BMW M4 GT3

The new BMW M4 GT3 is out… sort of. It’s been revealed. A few times. Or at least a few different places. I got to see it and was impressed by it. I figured I’d do the obvious and write a column about seeing it, but then I figured it might be better to hear it from BMW CCA member and race car driver Samantha Tan. Catching up with her was a challenge, so the process quickly morphed into a “What’s Samantha been up to?” exercise in addition to getting her take on the new M4 GT3.

So you’re in luck.

You get her insight instead of mine. Well, also mine, but you’re still in luck. And, based on the crowds that encircled the car during Monterey Car Week and at Tan’s own car reveal event at [Space] by BMW in Los Angeles, you might like the insight, too (and her Call of Duty reference).

First, some quick background on Samantha Tan. She’s a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine, 24 years old, and co-owner of ST Racing, which won back-to-back team championships in 2019 and 2020 in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX in the Pro-Am and Silver classes. She can also play a mean piano. Not while driving, however.

In those previous seasons, the team has primarily raced the M4 GT4 and currently runs the same in both the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX U.S. circuit and the International 24 Hour Series throughout Europe. Tan has raced at—and won—the 24H at Dubai, the 6H at Abu Dhabi, and 24H at Barcelona, and raced at tracks named after our favorite BMW colors like Yas Marina and the Hockenheimring (okay, maybe the colors are named after the tracks—you’re paying attention, right?).

Upon seeing the M4 GT3, Tan and ST Racing were definitely paying attention, so much so that the team ordered two of them for the upcoming season. The M4 GT3 is the top of the range model for the BMW M Motorsport program, replacing the M6 GT3, which also means new competition for ST Racing this coming season.

BMW compares the M4 GT3 to the outgoing M6 GT3, stating “its biggest improvements compared to its predecessor are in three areas: drivability, cost efficiency, and operation.” ST Racing can appreciate those differences but is also comparing the M4 GT3 to the M4 GT4 it will be replacing for the team.

Tan first saw the car in November last year at a BMW Group production facility in Germany. “They also did a rendering with our ST Racing Starry Night livery,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘that’s a beautiful piece of machinery and I cannot wait to drive it!’”

The ST Racing Team running at Road America recently. [Photo courtesy Victor Chadarov.]

She’s still waiting to take delivery in November, but the intervening period has been anything but boring. Over the past month, Tan was in Monterey before hosting the Los Angeles M4 GT3 reveal, and then headed off to Road America in Wisconsin to support her team. All of that was before she traveled to Spain, where she and her team won their class in the 24H Barcelona at Circuit Barcelona Catalunya.

“We were invited to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion by BMW to showcase our championship-winning race car,” Tan said. “Monterey Car Week is one of the biggest car events in the world! It was incredible getting to attend the Rolex Reunion at Laguna Seca and to see such a wide variety of old and new race cars. In fact, our Starry Night M4 GT4 was on display at the BMW tent, right next to the all-new BMW M4 GT3! I was ecstatic to be able to participate in the North American unveiling of the car in Monterey alongside some of BMW’s factory drivers, and to see the car being warmly welcomed by the motorsport community.

Samantha Tan and John Edwards check out the new M4 GT3 at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

“I’ve been working with BMW USA on a few campaigns this year, including their Lunar New Year campaign and International Women’s Day event at Thermal. When they found out that we were receiving two M4 GT3s, it just made sense to host a small, fun event to celebrate at [SPACE] by BMW! The artwork and design that went into curating that space (no pun intended) was amazing, and I think it was the perfect backdrop for the unveiling. I was joined by some of the members of my race team, family, and friends, and I also got to meet one of the designers of the M4 GT3! It was a phenomenal event and I can’t thank BMW enough for their support.”

Night shift with ST Racing during the recent class win at 24H Barcelona. [Photo courtesy Sean Krinik.]

Also phenomenal has been ST Racing’s season, including winning the recent 24H Barcelona, just a week after the Los Angeles event. “I was so happy to be on the top step again with my racing family! It was an incredible effort by every single person on the team to execute a flawless run at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya! The team gave us an amazing car and even though it was everyone’s first time at the track, I think all the drivers drove very consistently to take the GT4 class win and finish twelfth overall. I really can’t thank Jon [Miller], Nick [Wittmer], and Chandler [Hull] enough for their amazing pace during the night. In total, I ran only about 4.5 hours after a little mishap in my first stint that caused me to retire early but I was back up and running for my night stint a few hours later. I think we absolutely nailed it and the results prove exactly that!”

The ST Racing team celebrates another P1 finish at the 24H Barcelona. [Photo courtesy Sean Krinik.]

The win in Spain has the team in contention for four championships: the overall GT championship, GT4 class championship, Ladies Cup, and Junior Cup. They are currently first in three of these titles and five points behind the leader in the overall GT standings.

While those prospects definitely have her excited, so does the new M4 GT3. “Everything about the car impresses!” Tan explained. “The aggressive look, the added downforce, cost reduction of parts (every racer’s dream!), the meticulous decision-making that was need to create a car easier to work with during endurance-type races, the extra 170 horsepower in comparison to the GT4, the forged carbon steering wheel that you can put straight onto your sim—I could go on and on!” For a quick peek at the cloaked car heading for the reveal, click here.

Tom Plucinsky and Samantha Tan discuss the new BMW M4 GT3 at the Laguna Seca reveal.

It’s not just driving a different car, but driving with a different level of drivers, too. “There are more factory drivers competing in GT3 and it has that level of prestige, so it attracts more total competitors,” Tan explained. “Since GT3 is the top level of sportscar racing, I expect everything to be more difficult. It’s like going from hard mode to veteran mode in Call of Duty!

“The car also has more advanced technology and aerodynamics, so I expect that the car will be easier to drive but obviously way faster. It’s time to put all those lessons of carrying momentum and aggressive braking to the test.”

Tan will also have a year of familiarity with these tracks when she attacks them next season in the GT3. “We are confirmed running in the Creventic 24H Series again. Same schedule with the same iconic tracks, but we’ll be doing it all over again in our BMW M4 GT3! We are also debating the possibility of running SRO GT World Challenge America in 2022,” she added. “We will most likely run our M4 GT4 in Pirelli GT4 America and the M2 CS Racing in TC America. But if we don’t participate in those series, our fleet of race cars will still be available for rent for other racing events.”

What’s next for Tan and ST Racing? Although a Toronto native, her University of California, Irvine experience might have led to ST Racing establishing a shop in Southern California. Beyond that, there are other excellent aspirations ahead. “In 2023, we would like to complete the 24H Daytona and compete in IMSA. The next goal after that would be to compete in Le Mans in 2024. Personally, I want to be the first Asian woman to win. I think seeing that success and representation is so important because maybe the girls growing up and pursuing careers in male-dominated industries will feel more confident in their ability to do so.”

“I also recently became an Ambassador for the Asian American Pacific Islander Victory Alliance which works to elevate AAPI issues, provide education, and build AAPI political power across the country,” she added. “By joining this organization, I hope to help make a meaningful impact within my community outside of racing.”

We are looking forward to it, Samantha! Wave at us in the new GT3 on your way to continued success!—Kyle van Hoften

[Photos courtesy Kyle van Hoften unless otherwise noted.]

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