BMW was well represented in the opening round of the SRO GT World Challenge America series at Sonoma Raceway in California wine country this past weekend, and all three of the M4 GT3s that were entered had a solid start to the season.
Standing at the top of the list of BMW teams that were successful at Sonoma is BimmerWorld Racing, which was especially satisfying after what they went through in the previous month. The team took delivery of their first M4 GT3 in February but then had it totaled while testing at VIR in late March, with Chandler Hull driving. The team had a second M4 GT3 on the way for a planned season entry from team owner/driver James Clay and Ari Balogh in GT World Challenge, but Clay turned that car over to Hull and Bill Auberlen for their season and moved to the GT4 America championship.
Fast forward to the first SRO round at Sonoma. BimmerWorld has their new M4 GT3 on the grid that they had taken delivery of just eleven days earlier, and Chandler Hull qualifies the car third in the Pro-Am class for race one (most SRO weekends feature two races). He then put in a strong stint before handing the car over to Auberlen who finished in third place behind the Wright Racing Porsche and the Crowdstrike Racing Mercedes. It was a fantastic result given the challenges the team faced in getting there. The duo had a tougher second race, but still finished in the top ten in seventh (out of thirteen cars).
Turner Motorsport had a curveball thrown at them at Sonoma. The team initially entered their #96 M4 GT3 in the Pro-Am class for drivers Robby Foley and Michael Dinan, and Dinan put the car on the class pole in qualifying for race one. However, before the race, the series stewards decided to reclassify the entry into the Pro class, presumably because the team had won a race in the Pro class last year with the same drivers. This was despite the fact that Dinan is certainly not a pro driver in any sense of the word at this point. The team made the best of a tough situation to finish fifth in race one and fourth in race two, with both races won by the K-PAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 led by works driver Andrea Caldarelli, who are the defending class champions from last year.
The ST Racing entry of Samantha Tan and Nick Wittmer also had a solid weekend with their M4 GT3, which was entered in the Pro-Am class. The team had momentum coming into Sonoma, as they had won the 24H series twelve-hour race at Mugello the previous month, and the pair had two strong races at Sonoma with a fifth place in race one and fourth place in race two. Tan had an especially strong drive in race two, passing several cars and putting pressure on the third place finisher. “We leave Sonoma with no trophies, but a wealth of knowledge, learning experiences, and a renewed sense of self-confidence,” said Samantha Tan on social media after the race. “It’s races like these that remind me that I’ve always been good enough.”
The next round for SRO GT World Challenge America is at the new Ozarks International Raceway in Missouri on the weekend of May 20–22.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy SRO America.]