Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi, driving the #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE, won the GTLM class in the IMSA WeatherTech Series race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 9. It was the second consecutive victory for the duo, who had taken the first-ever win for the M8 GTE at VIR just three weeks earlier. Their teammates, John Edwards and Jesse Krohn in the #24 M8 GTE, led until they had to pit for a splash of fuel with less than eight minutes remaining in the two-hour-and-forty-minute race.
Sims had qualified #25 fifth on the grid and Krohn had qualified #24 eighth for Sunday’s race. The two cars moved up just after the start as an incident at the drop of the green flag took out two GTLM contenders, the #911 Porsche and the #66 Ford GT, which were victims of a spin by a prototype that was grazed by a competitor at the start.
Then, just after the track went green, it went back to yellow for an incident set off by a spin by one of the Lexus GTD cars; Bill Auberlen in the #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 was forced into the wall when he was rear-ended by another car that was caught up in the incident. He made it back to the pits, and somehow got out on the lead lap in the back of the pack when the track finally went green. He ran a strong stint, making it all the way to second in class, but a hit from another car just before he was about to pit to hand off to Robby Foley damaged the car’s transmission cooler. It was forced to retire from the race.
In GTLM, the #24 BMW took the lead late in the first hour of the race, staying out when other GTLM cars pitted. Krohn came in to hand off to Edwards just before the pits closed for another yellow. Sims pitted soon after, handing the car over to De Phillippi with about 1¼ hours left in the race.
The two BMWs moved into the lead when the GTLM Corvettes pitted; #24 led and #25 was second for much of the final hour. Edwards had to pit for fuel near the end, but De Phillippi managed to conserve enough fuel to stay out and hold on for the win. The #912 Porsche driven by Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber, running a fuel strategy like the winning BMW’s, was second, the #3 Corvette driven by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen was third, and Edwards brought #24 home fourth after the late stop.
Car #25’s win was the second of the weekend for BMW at WeatherTech Raceway. In Saturday’s two-hour CTSC race, Nick Galante and Devin Jones took their fourth Street Tuner win of the season, pulling away at the end after a long battle with the second-place #73 MINI driven by Mat Pombo and Mike LaMarra. The win strengthens the lead of Galante and Jones in the ST drivers’ championship and moves BMW into the ST manufacturers’ lead with one race remaining in the season. The #81 car ran a special “Racing to End Alzheimer’s” livery that carried names of people affected by the disease; donations from fans who provided the names were matched by corporate sponsors.
The season finales for both the WeatherTech and CTSC series will be run at Road Atlanta on October 10-12.—Brian Morgan