The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship finished up its 2022 season on Saturday at Road Atlanta, in the ten-hour Petit Le Mans race, which was celebrating its 25th year. BMW finished second in the GT3 class in the very first Petit Le Mans in 1998 with a BMW Team PTG E36 M3, and they had two M4 GT4s finish on the podium in both classes in this year’s race. The strong result was enough to clinch the GTD-class manufacturers championship for BMW in the first year of competition for the G82 generation M4 GT4.
The Petit Le Mans race always seems to have a dramatic finish and this year was no exception, as there were hard-fought battles in just about every class. The BMW teams started the race weekend strong, as they were fast in the practice sessions and fast in qualifying. Paul Miller Racing driver Madison Snow put the #1 M4 GT3 on the GTD class pole with a 1:19.118 lap, a time that was good enough for third overall among GTD Pro/GTD entries and less than three-tenths off the GTD Pro pole time of Jack Hawksworth in the #14 Lexus. It was also faster than works driver Jesse Krohn in the #25 BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 GTD Pro class entry, which qualified third in class. The Turner Motorsport #96 M4 GT3 didn’t qualify due to some electrical issues that have been the Achilles heel of the M4 GT3 all season.
There was plenty of bumping and banging in the race, which led to nine full-course cautions over the course of ten hours, but all three of the BMWs managed to stay at the sharp end of their respective classes through it all. Some of the best action was late in the race in the closing hour, as GTD Pro saw an exciting fight among the top four cars that involved door to door and bumper to bumper racing. The Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Daniel Serra appeared to win the race, but the car was disqualified due to Serra exceeding his maximum allowed drive time. That disqualification handed the win to the #14 Lexus, with the #25 BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 of Connor De Phillippi, John Edwards and Jesse Krohn right behind it in second.
The second-place finish for BMW Team RLL in the season finale was their only second podium finish of the year, with the other coming being a third-place finish at Laguna Seca back in early May. It was a great way to end the season as well as end BMW Team RLL’s participation in the GTD Pro class, as they will be moving to the GTP class with the new M V8 Hybrid LMDh prototype in 2023. “Although I think we had enough to win today, I’m very happy for the team to end the season on a high note with this podium,” said De Phillippi after the race. “We had a lot of bad luck, so this P2 was a nice end to this GTD PRO program. My last double stint was like a qualifying session. Without the yellow flag five minutes before the end, I think I could have caught the Lexus.”
The Paul Miller Racing and Turner Motorsport entries in GTD also performed very well throughout the race, as Turner recovered from the electrical issues that hampered their qualifying effort. Unfortunately, the Paul Miller car was hit by another car in the closing stages of the race, which set it back in the order, but they still managed to finish a strong fifth in GTD with drivers Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers, and Erik Johansson. Paul Miller Racing was the most successful of the BMW teams in IMSA this year, and won the GTD class Sprint Cup Championship as well.
Turner Motorsport fought their way to a third-place finish with drivers Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen, and Michael Dinan, which was their fourth podium finish of the year. “It’s awesome to finish the season with a podium, especially after our issue in qualifying which made us start last,” said Robby Foley. “Everyone in the team worked very hard to get us up the field, in the end it was P3. It was a very good first season with the new BMW M4 GT3. The Turner Motorsport guys learned the car really quickly.”
Between the two cars, the Paul Miller Racing and Turner Motorsport M4 GT3s had nine podiums on the season, including wins at Long Beach and Lime Rock for Paul Miller Racing and at Mid-Ohio for Turner Motorsport. It was an impressive first season for the new M4 GT3, though it could have been even better if not for the teething electrical issues that plagued the car on numerous occasions through the year. “We can be very happy with this season finale; second in GTD Pro, third in GTD–and the GTD manufacturers’ title on top of it,” said BMW M Motorsport head Andreas Roos after the race. “This is a great achievement. A big Thank You to our partners and BMW M Motorsport teams as well as everyone involved in the successful debut season of the BMW M4 GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, BMW]