The #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE driven by Connor De Phillippi, Bruno Spengler, and Philipp Eng finished second in the GTLM class in a dramatic 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20, and their teammates John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, and Augusto Farfus finished third.
Less than ten minutes before the finish De Phillippi was chasing the class-leading #3 Corvette driven by Antonio Garcia, and was being chased by the #79 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Mathieu Jaminet. The #24 BMW, with Krohn at the controls, was running fourth a lap down, having recovered quickly from a pit fire that set the car back. Then De Phillippi collided with the Vette, sending it to the pits with damage that would drop it to fourth in class, and slowing the BMW enough to enable Jaminet, who managed to avoid the incident, to catch him. When De Phillippi was called in to serve a penalty for his role in the incident, the Porsche, a privateer entry that Jaminet shared with Matt Campbell and Cooper MacNeil, took the lead and went on to win by a comfortable margin; it was the fourth consecutive Sebring win for Porsche. De Phillippi was able to retain second after serving his penalty, and the #24 BMW was able to move into third, ahead of the damaged Corvette that Garcia shared with Nicky Catsburg and Jordan Taylor. The #4 Corvette driven by Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, and Alexander Sims struggled with mechanical issues during the race; it finished fifth in class.
The #3 Corvette had led early, then fell back because of a spin and pit road problems. It returned to the lead late in the race, and held off the #25 BMW until the incident. Both BMWs were quick, and both ran at or near the front of the pack.
The finish left De Phillippi, Spengler, and Eng leading the Michelin Endurance Cup GTLM driver standings going into the team’s next race at Watkins Glen in June; Team RLL is running only the series’ four long enduros at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Road Atlanta.
De Phillippi said, “I think we can be really proud of our performance today. We knew we had to maximize literally everything into this car and this is exactly what we did. We put ourselves in the position to fight at the end. I could taste the win, tried to battle with the leader. I saw an opportunity and went for it but it didn’t work. We still came home second and third for BMW. It’s great to be on the podium. It was nice to come back here and show that we have the speed. It’s a good result and good points for BMW and now we will try to get the win at the six-hour race.”
The #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 driven by Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, and Dillon Mahaveer went behind the wall less than two hours into the race with an alternator problem. The car returned to the track, but the long trip to the garage took it out of contention for the GTD class win. In the end it finished eighth in class; the GTD win went to the #99 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Lars Kern, and Zach Robichon.
The Turner team is running the entire WeatherTech Series season. The next race is at Mid-Ohio on May 14–16.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport.]