The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car championship was back in action this past weekend at the Belle Isle circuit in Detroit, with the DPi and GTD classes competing. Belle Isle is a 2.35-mile, 14-turn course that usually generates plenty of action, but this year’s race went the whole length without a caution period and with only a couple of retirements.
In an exciting qualifying session, Madison Snow put the #1 Paul Miller BMW M4 GT3 in third on the grid behind the #17 Lexus RC F GT3 and the #27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Amazingly, the top five cars were within a half-second of each other. Robby Foley qualified the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 in ninth after having a spin during the session, with a time that was just over a second off the pole.
Things didn’t get any better for the Turner Motorsport team once the race started. The team decided to change the tires after Foley spun in qualifying, but a new IMSA rule this year penalizes teams that decide to do that with a drive-through penalty, so the Turner car was essentially out of the race right at the beginning. They also had an unplanned pit stop to fix a loose rear wheel. They ended up in eighth out of ten cars thanks to attrition, with one Mercedes crashing and an Acura retiring before the end.
Meanwhile, the Paul Miller M4 GT3 stayed in third throughout the race, with the top three cars only changing position twice. The #27 Aston Martin got by the #17 Lexus at the start, but the Lexus then took back the lead with a shorter pit stop. The BMW stayed in third throughout the race and finished that way to take the final podium spot. It was the team’s third podium of the season in GTD, after a win at Long Beach and a second-place finish in the previous round at Mid-Ohio, and the podium finish kept drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the lead in the Sprint Cup standings (which only awards points for the shorter sprint races). It was also the fifth straight podium finish for an M4 GT3 in IMSA competition.
Madison Snow enjoyed racing on the Belle Isle circuit in the M4 GT3. “It was a good day!” he said after the race. “Last race here on Belle Isle, so it’s a little disappointing we couldn’t end it up on the top step—or in the fountain. We had the car set up perfectly. That’s a huge testament to the team. It’s our first time here with the BMW and it’s a lot more different to Long Beach in this car than I think any of us were expecting when we arrived. We had a lot of work to do to get it set up, but the car was phenomenal in the race. We drove a great race, the crew did a great job on the pit stop, we just didn’t quite have anything to take the fight to the two cars ahead of us.”
The next round for the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship will be at Watkins Glen on the weekend of June 23rd-26th, which is also the third round of the four-race Michelin Endurance Cup Championship. The BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 will be back for that race in the GTD Pro class after the series ran only GTD class GT cars in the last two races. —David Haueter
[Photos by LAT Images]