

Ilya Mikhalchikstruggled a little during the last race in Zolder but has another chance to increase his championship lead in Schleiz, where some public roads are converted to the racetrack. “I’m fit,” announced the Ukrainian. “And ready to be back at the top again – after a difficult race in Zolder with ´only´ a P4 finish. Schleiz is a beautiful race track. But I have to admit that I do not know the track so well yet. “Mikhalchik did not want to comment anything about the championship standings in advance. He had come to Schleiz as leader, but there was not much room for mistakes.

Even on the eve before raceday, the BMW rider was quite relaxed after finishing third in qualifying. “On this special track you need a lot of laps to be really fast,” said the former European Championship pilot. With almost night shifts, together with his crew, Ilya improved for the race and gained a better understanding of the track. Mikhalchik rewarded himself and his team with a clean start-finish win in Race 1 and again extended his overall lead over Bastien Mackels by five points. “The atmosphere in Schleiz is almost like a Grand Prix with all the people who cheer on the grand stand.” he said after the award ceremony.

Mikhalchik was once again able to enjoy the jubilation to the fullest in the afternoon. Even at 30 degrees air temperature the Ukrainian focused on leading the race right after the start. As the lights turned green, Ilya pushed hard to get in front of the competition before the first corner. Even under great pressure from his S 1000 RR colleagues Mackels and Puffe he secured a close but unchallenged flag-to-flag-victory. With that, he extended his lead in the championship to 17 points in three outstanding race weekends. After the finish, the double winner deserved a cold shower. “Schleiz is really the hardest track I’ve ever been to. My team has done a great job from start to finish, they have earned a big thank you. It was a tough fight for them, with the bike and my riding style. But now I’m really happy and I want to continue like this in the three races to come.”

Julian Puffe couldn´t hide his happiness during the whole weekend. The BMW rider is based in Schleiz and had a lot of plans for his home race. “Yes, I’m excited. It’s different than usual. The mood is perfect here in Schleiz fort he past few weeks. Everybody is looking forward to the IDM event.” For Puffe the home race was an expensive fun. “I had to order a swing of tickets for the moment. We expected a lot of guests and set up an extra tent for hospitality. Until Thursday, I was still busy with the organization, but from Friday I was focused a hundred percent on the riding job.

Puffe did not really know what was going on in qualifying. The lap timer had quit the service. As a result, he first learned about his achievments during the session as he entered the pit lane. The local hero had set the fastes lap time in Q1. Although he had to wait for the second qualifying, but due to the strong increase in temperatures in the afternoon, the chance of getting beaten was very little. Finally – Puffe achieved a pole position for the first time in his career. Unfortunately he wasn´t able to make the best profit out o fit during the first race. “I made a big mistake at the start and had problems in acceleration.” He ranked only in fifth position after the first lap. But giving up is not an option. With the fastest lap times in the field, he worked his way up again, closing an almost three-second gap to the leading duo Mikhalchik /Mackels and finished third at the end. “It was hard to overtake. Although I was able to keep up with the pace to close the gap tot he leading group, but it was not enough to attack Mackels . ”

The start into the second race was not perfect too, but it was much better than in the morning. After finishing fourth in the first lap, he immediately took third place and formed an unbeatable top trio for the other participants with Ilya Mikhalchik and Bastien Mackels. But Schleiz is not exactly famous for the fact that there is plenty of space for overtaking maneuvers. Rather the opposite is the case on the often narrow track. Thus, Puffe finished in third position with just one second gap to his victorious team mate Mikhalchik. Even though it did not work out with the victory in Schleiz, Puffe was happy about the result. “I closed the gap to the top,” he explained. The newcomer to the IDM Superbike has taken a huge step forward after the first half of the season, reducing the initial gap of just over ten seconds to the top duo to zero. “We improved a lot during the weekend here in Schleiz. My data recording specialist Jens is also improving my BMW from session to session. All that’s missing now is that I can attack the two guys in front of me. If I keep this up, I’ll soon be where I belong.”

27.07.-29.07.2018 Schleizer Dreieck / IDM – Internationale Deutsche Motorradmeisterschaft

Christof Höfer still suffered a lot of pain in Schleiz due to an injury. The IDM rookie had broken his shoulder blade six weeks ago during training for the Endurance World Championship, had to miss the Zolder races and was not really pain-free in Schleiz. “I hope that my shoulder will be alright,” he mused before training. He finished the free practice and qualifying sessions, even if he himself would still call his lap times as expandable. But Schleiz is a physically demanding track and temperatures above 30 degrees did not make it easier for the pilots.

After the two qualifying sessions, it was clear that Christof “Fifty” Höfer would not take part in the races. Even the painkillers did not help. The disappointment was huge. “My bike will stay in the pits on Sunday,” was the decision on Saturday night. “I am frustrated. There are so many fans and I was so keen to race in Schleiz. The shoulder hurts so much during the sessions. Unfortunately, that´s also part of our sport. “Höfer then was ambassador for the IDM on Sunday, took part in autograph sessions and didn´t miss a rider presentation. Now he will focus on physiotherapy to be fit again for the next race.

27.07.-29.07.2018 Schleizer Dreieck / IDM – Internationale Deutsche Motorradmeisterschaft

With a four week break ahead, team alpha Racing-Van Zon-BMW will be back on track at Lausitzring at the end of August.

Result Qualifying/Starting Grid

1 1.24,935 Julian Puffe (GER/BMW)
2 1.25,096 Bastien Mackels (BEL/BMW)
3 1.25,217 Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
22 1.30,224 Christof Höfer (GER/BMW)

Result Race 1

1 Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2 Bastien Mackels (BEL/BMW)
3 Julian Puffe (GER/BMW)

Result Race 2

1 Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2 Bastien Mackels (BEL/BMW)
3 Julian Puffe (GER/BMW)

Championship standings after 8 of 14 races

1   183 points Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2   166 points Bastien Mackels (BEL/BMW)
3   114 points JulianPuffe (GER/BMW)