The first race of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship will take place this weekend with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It will be the dawn of a new era for BMW GT racing, as the event serves as the competitive U.S. debut of the new M4 GT3 race car. It will also be the first race for the new GTD Pro class, which replaces the GTLM class that the factory BMW Team RLL cars have been competing in for the last several years.
There are 61 total entries for the Rolex 24, which is the most the race has had in eight years. That increase in car count is largely due to the new for 2022 GTD Pro class, which has thirteen cars entered in addition to the 22 cars in the GTD Pro-Am class. BMW will be represented by three entries, with BMW Team RLL fielding two M4 GT3s in the GTD Pro class while Turner Motorsport will enter a single car in the GTD Pro-Am class, which IMSA is just calling GTD.
The Rolex 24 event really started this past weekend with the “Roar Before the 24” testing and qualifying weekend, and all of the M4 GT3s were off the pace in the practice sessions as well as the 100-minute qualifying race that sets the grid for the Rolex 24. This was despite a BoP (Balance of Performance) adjustment by IMSA that gave the M4 GT3s more turbo boost across all rpm ranges as well as five more liters of fuel.
In the qualifying race on Sunday, the BMW Team RLL M4 GT3s finished in twelfth and thirteenth in GTD Pro, with fast laps that were around 1.5 seconds off the pace of the fastest cars. The Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 had been significantly off the pace of the top GTD cars all weekend and never got a chance to finish the qualifying race, as they were hit by the #27 Aston Martin which took both cars out of the race. The GTD Pro class was won by the TR3 Racing Lamborghini, while GTD was won by the Winward Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3, which puts those cars on pole for the Rolex 24.
Of course, the M4 GT3 is a new car, and although it was tested extensively and has already been raced in testing conditions at Sebring and in a competitive race in the Dubai 24 Hour race, it wasn’t expected that it would be at the top of the time sheets at Daytona. There could potentially be another BoP adjustment before the race this weekend, and a lot can happen in a 24-hour race with attrition and pit stop strategy that could put the BMWs in contention. The race promises to be exciting with a lot of racing among the GTD Pro and GTD cars, and there was a lot of intermixing among the two classes of GTD cars (which are identical GT3 spec cars with the same tires and same BoP) at the Roar weekend.
In the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series, there are three M4 GT4s entered in the season opening race at Daytona, with two entries from Turner Motorsport and one from Cameron Racing. The Cameron Racing car was a frontrunner in the SRO GT4 America series over the last few years and will be competing in a full season in Michelin Pilot Challenge this year alongside the Turner cars. The M4 GT4s were also off the pace in Daytona testing, which saw the times dominated by the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport, which set the four fastest times and had eight of the fastest cars in the top ten.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend gets underway on Friday with the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, followed by the Rolex 24 on Saturday and Sunday.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images.]