De Phillippi, Sims push BMW closer to first M8 win

May 7, 2018

De Phillippi, Sims push BMW closer to first M8 win

May 7, 2018

Second place may have been a hard result for BMW Team RLL to swallow in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge.

But for the second time in the last three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, BMW could afford to be happy with coming up just shy of the victory.

The new BMW M8 GTE instantly meshed with the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, allowing the Hilliard, Ohio-based team a chance to showcase all of its assets.

With a mix of great speed, great strategy and great fight-back, BMW Team RLL nearly got a hometown win on the board.

John Edwards scored the pole position, which made BMW the first manufacturer in GT Le Mans to win two poles this year.

But unfortunately his race got delayed before it ever had a chance to really get going. Edwards had to take evasive action to avoid a Prototype in front off him coming out of Turn 6, took to the grass, and fell from the lead to fifth place. Neither he nor teammate Jesse Krohn could recover from there, and they finished seventh.

The sister BMW of Alexander Sims moved into third place by the end of the first lap, and trailed the pair of Porsche 911 RSRs for the rest of his first stint.

Sims handed off to De Phillippi at the No. 25 BMW’s first pit stop, just over one hour into the standard length two-hour, 40-minute race.

Shortly after taking over, De Phillippi got a bit wide exiting Turn 1, and fell back from fourth where he exited after the pit stops down to sixth, ahead of the delayed No. 24 BMW and No. 4 Corvette C7.R.

“On the first part of my first stint, I didn’t expect it to be so dirty offline,” De Phillippi explained. “I hadn’t gotten my new tires up to temp yet, so I got offline, and made a mistake exit of 1. It was a frustrating start, but that allowed us to change the strategy and begin to recover.”

What followed was a strategic masterstroke from the BMW Team RLL pit wall to figure out a way to get back the lost track position.

De Phillippi ran longer than anyone else on his first stint, the middle stint of the race, which meant he pitted last of the GTLM cars for their second stops.

This left the Californian, who now lives in North Carolina, with a fresher set of Michelin tires for the final 35 minutes.

He’d banked enough time while running to the end of the fuel stint to build a 37-second gap to second place, and 47 seconds to third place. This ensured he’d lose the lead, but come out no worse than second when he pitted.

On Lap 93, De Phillippi stood 9.5 seconds back of race leader Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche. Within the first four laps, he’d cut nearly four seconds out to trim it to 5.6 seconds.

The gap fell below four seconds, to 3.8 seconds, on Lap 101. It got as close as 1.1 seconds on Lap 110, as De Phillippi worked through traffic and pressed Vanthoor where he could.

In clean air, the Porsche appeared to have a slight advantage – as they did most of the weekend except for qualifying – but the BMW was incredibly close.

De Phillippi regretted missing out on his maiden GTLM class victory, but was pleased with his and the team’s recovery in Mid-Ohio.

“Of course you always want to win, but you’re happy to recover back up to second,” he said. “This team absolutely nailed the strategy. We had a good out lap (on the second stop), kept them behind, created a gap with traffic and put my head down to go get the Porsche.

“Those guys are always calculating as we go along,” he added. “We’re told when to push, when to attack and when to save the tires. There is so much strategy. Thank goodness we have so many good people under the tent!”

After four races, Sims and De Phillippi sit sixth among driver pairings in points. But they are only 12 points back of the lead in class, which reveals the tightly bunched nature of the GTLM grid for all four manufacturers.

De Phillippi also had the fastest 20-lap race average in class, according to data calculated by full-time programmer and 3GT Racing Lexus driver David Heinemeier Hansson. The Dane known easier as “DHH” revealed “CDP’s” top times after crunching the numbers post-race.

And the fun won’t stop here for the BMW Team RLL contingent.

De Phillippi, Sims, and Krohn will share one ROWE BMW M6 GT3 at this weekend’s upcoming 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. De Phillippi became only the second American driver in history to win that race last year, and will look to defend that title this weekend. De Phillippi scored his first win as a BMW factory driver in the VLN race at the Nürburgring last month, co-driving with Krohn.

Edwards is also in action at the Nürburgring, and he’ll share a car with Richard Westbrook and Nicky Catsburg. Martin Tomczyk, who raced for BMW Team RLL in IMSA last year and moves to the FIA World Endurance Championship this year with BMW Team MTEK, will bounce between the two cars.

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