The new M8 GTEs ran their first ever race at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the IMSA WeatherTech Series season opener, on January 27 and 28. BMW Team RLL launched its season with two of the new cars. The #24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE driven by John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, and Augusto Farfus finished seventh in the GTLM class, while the #25 Team RLL M8 GTE, driven by Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, and Philipp Eng finished ninth.
— BMW USA (@BMWUSA) January 28, 2018
Turner Motorsport’s #96 M6 GT3 driven by Kens Klingmann, Cameron Lawrence, Martin Tomczyk, Mark Kvamme, and Don Yount, finished fourteenth in the GTD class.
The two new M8 GTEs survived the tough 24-hour race, but it was an uphill battle. The M8s qualified in the back of the GTLM pack; they were over a second off the pace in both qualifying and the race. After the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test days in January, BMW asked IMSA for a balance of performance adjustment. They received a 10 kg weight reduction, a boost increase, and an increase in fuel capacity. But, believing the adjustments were not sufficient, BMW issued a statement in advance of the race indicating that they had not been treated fairly. Earlier, (as reported here), BMW indicated that it had lost months of testing because the sanctioning body made them change the car’s aerodynamics after they were well into development.
Car #24 ran a relatively trouble-free race, but #25 went to the garage on the three occasions. The right front tire blew out at speed on the oval after it was cut by debris. Auberlen was able to control the car and get it to the garage, where damage from the incident was repaired. The car returned once again for suspension issues believed to be related to the tire failure, and then went to the garage a third time for a broken wing mount.
The GTLM class win went to Ryan Briscoe, Richard GTEsWestbrook, and Scott Dixon in the #67 Ganassi Racing Ford GT. The #66 Ganassi Ford GT driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, and Sebastien Bourdais finished second; the Fords dominated the class.
— Turner Motorsport (@Turnermotrsport) January 30, 2018
The Turner M6 GT3 fell back after contact with a tire wall and subsequent trips to the pit road to ensure that the hood was closed. Eventually the white hood that went with the team’s new white Liqui Moly sponsor livery was replaced with a hood in the old familiar Turner yellow and blue colors. The class win went to Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera, and Rik Breukers in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
This year’s Rolex 24 was with run with only four full-course yellow flag periods. The tremendous amount of time under green enabled the overall winners, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Filipe Albuquerque in an Action Express Cadillac DPi Prototype, to run a record 808 laps on their way to victory. Rain expected near the end of the race did not materialize, but a brief downpour on Saturday night caught everyone by surprise.
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge enduro run the day before the start of the Rolex 24 was a better race for BMW fans, as reported here. Nick Galante and Devin Jones won the Street Tuner class in a BimmerWorld 328i and BMW’s new M4 GT4 customer cars finished second and fourth in the Grand Sport class; James Clay and Tyler Cooke were second in the #82 M4 GT4 finished second in class and Mike Vess, Jason Hart, and Toby Grahovec finished fourth in the #72 Classic BMW/Vess Energy M4 GT4.
BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt said, “Our BMW M8 GTE successfully completed its baptism of fire here at Daytona. To finish such a tough debut race with both cars after 24 hours without major technical problems is something we can be more than proud of. Everything has been said with regards to the reasons for the gap in performance compared to the competition. The car couldn’t show its true potential yet. That’s why BMW and IMSA will continue their productive and open talks and have agreed to find an appropriate BoP assessment for the upcoming events starting with Sebring, allowing the BMW M8 GTE to show its true performance for the benefit of the series, BMW and all of our fans.”
“As a matter of fact we sent a great GT car into action that holds huge potential for the future. Everyone at BMW Team RLL and at BMW Motorsport gave their all to get the most out of this race under these difficult conditions. In the coming race appearances we are set to be stronger, and we want to fight for top positions. The BMW M8 GTE has got all it takes to do so in any case. Many team members in Munich and at BMW Team RLL in North America have worked very hard in preparation for this race over the past months. My compliments go to everyone involved. This was an impressive team effort displaying a lot of passion. I’m particularly happy about the strong debut race of the BMW M4 GT4 in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The fact that our teams managed to finish second and fourth in the first race of the season shows that we are absolutely on the right track with this car.”
Both the WeatherTech Series and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series run again at Sebring on March 14-17.