BMW teams will contest the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend in Florida, in the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship and Michelin Challenge series. This year will mark the 70th running of the famous race and comes after the 60th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in late January.
You may think that racing for 12 hours at Sebring would not be as difficult as racing for 24 hours at Daytona, but you would be wrong. Sebring is one of the most challenging circuits on the schedule and requires more gear changes and more braking per lap than Daytona, where drivers are flat out on the oval part of the track for most of the lap. Sebring is also notoriously bumpy in some corners (such as the ultra-fast turn seventeen at the end of the long back straight).
BMW Team RLL will once again field two M4 GT3s, with John Edwards, Connor De Phillippi, and Augusto Farfus in the #25 car, and Phillip Eng, Nick Yelloly, and Marco Wittmann in #24. In GTD, Turner Motorsport will enter the #500 M4 GT3 for Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, and Michael Dinan, and Paul Miller Racing will make their BMW debut with the #1 M4 GT3 driven by Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, and Erik Johansson. It’s the first race with the BMW for Paul Miller Racing, which switched over to BMW from Lamborghini after last season. They didn’t run at Daytona because they didn’t get delivery of the car in time, but they tested at Sebring earlier in March.
This year’s 12 Hours of Sebring will be the 500th race in a BMW for Bill Auberlen, which is the most of any driver in the world. He also holds the record for the winningest driver in IMSA history with 64 wins. “When I look back on 500 races with BMW, I am humbled and proud,” said Auberlen. “When I look to what the next seasons may bring, I say bring on race number 600! It feels appropriate that my 500th for BMW comes at Sebring as the 12 Hour is a special race for me. In 1985, I was the truck driver and crew for my father’s win there. Ten years later I scored my first win at the 12 Hour.” Ironically, Auberlen’s first win at Sebring in 1995 was not in a BMW, but in a Porsche entered by Alex Job Racing. His first class win with BMW came in 1997, driving an E36 M3 for Prototype Technology Group.
BMW has run before here at Sebring with the M4 GT3, when they contested the 24H series race last fall with one car, which was the final acid test before the first BMW teams started racing them competitively in 2022. One issue that was a major problem at Daytona that didn’t crop up at the Sebring race was the diffusers coming loose, which happened on all three cars at Daytona. According to Turner Motorsport owner Will Turner, BMW never did figure out what was causing that, but they have modified the chassis to reinforce it in the spot where the diffuser connection was failing.
There will also be three BMW M4 GT4s entered in the Michelin Challenge race. Turner Motorsport has two entries in that race, with Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern in the #95 car and Robby Foley and Vin Barletta in #96. Auberlen and Machavern finished on the podium at Daytona, and hope to keep that momentum going at Sebring. Cameron Racing will also field the #43 M4 GT4 for drivers Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan. They will contest the full Michelin Challenge season after competing very successfully in SRO GT4 America and GT America for the last few seasons.
The Michelin Challenge race gets underway on Thursday at 4:25 p.m. EDT, and the 12 Hours of Sebring will start at 12 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The “Super Sebring” weekend will also host the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring race on Friday, but there are no BMWs entered in the series. For more information and TV times, visit the IMSA website.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images.]