This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was among the most dramatic in recent memory, culminating in a BMW class victory in GTLM thanks to a last-minute pass for first before the red flag flew for the second time.
But with multiple nail-biting passes, spins, and lost aero components toward the end of the race, it was also one of the most entertaining—especially to more than 100 members in attendance at the BMW CCA corral along the infield lake, who were able to dive right into the action from Thursday to Sunday through the entire race weekend.
To experience an IMSA race weekend properly, it’s worth living as the teams do, starting with quiet Thursday practice sessions as the crews dial in the cars. For BMW fans, there was also the opportunity to explore the paddock of the inaugural Michelin Pilot Challenge, the race on Friday that included the new addition of Turner Motorsport (piloted by Robby Foley and the father-daughter driver team, Bruce and Sydney McKee) in an M4 GT4, as well as returning competitors from last year like Classic BMW and BimmerWorld, the latter including at Daytona Aurora Straus, driver for last year’s ST Racing M4 GT4.
While fans can also watch the action in the BMW Team RLL garages, only BMW CCA members got an exclusive meet-and-greet with drivers of both the 24 and 25 M8 GTE, including racing legend Alex Zanardi, whose charm and enthusiasm for the sport made this year’s gathering a meeting to remember. Our members also got the chance to watch driver change practice, made even cooler by the gymnastics required as the team switched Zanardi’s hand-control-equipped steering wheel with that of fellow drivers Jesse Krohn, Chaz Mostert, and John Edwards.
For the race itself, BMW CCA guests enjoyed dinner, drinks, and guest appearances at the (thankfully rain-protected) pit lane hospitality, complete with a view of the start-finish banking and Turn 1, which proved to be one of the most dramatic turns in the race as the rain ramped up starting at dawn on Sunday. The front-row seats culminated in the opportunity, at long last, to see a BMW on top in Gatorade Victory Lane as the #25 car of Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, and Colton Herta took home a class win in GTLM.
Check out the BMW CCA Facebook page for more photos of the experience, and be sure to keep an eye out for next year’s corral opportunities. Congratulations to BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL on a fantastic race! —David Rose