BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW: Not for the faint-hearted

IDM Most sunday - photo Damon Teerink-3681

The German-Belgian BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team of Andy Gerlich and Werner Daemen has had an exhausting two weeks, filled to the brim with gripping motorsport at the highest level. After the successful detour at the World Endurance Championship in Spa-Francorchamps, the team found itself in the Czech Republic last weekend, where the third of seven rounds of the 2023 International German Motorcycle Championship took place at the Autodrom in Most. Also competing in the IDM Superbike: Ilya Mikhalchik (Ukraine), Kamil Krzemien (Poland), Bálint Kovács (Hungary), Philipp Steinmayr (Austria) and Max Schmidt (Germany).

Ilya Mikhalchik had travelled to the Czech Republic with boosted self-confidence and fresh courage after his third place at Spa in the Endurance World Championship. After his zero result at the last IDM meeting in Oschersleben, the Ukrainian will have to put his BMW to the test if he wants to have a say in the IDM title. He showed that he is capable and highly motivated in both qualifying sessions with a best time of 1m32.712s. His relief was obvious afterwards. “That was what we needed,” he noted. “The other thing is the past. I even chose extra new colours and a new design for my helmet.” For the first time in three years, the Ukrainian, who currently lives far from his homeland in Poland, was also able to welcome family and friends back to the race track, who had made the arduous journey from Ukraine to Most to actively support him. “This is important for me, because we have had a hard time,” he explained.

At the start of the first race of the day, Mikhalchik then wanted to know and ignited the turbo. “Unfortunately, I was a little late on the brakes,” he said. He missed the entrance to the first chicane after the late braking manoeuvre and then had to choose the emergency exit and the slightly longer way around. In the chasing group he rejoined the field. With a spirited attack at the end of the race, the Ukrainian managed to squeeze past the Estonian Hannes Soomer into second place. “After three or four laps I had a few problems with the brakes, they got hot,” he reported after crossing the finish line, “so I wasn’t able to call up the potential I’m normally capable of. Second place wasn’t the result I wanted, but it’s still nice to be back on the podium.”

In the second race, the Ukrainian then made a break for freedom, but even then he did not escape without a moment of shock in the first chicane, when he got stuck in the general tumult and then set off on a spectacular recovery, after which he was able to crown himself the winner of the race. “Now I’m happy,” then his comment. “My team was incredible and had changed a few things. Even with the brake everything was as perfect as it should be. After the start, things got a bit aggressive. One crashed, another touched my bike. I almost ended up in the ditch and lost about ten places. But with a tight pace, especially at the end, I fought my way back. It was a great feeling. I hope it continues in this style.”

Bálint Kovács came from Belgium to Most slightly battered. But the Hungarian had coped well with his crash in the Endurance World Championship and only a few bruises remind him of the mishap. In the Most qualifying session, he was able to improve bit by bit in the afternoon and secure 10th place on the grid. “I know the track in Most well,” he describes. “My physical condition is also getting stronger day by day. Tenth place in qualifying was very close, the times were really close. Normally I’m still a bit better in the races.”

In the first race, the BMW driver got away well from his grid position, but had to take the diversions via the outside lane in the first chicane. After that, he found himself in the middle of the field and managed to secure tenth place after a match or two. Things went even better for the Hungarian in race 2, which he finished in 7th place. “On the whole it was not a bad weekend,” the Hungarian said afterwards. “I want to get closer to the top. Already in Oschersleben I was close to the fast guys and I wanted to continue. It wasn’t the easiest weekend in Most and I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I made too many mistakes in the first race, including missing the entrance to the chicane. After that it was quite a tough race. 10th place was the best I could get. The second race was better, my pace was better and I was ten seconds closer to the top. It was an improvement, but I still want to do better. The summer break will be good for me and I will come back stronger.”

Philipp Steinmayr was still tearing his hair out a bit after the practice Friday in Most. “I really needed the third free practice,” the Austrian admitted after it had started to rain and he and his BMW had stayed in the pits. “The level in IDM Superbike is just brutally high and I feel like everyone else is always squatting on the bike. I didn’t have a chance to test between IDM races. I admire Ilya Mikhalchik for how quickly he can adapt. I’m happy with the team, I still have to see how I can get on better with new tyres.”

After 11th place in practice, Steinmayr struggled to ninth place in the first race. “My plan worked out,” he said happily afterwards. “Because that’s where I wanted to be and the reverse grid in the second heat meant I was quite a bit further up the grid with row 2.” In the second race, things continued to move forward, Steinmayr held his own in the turbulent chasing pack and was rewarded with 6th place. “As I had already driven a few laps on Saturday with my front racing tyre, I wanted to set a good time, but it was no longer completely new in the race. You could tell that it had already warmed up. In the second race, I have to admit that I also benefited a little from the failures.”

The four-week IDM break will be motorcycle-free for Steinmayr. “It’s not good to go testing alone, I need the exchange with others,” he explains. “But before the race in Assen, we’ll take part in the Jacks Racing Days there. Then I’ll be fully prepared for an IDM race. I’m looking forward to that.”

Like his team-mates, Kamil Krzemien had travelled directly from the Endurance World Championship to Most in the Czech Republic. On Friday he had changed back from his World Championship bike to his IDM BMW. The third free practice session, which was important for him, fell through for Krzemien as well as for the rest of the Superbikers. The rain shower provided a welcome cooling, but the training kilometres were missing. Krzemien started from 13th place on the grid for the two races on Sunday, which he finished in eleventh place. He would have loved to bring home a few more championship points for his dad – the Polish Father’s Day traditionally takes place on 23 June.

“Yes, it was a tough weekend,” Krzemien said afterwards, “I am still looking for the pace I had last year. I also have to admit that I was not perfectly prepared from my side. The others tested a lot between the races and were therefore always one step ahead of me in Most. Therefore, I had to struggle to find the necessary pace.”

“I always improved my lap times,” he describes the positive aspects, “and things went better and better. In both races I got a very good start. At the beginning I was quite good, but over the distance I lost quite a bit of grip and couldn’t keep up. I was at the limit, close to a crash. In the last laps I just couldn’t attack anymore. We scored points and are still working on it. I’m looking forward to the races in Schleiz now, things went really well for me there last year.”

Max Schmidt, at 20 the youngest rider in the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team’s line-up, was still pondering his tactics after starting 13th in qualifying. “I was simply too slow,” the student was clearly self-critical, “perhaps a different tyre choice would have been better. In the second practice it was too warm. That was not the best starting position for the grid.”

The lap times then improved already in the first race, but it remained with 13th place. “At the start I had lost a lot,” he reported. “And whenever I overtook those in front of me, things went wrong. Once I had to go through the gravel in the chicane and another time around the outside. Without that, it would have been enough for a top ten place.” Schmidt then secured this in race 2, which he finished in eighth place. Things went better for the BMW driver right from the start, although he was not spared the turmoil after the first few metres. “But I tried to stay relaxed,” was his approach. “I’m halfway satisfied with the result then. I’m not as happy as usual, but I’m not in a bad mood now either. Most is my least favourite track on this year’s IDM calendar, so it was okay for that.”

During the four-week IDM break, Schmidt will head to Oschersleben for an instructor job and a couple of moto cross sessions are also planned. Besides, there is a lot for the student to learn. The next exams are casting their shadows ahead.

For the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team, it’s first off to the Belgian homeland, where they can then take their time to prepare for the next IDM round. The IDM weekend at the Schleizer Dreieck continues on 21-23 August 2023.