Last weekend saw the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team of Werner Daemen and Andreas Gerlich reach the halfway point of the International German Motorcycle Championship IDM 2023. The journey had taken the Belgian-German team with its BMW riders Ilya Mikhalchik from Ukraine, Kamil Krzemien from Poland, Bálint Kovács from Hungary, Philipp Steinmayr from Austria and Max Schmidt from Germany to Thuringia to the Schleizer Dreieck. The races there are held on partly public roads and therefore posed special challenges for man and machine.
Ilya Mikhalchik again experienced the IDM in all its facets. After the first race, he went straight back to the pits with his visor down. Because the first race had had a few stumbling blocks in store for him at the Schleizer Dreieck. As pole sitter, with a top time close to the track record and an impressive performance in all the practice sessions, the BMW rider started on the outside of the track and that’s where he was on the approach to the first corner. But on the inside, after just a few metres, everything was occupied, Mikhalchik was unable to approach the apex of the corner as usual, made a wide turn and lost a few places as a result. In order not to lose the connection to the leaders, he had to push hard. When attacking fifth-placed Bastien Mackels in the last chicane before the start/finish, Mikhalchik took the very narrow route. Too tight, as it turned out. He had to open up, Mackels slipped through on the inside and Mikhalchik rumbled through the gravel. He came back onto the track in twelfth place, drove the fastest laps in the whole field and struggled his way up to fifth place over the remaining distance. There was no lack of fighting spirit, but the disappointment was obvious after the great practice. “It was my mistakes,” he admitted. “I’m sorry for my team and also for me.”
However, Mikhalchik did not let it get him down and took revenge for the failed morning in race 2. After the first few metres, he caught Leandro Mercado, who had started from first place, took the lead and made a neat getaway. He extended his lead over the chasers to over ten seconds at times and secured victory in commanding fashion. “That in race 2 was the real Ilya Mikhalchik,” he said after the victory. “Despite the first race, I was confident and knew I could win after dominating the practice sessions. In the second race I felt good and the bike had real fire. So, anyone who wants to go fast should ride a BMW. Thanks to my team for doing a great job, I’m happy to be back. On the way we continue.”
Philipp Steinmayr didn’t get to ride much during the IDM’s four-week summer break. But at the Schleizer weekend, the Austrian showed himself to be well recovered and mixed in the top ten right from the start. The man from the BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team started the first race from 8th place and finished in 8th place. In the second race, which started for him from the second row due to the reverse grid procedure, things got even better and Steinmayr grabbed 7th place.
“Although the first race was actually even better,” the Austrian described his Schleiz weekend afterwards. “I couldn’t quite keep up with the leaders, but I was able to close the gap that was opened up by Bastien Mackels’ crash. But unfortunately, I had a small problem from the middle of the race. A screw on the rear wheel of the brake disc had come out a bit. This screw then touched the swingarm and caused a loud squeaking noise. You could even hear it in the stands. As I didn’t know exactly where the noise was coming from, I was a bit more careful for two laps, which unfortunately opened up the gap to the front again.”
“The start of the second race was good,” he continues, “and so was the first corner. But I struggled a bit with the conditions as the race went on. There was an extreme wind in places and in the Seng there was already a lot of binder on the asphalt after the oil spill from the sidecar. Of course, everyone had to get over it. At the beginning you could feel the sand, but at the end it was no longer a problem. When Mackels, Patrick Hobelsberger and Hannes Soomer came along, things got pretty rough. But all in all, I am satisfied with the results.”
Kamil Krzemien remained true to himself at the Schleizer Dreieck. In practice, the Pole struggled a bit with his BMW and had to settle for 17th place on the grid. But in the first race, the youngster could be relied on as always and he added a lot of speed. He made up eight places over the distance of 18 laps and secured another top ten result in his still short IDM vita with ninth place.
The second race started well for the BMW driver from the second row and after a successful start he was even able to fight his way up to third place. Over the distance, the young Pole was not quite able to match the pace of the first chasing group but kept a cool head and took the points for 11th place in the end. “On Friday, I still felt quite good in practice,” said Krzemien, describing his weekend. “I also had good memories of Schleiz, I like this kind of track layout. On Saturday I could also improve, but it wasn’t good enough to get a good grid position out of it.”
For Sunday, Krzemien’s team turned the BMW upside down again and made some changes to the set-up. “It worked,” he reported, “even my rocket start worked again. I was really happy with the performance in race 1. Then I was less happy with race 2. I didn’t have the same pace as in the morning. I had a good start again, but due to a few overtaking manoeuvres by drivers who were pushing hard, I was off the ideal line from time to time and lost contact with the group. I did my best, and the level in the IDM is really high this year, so I am quite happy with the results. Now we focus on the races at the Red Bull Ring.”
Max Schmidt had put up a valiant fight in the first three IDM weekends, earning himself a place in the top ten of the IDM Superbike rankings. In the Friday practice sessions at the Schleizer Dreieck, things didn’t go too badly for the up-and-coming rider, for whom it wasn’t his first visit to the hilly track in Thuringia, according to his own account. “In the qualifying it just didn’t work out with a good lap,” said Schmidt. “Then I was stuck at the back in 12th place.”
The BMW driver was not granted a top ten result with 11th and 12th places in the two races on Sunday. “I had a problem on the first lap,” he described after race 1, “so I lost places and the gap to the guys in front was there. I drove as fast as the riders in front of me, so the gap didn’t get bigger, but it didn’t get smaller either. Then Patrick Hobelsberger came by and sent me wide. After that I just tried to do my thing.” It was a similar picture in race 2. After a good start, Schmidt was sent to the outside in the turmoil of the first corner. “I struggled to overtake,” said Schmidt, “I still had a couple of good fights with my teammate Kamil Krzemien. Yes, it’s true, I had expected more. Schleiz is not my strongest track, but I like it quite well.”
Bálint Kovács was pleased that IDM Superbike finally got underway again in Schleiz. “The break has done me good,” the Hungarian told the local press. “I feel absolutely recovered and am in good shape. I know the track well and love it, having won the Suzuki Cup in 2019 with pole position and the best lap time, as well as two race wins. There is still a long way to go to achieve the same in the IDM, but I am confident.”
In the two qualifying sessions, the rookie rider still struggled a little and had to settle for 15th on the grid. In the first race, too, Kovács had to work hard. The result was 13th place. The Hungarian had also booked 13th place for the second race. Not quite what he had hoped for, but he could once again credit points to his IDM account. “I admit,” said Kovács, who has always been in the top ten so far, “I had expected more in Schleiz. But it was a pretty tough weekend overall. I just didn’t have the right feeling.” But the Hungarian is not letting the rather meagre yield deter him from his path of establishing himself in the top ten of the IDM Superbike.
“I did a good job on the first three IDM weekends,” he stresses, “I’ll take that with me as good memories. Especially going into the next race weekend, so I can do better again at the Red Bull Ring.”
The BCC-alpha-Van Zon-BMW team has just over a week to prepare for the next race. Then it’s off to the Red Bull Ring in southern Austria, which is also home to Formula 1 and MotoGP.