IDM Red Bull Ring: Adventurous tour of Austria

IDM Red Bull Ring friday - photo Damon Teerink-3058

Last weekend things went a little differently for the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team than on the other race weekends in the International German Motorcycle Championship IDM. This is because team boss Werner Daemen and Superbike rider Ilya Mikhalchik were absent from the event at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Instead of the IDM, they went to Suzuka in Japan on behalf of BMW Motorsport Motorrad to fight for points in the World Endurance Championship. At the start in the IDM Superbike were Austrian Philipp Steinmayr, Pole Kamil Krzemien, Hungarian Bálint Kovács, German Max Schmidt and, with a wildcard, Austrian Jan Mohr.

Philipp Steinmayr had been able to prepare for his home race in Styria better than for any other race this season. After the IDM race at the Schleizer Dreieck, he packed up his BMW and was able to do some test kilometres a week before the IDM race at the Red Bull Ring. An effort that was to pay off. Even though the set-up work of the previous week did not help at first. It rained in the south of Austria. It rained during the free practice sessions on Friday, the qualifying sessions on Saturday and also during the first race on Sunday. “But I was able to set my best time in the second qualifying session in pouring rain,” said a happy Steinmayr, who had thus secured fourth place.

The race Sunday then offered new challenges for drivers and team, because in the first race the pilots had to set off on rain tyres when the track was drying and in the second race the sun was shining and for the first time they drove in the dry. But Steinmayr didn’t let anything get him down. In both races, he skilfully took on WorldSBK guests Garrett Gerloff and Loris Baz. Even though the latter took first and second place as expected, Steinmayr took third place in each race and received the maximum 50 victory points for being the best IDM rider. For Steinmayr, these were the first ever podium finishes in the IDM Superbike.

During the interviews and the presentation ceremony, it seemed as if Steinmayr had never done anything else. “I already did the emotion thing on the run-out lap and in the parc fermé with my team,” he revealed. “The guys just did a great job and I already felt very comfortable in the rain. The fact that the WRC guys were ahead of me in the end is fine. Gerloff really impressed me in race 2. In the second run I could have gone a bit faster to chase Baz. But I had to readjust my brakes every now and then, so it was a fun battle with Toni Finsterbusch.”

Max Schmidt had probably rehearsed the rain dance more than once in the week before the race weekend in Austria. For the 20-year-old, despite his still young career, is known to have a special knack for rain conditions. The special salt in the soup for Schmidt during the rainy practice sessions was the visit of BWM colleagues Loris Baz and Garrett Gerloff, who normally race in the Superbike World Championship and made a guest start at the Red Bull Ring.

Schmidt was able to skilfully use all his skills in the second qualifying session in pouring rain, leaving Baz behind and taking second place on the grid after WorldSBK rider Gerloff. “I could get used to that,” Schmidt said after his best grid position of his IDM career so far. “Not bad when you don’t have anyone in front of you anymore. I just have a good feeling in the rain.” But the rain first took a break after three days on race Sunday and Schmidt had to start on rain tyres like his colleagues in the first race on a drying track. “I was doing well after the start,” Schmidt said. But then came the red flag, the race was stopped and he had to start again. “My start was good there too, but the track was a lot drier, so of course I lacked any experience. I wanted to get to grips with this half and half, but then I probably gave my front wheel too much credit on the brakes.” Schmidt rattled through the gravel and rejoined the field at the end. While catching up and trying to overtake Jan Mohr, Schmidt braked too optimistically in turn 3 and crashed.

“The second run was then not so outstanding,” he said after 11th place. “I was pushed back a bit after the start. Then the reservoir for the brake fluid came loose and I tried to adjust it somehow on the straights. Then I couldn’t attack on the brakes. The frustration after the weekend is rather moderate. I had already exceeded all expectations with my qualifying result. Sunday was annoying, but I know that I can do it. In the end, everything went a bit badly.

Like his colleague Max Schmidt, Kamil Krzemien also enjoyed the difficult conditions on the rain-soaked track. On Friday, in the pouring rain, the Pole did particularly well and appeared at the top of the timesheets. As the rain also did all the work on Saturday, the Pole took advantage of the opportunity and claimed his best ever starting position with the seventh fastest time.

When the weather improved for the first race on Sunday, the BMW rider wasn’t deterred by the mixed conditions either and claimed his best result of the 2023 season so far with 5th place, 3rd in the IDM standings after deducting the non-points-eligible World Championship guests, on a drying track. Krzemien rounded off his successful weekend with 8th place in the second race, and IDM points for 6th place. “I always feel good in the rain,” he explained. “On Friday it went great and we found a good set-up straight away. On Saturday it didn’t go quite as well, but I was still happy.”

“Sunday was quite difficult,” he commented, considering the change in track conditions. “I knew it would be hard to keep up with the top guys in Race 1 with the track drying. I also pushed my rear tyre too hard and then had problems accelerating. Race 2 was a bit strange, because it was the first lap ever in the dry. I had to feel my way around to be able to set fast times. But in the end we all did a good job. I had some good battles and it was fun.”

Bálint Kovács was new to the Red Bull Ring with the Superbike, his last outing with the Junior Cup having been seven years ago, and the Hungarian had to face the challenge of continuous rain, a drying track in Race 1 and the first few metres in the dry in Race 2. “It was a fun weekend,” he summed up his Austrian outing. “Especially in the second race, because I don’t think any of us had experienced a Sunday like that before. On Friday I had a lot to do because I had never ridden there with the Superbike before. But I think in the rain it was a little bit easier for me.”

From 10th on the grid, the BWM rider then set off for the first race, which was held on a drying track and ended with seventh place for Kovács. “After qualifying I would have liked to be closer to the top,” he admits. “But the guys were really fast and it was close in the top ten. You can also see, with the two guys from the World Superbike Championship racing, how strong the championship is.”

Kovács finished both races in 7th place. “In the first race I had the pace for a podium finish at half the distance,” he reports, “but when the grip on the rear wheel dropped I lost a few more places.” The second race was also the first session in dry conditions for the Hungarian. “It was really a challenge to have a good set-up there. Also to find a rhythm and first of all the right braking points. But in the end I have to say that I had the best feeling of the whole weekend for my bike at the end. The pace was good and the placings go okay.”

Jan Mohr was there as a wildcard rider for Team BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW. After an injury break of more than a year, the Austrian was back in action for the first time at his home race and presented himself cured and top fit again. In the rainy qualifying session, Mohr was able to take eleventh place on the grid and made a successful return to the IDM Superbike with 11th and 12th places in the races, one on a semi-wet track and one on a dry track.

Results IDM Superbike Q1 + Q2

1. 1.45,498 min Garrett Gerloff
2. 1.45,893 min Max Schmidt
3. 1.46,092 min Loris Baz
4. 1.46,112 min Philipp Steinmayr
7. 1.46,703 min Kamil Krzemien
10. 1.47,178 min Bálint Kovács
11. 1.47,708 min Jan Mohr

Results IDM Superbike Race 1

1.Garrett Gerloff (USA/BMW)
2. Loris Baz (F/BMW)
3. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
5. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)
7. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
12. Jan Mohr (A/BMW)
DNF Max Schmidt (D/BMW)

Results IDM Superbike Race 2

1.Garrett Gerloff (USA/BMW)
2. Loris Baz (F/BMW)
3. Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
7. Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
8. Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)
9. Jan Mohr (A/BMW)
11. Max Schmidt (D/BMW)

Overall Points IDM Superbike after 10 out of 14 Races

1. 181 Points Florian Alt (D/BMW)
2. 127 Points Hannes Soomer (EST/Honda)
3. 120 Points Toni Finsterbusch (D/BMW)
5. 114 Points Philipp Steinmayr (A/BMW)
6. 111 Points Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR/BMW)
8.   80 Points Bálint Kovács (HUN/BMW)
9.   67 Points Kamil Krzemien (PL/BMW)
11. 60 Points Max Schmidt (D/BMW)

Next Race…

The next and penultimate race of the 2023 season will take place in just 14 days. The destination of the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team is the TT Circuit in Assen, the Netherlands.