The #25 and #24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTEs finished seventh and eighth in the GTLM class in the two-hour-forty-minute IMSA WeatherTech Series race at Virginia International Raceway on August 25. The #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 finished eleventh in the GTD class.
The highlight of the weekend for BMW came on Saturday, when Mike Skeen and Ari Balogh in the #80 BimmerWorld M4 GT4 finished third overall and third in Grand Sport in the two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
The Team RLL M8s were never a factor in the WeatherTech Series race, qualifying seventh and eighth and running there for the entire distance. Tom Blomqvist and Connor de Phillippi were seventh in #25, while John Edwards and Jesse Krohn were eighth in #24. Last year, the Team RLL cars had finished first and third at VIR. This year Porsches finished first and second; Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy were first in #911, while Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor were second in #912.
Team RLL Technical Director Brandon Fry said, “We came here with high hopes after last year but we struggled all weekend. We just could not find the performance to battle with the rest of the GTLM field. We have a lot to look at to make adjustments to turn things around and have a better race at Laguna.”
Robby Foley quickly moved up from sixth on the GTD grid to fourth in the #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3. Unfortunately the car was involved in a multi-car incident very early in the race and had to pit to replace a flat right rear tire. As the team had to come in when the pits were not open, it had to return to serve a stop-and-hold penalty. Then, the right rear shock failed, sending the car back to the pits once more. Despite the best efforts of Foley and Bill Auberlen, the car finished eleventh, three laps down from the winning Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
In Saturday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race Skeen and Balogh in the #80 M4 GT4 in third were the best BMW finishers in a race won by Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli in a Mustang GT4. Henry Schmitt and Greg Liefooghe finished sixth in the #88 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4. Devin Jones and James Clay, title contenders in the #82 BimmerWorld M4 GT4, experienced a setback at VIR as Jones was hit and taken out late in the race. It was classified nineteenth, and Clay and Jones dropped from second to third in the drivers’ points standings.
Both the WeatherTech and Michelin Pilot series see action again at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 13–15.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]