Connor De Phillippi and Bruno Spengler in the #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE won the GTLM class in the six-hour IMSA WeatherTech Series race at Road Atlanta on September 5. Their teammates John Edwards and Jesse Krohn finished third in car #24. It was Team RLL’s second win of the season, following the #24 car’s win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. The win was the first in IMSA competition for long-time BMW factory racer Spengler, who joined Team RLL this season.
Both BMWs were front runners throughout the race, running with the class-leading #911 Porsche driven by Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki. Car #25 took the lead after the final round of pit stops and held on for the win, with a 4.383-second margin over the second-place #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin. The #24 car was third, ahead of the #911 Porsche that fell to fourth in the last hour of the race.
De Phillippi said, “Today everyone executed perfectly. It was a team effort. We didn’t have the fastest car over one lap but we had a mistake-free race. The race was fast-paced and made for an exciting battle from flag-to-flag. Bruno did a great job on a track that was new for him, the team gave a flawless execution. I’m just really proud of these guys for the job we did. We finally got a win and we have been deserving it for a while now.”
In the GTD class, a mechanical problem sent the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW driven by Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, and Dillon Machevern to the garage for a long stop. They finished eleventh in class.
Going into the next race at Mid-Ohio on September 25–27, De Phillippi and Spengler are third in GTLM driver points, and Edwards and Krohn stand fifth. Combined with their win at Daytona, the finish for Edwards and Krohn at Road Atlanta keeps them in the lead of the Michelin Endurance Cup that includes the four long endurance races of the season; the other two races will be the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in October and the 12 Hours of Sebring in November. BMW is second in GTLM manufacturer points, moving within eight points of Chevrolet.
On the day after the six-hour WeatherTech race, the Michelin Pilot Challenge series ran a four-hour race at Road Atlanta. The best BMW finishers in the race, won by Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis in a Camaro, were Dillon Machevern and Nick Galante in the #80 BimmerWorld M4 GT4 in sixth. The #82 BimmerWorld GT4, with James Clay and Greg Liefooghe at the controls, finished ninth. The two cars led the pack in the final hour in advance of their final fuel stops. The two Turner Motorsport M4 GT4s, with #95 driven by Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley and #96 driven by Foley and Andrew Pinkerton, finished well back in the pack after both experienced tire problems. The M4 GT4s had been given an extra 20 kg of weight for the Road Atlanta race following the win by Auberlen and Foley at Road America.
Liefooghe was substituting for Devin Jones, who had suffered a broken arm and back as a result of an accident at Road America. BimmerWorld team owner James Clay told the NBC Sports broadcasters that Jones could possibly be back in the car before the end of the season.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge runs next at Mid-Ohio on September 25–27 along with the WeatherTech Series.—Brian Morgan
[Photo of Team RLL M8s courtesy BMW Motorsport. Photo of BimmerWorld M4 GT4s courtesy BimmerWorld/Halston Pitman.]