BMW Team RLL 2018 preview
BMW Team RLL 2018 preview
michelinracingusa.com will preview its GT Le Mans technical partner teams in the run up to next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Next up is BMW Team RLL, which has a lot of “new” in 2018 (note: new livery to be revealed next week).
Car: BMW M8 GTE
Drivers: 24-John Edwards/Jesse Krohn/Nicky Catsburg/Augusto Farfus, 25-Alexander Sims/Connor De Phillippi/Bill Auberlen/Philipp Eng
2017 Points Finishes: 25-2nd Place, 24-7th Place
2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona Finishes: 25 (as No. 19)-8th Place, 24-11th Place
Much is new at BMW Team RLL for the 2018 season, as this group runs its third different car in five seasons at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The first runs of the Z4 GTE (second and fourth in 2014) and M6 GTLM (fifth and 11th in 2016) will be targets for the new M8 GTE to improve upon. Add in a pair of new full-season drivers in American Connor De Phillippi and Finn Jesse Krohn, a pair of young talents graduating into the prestigious GT Le Mans class from GT3 racing largely in Europe, and the transition for BMW veteran Bill Auberlen into a new ambassador role and the ingredients of fusion are there as a season-long storyline to watch starting this weekend.
If you have followed how Bobby Rahal and his team have maneuvered in terms of equipment and driver personnel over the years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. One of the more savvy owners in racing, Rahal’s several-decade long career as both a driver and owner has netted wins and championships at the biggest races with a variety of different machinery. This team enters its 10th season with BMW in 2018 and has regularly contended for wins with each of the three previous generation cars, in the BMW M3, the Z4 and the M6. The M8 is low, slung and sleek, and will be under the microscope as the only all-new car in this class last year.
John Edwards is now the most senior member of the team from the driving lineup, even though the talented American still is only 26 years old. Edwards joined the BMW Team RLL full-season lineup in 2013, so this year will mark his sixth full-time year on-board. He’s grown incrementally throughout the process and provides adept leadership and feedback.
Alexander Sims, meanwhile, came on the U.S. scene with a fresh burst in 2017, despite being new to the country and the team. Sims gelled instantly with Auberlen as the pair won back-to-back races in Watkins Glen and Mosport, signed off Auberlen’s full-time career on top at Petit Le Mans, and finished second in the championship. Sims made waves at Daytona from a facial standpoint, sporting a new mustache, while Auberlen began his new role as a combination endurance driver and BMW brand ambassador.
They’ll be split between the pair of newcomers. De Phillippi, 25, is a talented open-wheel prodigy turned sports car star who has won as a Porsche Junior and then as an Audi GT3 driver. He’s achieved great success in the last couple years, winning a championship in Europe, the NÃ¼rburgring 24 Hours (rare for an American to do so) and last year’s Petit Le Mans. Krohn has been an occasional IMSA competitor the last two years, but has experience in BMW’s junior division, and is a GT Daytona class winner already in the series. Much like Sims and Martin Tomczyk last year, both are expected to be instant contributors to this team and this series.
A year of learning, integrating and developing lies ahead for BMW Team RLL, but rest assured this will be a group that will progress and improve as the year rolls on.