Several of the teams that will contest the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2022 were out testing at Daytona International Speedway in Florida last week, including BMW Team RLL and Turner Motorsport, with the new M4 GT3. It was the first opportunity for BMW Team RLL drivers John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi to drive the new car, and the first outing for Turner Motorsport with the new car, though drivers Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen did get extensive seat time in the car at the 24H race at Sebring last month (more on the Turner test next week).
For BMW Team RLL, one big difference between the Sebring race last month and the Daytona test last week is that the Sebring race was done on Hankook tires that are required by the 24H series, and the Daytona test was on the Michelin tires that will be used on the car in the 2022 IMSA season. It gave the teams a chance to try out some spring and damper packages for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January, which is the first round of the 2022 IMSA season.
John Edwards has driven for BMW Team RLL since 2014 and was impressed with the M4 GT3 in his first outing. “I think we’ve got something with the M4 GT3 that’s very consistent and very forgiving,” he said. “We know that the dreaded BoP (balance of performance) is going to put everyone on the same level in terms of pace one way or the other, so the key with the car is to get something that’s drivable and consistent and I think this car has that. Some of the things you’re dealing with in the cockpit, like the ergonomics and the systems on the car, have become more driver friendly. They’re taking a complex machine but have really worked at making it easier to use.”
Edwards has spent the last few seasons driving the M8 GTE in the GTLM class, which is going away in 2022 as IMSA moves to GTD Pro and Pro-Am classes that use the same GT3-spec cars and the same tires. Edwards will miss the confidential tires they were able to race with in GTLM the most. Michelin will offer the same tire compounds to everyone in the GTD class in 2022, which is quite different from GTLM where they offered specific tires for each car. “I’d say the one thing I’ll miss the most coming out of GTLM with the M8 is the confidential tires,” he says. “Those were the trick tires that you can’t take home. What they give you is the ability to have a lot more combined loading at the trail-braking phase and the initial throttle phase, when you have all that lateral load but you’re also trying to decelerate or accelerate. That’s where those tires really helped.”
Edwards says that he didn’t notice the difference in size between the M8 GTE and the M4 GT3 much through the windshield, but he did notice it in the way the car rotates. He also noticed the power difference between the M8 GTE and the M4 GT3. “You definitely notice a lack of power compared to GTLM,” he says. “That being said, you don’t notice it that much coming out of corners. The initial acceleration up to full throttle is pretty similar, but the M4 GT3 is more limited on the top end. You don’t feel like you’re still climbing through the revs on the banking like you did with the M8, but it doesn’t really change too much how you drive the car.”
The next test for BMW Team RLL will be at the “Roar Before the 24” test at Daytona, which will be held the week before the Rolex 24 at Daytona season opener in late January.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Sam Cobb/BMW.]