Paul Miller Racing scored a dramatic win in the GTD class at Lime Rock Park in the ninth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC), as BMW Team RLL and Turner Motorsport struggled. It was the second win of the season for the team with drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, who extended their lead in the IWSC Sprint Cup Championship, which tallies points for the shorter sprint races and not the four longer endurance races on the calendar.
It didn’t look like a win for BMW was in the cards for most of the race. In qualifying, Connor De Phillippi put the #25 BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 in third in the GTD Pro class, but the car was then moved to the back of the field for the race after failing post-qualifying inspection for a minimum-ride-height infraction. Robby Foley qualified the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 that he shares with Bill Auberlen in a strong fourth in GTD, just three-hundredths off the pole of the pole-sitting Lexus RC F GT3, and Madison Snow qualified seventh in the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW, just two-tenths off the pole time.
Things went downhill quickly for Turner Motorsport in the race, as Robby Foley fell back immediately on lap one with ECU (electronic control unit) issues that slowed him down and eventually led to a retirement after just 33 laps. The weekend also went from bad to worse for BMW Team RLL. De Phillippi lost time after spinning the car in the downhill turn to avoid a GTD class Mercedes that slowed unexpectedly to enter the pits, and later the car was dropped on an air hose during a pit stop which cost more time as they had to lift the car again to pull the hose out from under the wheel (teams get a penalty for driving over pit equipment during pit stops). The #25 was also eventually retired with “technical issues.” The GTD Pro race was won by the championship-leading #9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, followed by the #23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and the #14 Lexus RC F GT3.
While BMW Team RLL and Turner Motorsport were having their issues, the Paul Miller Racing BMW was staying in the hunt in the GTD class. Madison Snow moved from seventh to fourth on the first lap of the race and by the time the race was winding down they found themselves in second place behind the Winward Racing Mercedes, which took the lead after the #12 Lexus had to pit due to a loose hood. It looked like the Mercedes would get the win, but it had a fuel pump failure on the last lap, and Sellers passed it for the win on the last turn of the track. “The last lap was a lot,” said Sellers after the race. “I was telling Madison that you go through this range of emotions where you see the #57 (Mercedes) die and you think can I go low, can I go high, and then you look high and there’s all kinds of marbles and I think I’ll pass him high but then thought I would go off the road. We were just so fortunate today. In fairness it’s unfortunate for the #57 car. They had probably the best car in the field and definitely had the speed to win, but that’s why you race to the checkered flag and we’re certainly not going to turn one down on a day like today.” The #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 finished in second in GTD, followed by the #39 CarBahn Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Turner Motorsport had a better race in Michelin Pilot Challenge, with Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern finishing a strong fifth in the #95 M4 GT4, while Robby Foley and Vin Barletta finished in the top ten in ninth in the #96 M4 GT4. Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan finished in fifteenth in the #43 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4. The race was won by the #71 Rebel Rock Racing Chevy Camaro GT4.R, with the #7 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in second and the #877 Ford Mustang GT4 in third.
The IWSC and Michelin Pilot Challenge series head to Wisconsin on the weekend of August 4th-7th to race at Road America, which at four miles around is the longest track on the schedule and one of the fastest. —David Haueter
[Photos by David Haueter]