German sports-car star Martin Tomczyk enjoying IMSA, first taste of American racing
Just prior to the one-hour mark in the April 8 Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix on April 8 at Long Beach, Martin Tomczyk steered the No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM into the race lead.
While the first two races of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season had been a struggle for the two-car BMW Team RLL team, it was no surprise to see an M6 at the front of the field. After all, the BMW team earned its second consecutive Long Beach pole last year, and Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner won in 2015 driving a BMW.
However, some fans might not have expected Tomczyk to be the driver to take the lead. Some might have been asking, “Who is Martin Tomczyk?”
It’s a fair question: This is the 35-year-old German’s first year competing in the WeatherTech Championship, sharing the No. 24 BMW with American co-driver John Edwards. In fact, it’s his first year racing in the United States at all.
The Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown weekend (May 4-6) at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is next up for Tomczyk.
“This year in Daytona was the first time when I hit an American racetrack,” Tomczyk said. “I never did it before. I’ve got the full program this year, so it’s really great.”
It’s really great for anybody to race for a factory team in GTLM. But how did he do it?
Well, he won the 2011 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) championship, one of the world’s most competitive touring car series featuring race cars from German manufacturers. It was the best season of a 16-year DTM career for Tomczyk, who parlayed the 2011 DTM title into a BMW factory ride in 2012. At the end of last year, he decided to try something else in 2017 and received a terrific opportunity from BMW, the same manufacturer he raced for in DTM.
Martin Tomczyk’s first race on an American racetrack was at the 2017 24 Hours at Daytona.
“I really looked forward to go over here when I got the offer to do IMSA, especially after I retired from DTM, because I was not happy anymore in DTM,” Tomczyk says. “Everything got too technical, too political, and actually, you do not have that much here in the States. It’s more pure racing, why I actually drive race cars.”
For nearly 30 minutes in the 100-minute Long Beach race, Tomczyk held the overall race lead due to a pit strategy anomaly with the faster Prototypes. He still led in GTLM after the leading Prototypes restored the traditional order, and Tomczyk appeared to be headed toward a victory when a temporary electrical issue dramatically slowed the No. 24.
Tomczyk and Edwards wound up seventh. However, despite that disappointment, Tomczyk is enjoying his first season of GTLM racing.
“It’s challenging to match yourself as a European driver — especially when you did 16 years of DTM — just to come here and try to follow the flow and do the best out of it,” he said. “On the racetracks here, there’s great drivers, great cars on the track, so the racing is not that much different. It’s just the side effects, all the surrounding things are what’s new for me.”
Those “side effects” include the open paddock and fan-friendly environment at every WeatherTech Championship event. He’s a big fan of it.
“It’s quite open for the fans,” Tomczyk said. “It’s a big, big group, and it seems like a big family. I think that’s the way to go for the future of motorsport. It’s changing and you have to go with the flow, and the flow says you have to be more open, more friendly, more family-like, and that is what we are doing here in the States.
“Nevertheless, the racing is something different on the track. I mean, a competitor is a competitor, and you try to beat him. But off the track, it’s more open and more friendly.”