The last race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was at Road Atlanta in mid-November, but Turner Motorsport driver Robby Foley has been just as busy in the offseason as he was during the season. Foley competed in the 24H Series race at Sebring in late November with the M4 GT3, then just ten days later was headed to the little-known Almeria track in southern Spain on an invite from BMW Motorsport. A week later, Foley was back in the U.S. to test the new Turner M4 GT3 at Daytona.
The test at the Almeria circuit was a chance for BMW Motorsport to evaluate young drivers who have been successful in the M6 GT3, which Foley drove in both the IMSA and SRO GT World Challenge series in 2021. “It was a great opportunity to be in front of BMW Motorsport,” said Foley. “I had some crazy travel experiences getting there and had bad jet lag as a result, but it was still a great experience. Most of my driving with BMW has been in North America, so it was fun to go over there and experience it and be in a works environment with all the resources they have.”
Almeria is used primarily for testing (BMW Motorrad tests there often with their motorcycle racing teams), and the drivers invited to the evaluation had never seen the track before. They all had three runs in the car, which was on Pirelli tires. “It was a strange track in some ways, but it had a cool layout and had a jump in the middle of it,” says Foley. “With every track I’ve driven I’ve been able to study and have some simulator time before, but with this one it was just show up and drive.”
Foley was in the M4 GT3 at Daytona just a week after the Almeria test, in the first run for the Turner Motorsport car, which had been delivered just 48 hours before. “As with any new car, there’s always little things to iron out,” he says. “We really used the Daytona test as a shakedown, with going out and doing some laps and then coming in for systems checks. Once the car was consistently running well and we were confident with it we started working on some setup stuff and went through a couple of changes to see how the car reacted. As a base car it’s impressive and is a good step forward from the M6 GT3. It still has a BMW identity. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a very competitive package. It’s very drivable right out of the box.”
With its high banks and long straights, Daytona is unlike any other track that IMSA races on, and Foley is cautiously optimistic that the M4 GT3 will be competitive there. “The general feeling is that the M4 GT3 is better in low-speed corners at Daytona than the M6 GT3,” he said. “In the infield, I think we’ll have more front grip and more traction over the long run, and I think the tire degradation will be a lot better. The bus stop at Daytona (which is a very high-speed chicane off the banking) felt equally as good as the M6 GT3 (which was known for being very strong in high-speed corners). Daytona is a unique track because you have to set the car up for the banking and to take care of the tires and are running with less downforce to get a higher top speed.”
Just after the Daytona test, Foley headed to Germany to meet with BS+ Competition, which is an official BMW Motorsport sim racing team that Foley competes virtually for, along with works drivers Phillip Eng and Bruno Spengler. Foley got back just in time to enjoy the Holidays at home and will be back at Daytona for the official IMSA “Roar Before the 24” test on January 21st–23rd.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Sam Cobb/BMW, BMW Motorsport.]