A BMW M4 GT3 won for the first time in IMSA competition at Long Beach with the Paul Miller Racing team, and two of them finished on the podium in two different classes at Laguna Seca.
After racing on the streets of Long Beach three weeks ago, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) stayed in California for the fourth round of the series, this time at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the Monterey area. It was the first of six two-hour-and-forty-minute race on the schedule.
After the victory at Long Beach, IMSA gave the M4 GT3s a Balance of Power adjustment that equated to a decrease of six horsepower. In qualifying at Laguna Seca, John Edwards put the #25 BMW M Team RLL M4 GT3 in fourth in the GTD Pro class, around six-tenths off the pole time of the #9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R. In GTD, Robby Foley clocked a lap that was good enough for third in the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3, less than three-tenths off the pole time of the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes. Madison Snow qualified the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW sixth, just three-tenths behind Foley.
Robby Foley jumped into the lead in GTD at the start of the race and held it until after the first round of pit stops—due to a caution period— when Madison Snow took the lead after a fast pit stop. The two BMWs stayed at the front in the GTD class, with Foley passing Snow with around 90 minutes left in the race. Snow’s teammate, Bryan Sellers, had commented that they were concerned about front tire wear and understeer on the abrasive Laguna Seca circuit, and this had an impact late in the race when both cars were passed by the Wright Motorsport Porsche and the Carbahn Lamborghini, both of which had fresher tires.
Auberlen had to settle for third in the GTD class—the Turner Motorsport team’s first podium with the M4 GT3. The Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 finished fourth. “We have only been looking at the podium so far this season, so to finally to be able to stand on it is very rewarding,” said Auberlen after the race. “We did not quite have the winning setup today, but we definitely showed that we have a contender.”
With the third-place finish at Laguna Seca, Auberlen and Foley were third in driver points behind the Wright Motorsport duo of Jan Heylen and Ryan Hardwick and Mercedes driver Stevan McAleer.
Meanwhile, in GTD Pro, the #25 BMW M4 GT3 of John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi had worked its way into third but was being pressured late in the race by the #3 Corvette. They held on to get their first podium finish with the M4 GT3 in GTD Pro, behind the winning Pfaff Motorsport Porsche and the #14 Lexus. “We were fighting hard today. I certainly think we had second in our sights, but could have just as easily missed the podium,” said Edwards. “It was close. We can be proud of everyone’s effort today.”
The Turner Motorsport duo of M4 GT4s also came very close to a podium finish in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Both cars performed much better in the race than they did in qualifying, and toward the end of that race, both Turner cars were in the top five, with Bill Auberlen chasing down the leading Aston Martin. With just a few laps to go, Auberlen had to pit with a cut tire, which is exactly what happened to him in this race a year ago.
Robby Foley also had his hands full; he was passed by the #28 Porsche and the #14 Toyota Supra in the closing laps. He held on to finish fourth with co-driver Vin Barletta, while Auberlen and co-driver Dillon Machavern finished twelfth. The #43 Steven Cameron Racing M4 GT4 of Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan finished sixteenth.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next, on the weekend of May 14–15.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images.]