BMW enjoys banner day at VIR
BMW enjoys banner day at VIR
BMW has been waiting for this day since it announced it would campaign the new M8 GTE this year.
Aided in significant part by a strategy to double stint his set of Michelin tires at the end of the race, Alexander Sims brought the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE home to the checkered flag to win the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.
The Englishman is in his second full-time season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and has quickly learned the rigors of the intensely competitive GT Le Mans class.
Sims helped the BMW Team RLL outfit decide it made more sense to stay out on their existing set of tires for two reasons.
The first was that the current ones were already up to temperature and wearing at the normal rate. The second was to mitigate risk of any issues on the final stop.
Co-driver Connor De Phillippi explained the call from his vantage point on the pit box.
“I didn’t hear the call until last second in the pit lane,” said the young American. “The call the whole time was going to be tires, and Alex said no – the tires were still hooked up and holding on well.
“We tried to minimize all risk. We thought the degradation would hold up. What’s the risk of putting on new tires? Maybe something happens. So we said, keep the tires on and only take fuel. It worked out.”
Sims had needed to recover from an earlier incident in the race when he contacted a GT Daytona class Lexus, and receive a drive-through penalty. Alas, he felt confident enough to make the call from behind the wheel.
“What an eventful race. Connor did a great job at the start to get us up to P3. I got in and raced past the Corvette, I tried to get by Dirk, but I made a mistake, committed too much and lost control, unfortunately hitting a Lexus. We received a drive-through penalty which I thought was the right decision, it was my fault,” Sims said.
“At that point I thought the race was over but amazingly there was a safety car that brought us back into contention. From that point on, our pace was really good. We were strong and able to race with the guys around us and yeah, for the last stint, the Michelin tires held on fantastically well to the point we could double stint them at a track that is notoriously hard on tires such as VIR. Great strategy by the Rahal team and BMW and great pace from the car, the M8 GTE’s first win is very sweet to get.”
While Sims won three races in GTLM last year co-driving with Bill Auberlen, De Phillippi has now joined the ranks of GTLM class winners.
It’s another new achievement for the 25-year-old in his sports car career, having also won the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, an ADAC GT Masters title and last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans in GTD. He won his first race with BMW earlier this year in a VLN race.
“Another box checked off!” he laughed. “There are plenty more goals to keep trucking towards. I’m hoping to be with this BMW family for a long time. I’m a new guy, but they’ve treated me like a veteran.”
BMW added to the maiden win for the new car with another podium for its sister car. John Edwards and Jesse Krohn finished a season-best third in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. It ended a rough patch of form and luck for this crew.
The No. 24 car ran second most of the opening race and led in the middle stint of the race before making its final pit stop. Krohn hunted down Jan Magnussen’s No. 3 Corvette, but the young Finn was unable to pass the experienced Dane.
Krohn, who scored his first GTLM podium, said he gave it his all but didn’t have enough to match Magnussen’s poise and pace.
“Jan is a machine. He has so much experience,” Krohn said. “The only way to pass is if he makes a mistake, and today he didn’t make one. To be honest I didn’t have a chance.
“I’m super happy for my team, BMW Motorsport and RLL to get this double podium. They deserved 1-2, but I couldn’t deliver.”
BMW and RLL have now won with four different types of cars: the M3, Z4, M6 and M8 within the GTLM class since 2009.
“Great team effort today! Everybody did an excellent job!” said Brandon Fry, BMW Team RLL Technical/Racing Operations Director.
“We had a good pit stop strategy and the drivers did an awesome job. This is something we’ve been working towards for a while and we have had some bad luck go our way but everything finally came together today. So, good job by everybody. Super proud of the team!”