BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW: 2023 season reaches the finish line

IDM Hockenheim friday 22-9-2023 photo Damon Teerink-2037

For the last time of 2023, fans and riders of the International German Motorcycle Championship IDM went on the road last weekend. At the start in the Superbike class was the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team led by Werner Daemen and Andy Gerlich. The team and its five riders were at full strength for the finale at the Hockenheimring: Ilya Mikhalchik from Ukraine, Philipp Steinmayr from Austria, Max Schmidt from Germany, Bálint Kovács from Hungary and Kamil Krzemien from Poland.

Ilya Mikhalchik had finished on the podium of the World Endurance Championship with his colleagues at the 24 Hours of Le Castellet the weekend before last and had to get used to his BMW in IDM trim again first at Hockenheim. “There is already a difference between the EWC BMW and the IDM version,” explains the three-time IDM champion and third in the current Endurance World Championship. “Apart from the name, the bikes have nothing in common.” But that didn’t stop the Ukrainian from securing the last pole position of the year. “That’s nice,” he assessed his performance afterwards, “especially because I wasn’t able to train here in advance like most of the top ten riders. And as for my theoretical title chances? I’m happy if someone else wins the title. I’d be happier if I took it, though.”
In Race 1, Mikhalchik proved to be a shrewd tactician. For while the competition at the front made life difficult for themselves with some wild manoeuvres, the BMW driver took it easy. He skilfully placed his overtaking manoeuvres at the end of the race and thus secured the first victory of the day. With this, he took the sixth victory of the season, none was to be achieved in the 2023 IDM Superbike, and was able to maintain his purely mathematical title chances until the really very last race. But the chances were manageable.

The title story was over after just a few metres in the second race. While the reverse grid procedure meant that his fiercest rival in the title fight, Florian Alt, started the second race from the first grid position, Mikhalchik had to start from 9th place. He came back from the first lap in 18th place. He painstakingly worked his way up to 6th place and a fifth place was enough for Alt to win the title. “I had a problem with the brake,” Mikhalchik described, “and it lasted almost the whole distance. I couldn’t do much about it. In the corners I tried to get around in the 600cc riding style. Without the problem, I could have won the second race of the day. I’m not that disappointed about the title. It was just a bit of bad luck this year. But I came back after a difficult start to the season and won almost everything. Thanks to BMW and my team, they worked really hard.”

Philipp Steinmayr also had the 24-hour race in his bones, but he also showed himself fit and in good form at the IDM finale and was happy with his qualifying and eighth place on the grid so far. He confirmed his performance in the two races on Sunday, scoring a further 17 points with eighth and seventh places and thus ending his season in a brilliant sixth place. The mood after the work was done was correspondingly relaxed.
“I’ll treat myself to a beer or two in the evening and on Monday I’m off to Nuremberg for a trade fair,” he explained his plans after the IDM finale. “But I’m really happy with my season. After switching to the team, I’m really grateful to my team. The bike was always perfectly prepared. As expected, I ended up in a top team and was also able to really develop further riding-wise.” In the races he also had to deal with his teammates, as is often the case. “My start into the first race was great,” he reports enthusiastically, “for a short time I was even in third place. The last one or two tenths of a second are just missing for me. Especially at the exit of the corners I still lose and in the race you are not alone on the track and it was difficult to get the maximum out of the brakes. Race 2 was fun. I had a good starting position and came off the second row through the reverse grid. It was mega to fight when you’re up there. When you find a good rhythm, things go really well. I had a few fun fights with Max Schmidt. That cost us some time and we had to let Florian Alt go a bit, but it was really fun. In the end, grip and braking were a bit of an issue, but that was the same for everyone.”

Max Schmidt still had to show patience on Friday. “I had to run in an engine in the first free practice,” he reports, “it rained in the second, so I didn’t really get to drive until the third. It’s not the first time for me at the Hockenheimring, but it’s the first time with the BMW. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to practice here beforehand. But the basic speed is right.” The rest of the weekend was also right, as the youngest rider in the BMW team completed his best IDM weekend to date just in time for the finale.
“I’m happy with race 1,” he said after finishing 6th. “I knew that my speed was a bit higher than 11th in practice and I started the race very well and was right up against a larger leading group. The group then stretched a bit, but my pace remained high. We managed the bike really well and I was able to push constantly almost all the way to the finish. I was so fast that we had the podium in sight for the first time and that without any hara-kiri actions. The fact that I couldn’t repeat this in race 2, despite a dream starting position, was due to a less than perfect grip and also because I had to fight hard with Philipp Steinmayr. That didn’t help my rhythm. But all in all, it was clearly my best race weekend and I take that as a very good sign for the future. I have to say a big thank you to Werner Daemen’s team for supporting me so much. My BMW and the right team have become closer and closer over the season and at the finale we were a successful unit. A very good feeling. I wish we can build on that and continue the teamwork.”

Kamil Krzemien has the best memories of the Hockenheimring, because last year the talented rider from Poland was able to claim his first podium finish in the IDM Superbike at the same venue with third place. But where there is light, there is also shadow. In practice, the Pole held his own with 13th place on the grid. In the past, he has always been able to improve a bit in the race. He described his lap times as “okay”. But suddenly Krzemien disappeared from the live stream and a crash was reported.
“Yes, that was me,” he explained afterwards. “I was in the slipstream of the rider in front of me and then I just overbraked. That made me go through the grass and when I got back on the track, the dirty rear tyre gave me a bad highsider.” He then had to go to the medical centre for a check-up as he complained of pain in his right foot and hip. The doctors then did not allow him to take part in the second race. “Nothing is broken,” he said afterwards, “but apparently I hurt the ligaments in the joint. That will be treated accordingly after I go home. It’s a pity that the season ended like this for me.”

Bálint Kovács had arrived at the IDM finale well recovered after his stint in the World Endurance Championship finale and wanted to do particularly well in the free practice sessions on Friday. As it had rained shortly before the second session, most of the riders stayed in the pits. Not so the young Hungarian. “You never know what the weather will be like on race day,” he reasoned, “and then I’ll be prepared.” However, he pays for his eagerness with a slip. He had got off lightly and his mechanics had straightened everything out by the final practice.
After taking 10th place on the grid in both qualifying sessions, Kovács impressed in the races with 11th and 10th places. He would have liked to finish a few places higher, but at the end of his first complete IDM season he was happy with 8th place in the final standings. “Mediocre”, he then also called his two race results. “I was last here in 2020 and since then I haven’t had a chance to test here before the 2023 finale. That made things a bit difficult for me. And somehow I expected a bit more, but I got the maximum out of it. But I’m really happy with eighth place overall. For a rookie season in the strong championship, that’s good.”
This marks the end of a challenging year for Team BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW in the IDM. As in every year, racing had a lot of surprises to offer and, apart from a few minor injuries, they were able to finish the year successfully in the IDM Superbike.

IDM Superbike Q1 + Q2
1. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW) 1.26,022 min
2. Hannes Soomer (EST/Honda) 1.26,177 min
3. Toni Finsterbusch (D/BMW) 1.26,414 min
8. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW) 1.26,922 min
10. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW) 1.27,117 min
11. Max Schmidt (D/BMW) 1.27,311 min
13. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW) 1.27,461 min

IDM Superbike Race 1
1. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
2. Toni Finsterbusch (D/BMW)
3. Hannes Soomer (EST/Honda)
6. Max Schmidt (D/BMW)
8. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)7
11. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
DNF Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)

IDM Superbike Race 2
1. Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW)
2. Hannes Soomer (EST/Honda)
3. Bastien Mackels (B/Yamaha)
6. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
7. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
8. Max Schmidt (D/BMW)
10. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
DNS Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)

IDM Superbike 2023 Final Standings after 14 Races
1. Florian Alt (D/Honda) 221 Punkte
2. Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW) 196 Punkte
3. Patrick Hobelsberger (D/BMW) 191 Punkte
4. Hannes Soomer (EST/Honda) 185 Punkte
5. Toni Finsterbusch (D/BMW) 171 Punkte
6. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW) 144 Punkte
7. Bastien Mackels (B/Yamaha) 140 Punkte
8. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW) 100 Punkte
9. Jan-Ole Jähnig (D/BMW) 90 Punkte
10. Leandro Mercado (ARG/Kawasaki) 84 Punkte
11. Max Schmidt (D/BMW) 83 Punkte
12. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW) 69 Punkte
13. Vladimir Leonov (RUS/Yamaha) 69 Punkte
14. Daniel Kartheininger (D/Yamaha) 59 Punkte
15. Colin Velthuizen (NL/BMW) 52 Punkte