With the 12 Hours of Sebring postponed until November, fifty professional racers took to their sim racing consoles on March 21, the originally scheduled date of the 12-hour race, to participate in “IMSA Sebring SuperSaturday.” BMW factory racers swept the podium in the 90-minute race; Bruno Spengler was first, Nick Catsburg was second, and Jesse Krohn was third. All were piloting M8 GTEs. The field for the race, run in simulated GTLM cars, included twenty M8 GTEs running along with Porsche 911 RSRs, Ferrari 488 GTEs, and Ford GTs.
Robby Foley took the pole in an M8 GTE decked out in Turner Motorsport #96 livery. He took the lead at the start, but exited the race after a spin and a crash on lap one. Catsburg led early, but once Spengler passed him he stayed in front for the duration of the race. Spengler and Catsburg pulled away from the rest of the pack, dodging incidents and pitting late. Krohn ran a strong third.
The event, the first for IMSA in iRacing, featured an IMSA broadcast team led by regular IMSA announcer John Hindhaugh along with Nick Damon and Ben Constanduros. Sportscar365.com reports that over 8,800 fans tuned into the live broadcast on YouTube.
Spengler said, “I actually had goosebumps as I crossed the finish line. I am delighted with the victory, as that was a really tough race. Nicky was very quick and put me under pressure the whole time. Generally speaking, I must say that sim racing is really demanding. I have the utmost respect for the sim pros. Thank you very much to the IMSA for organizing such a great event in such difficult times.”
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Sim Racing had become a key element of BMW Motorsport strategy. BMW engineers were actively involved with prepping competitors’ cars for the Sebring event. Catsburg told IMSA that “I had a couple days of practice with Bruno and Jesse. BMW has been upping its game when it comes to sim racing. It’s so cool to come back with a 1-2-3. To give you a sense how big this was, I just got a message from Jens Marquardt, who is the BMW motorsports director. He was watching. It shows the importance of this event. Maybe it is helping us—and I really enjoyed it.”
In addition to the Sebring event, BMW racers ran in “THE RACE All-Stars Esports Battle,” run on the virtual Grand Prix circuit at Indianapolis, and the four-hour virtual opening round of the Nürburgring Endurance Series.—Brian Morgan
[Photo courtesy BMW Motorsport.]