Bryan Sellers drives the Paul Miller Racing #1 M4 GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with co-driver Madison Snow. In the 2022 season, the duo had five podium finishes, including wins at Long Beach and Lime Rock Park, and won the IMSA Sprint Cup Championship. The pair are no strangers to winning, as they previously won the GTD class championship in 2018 driving a Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Bryan is also no stranger to BMWs, as he drove an E46 M3 for BMW Team PTG back in 2006 and drove E92 M3s in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series from 2010 through 2012. We caught up with Bryan at the end of the team’s championship-winning season.
BimmerLife: How did you first get started in racing?
Bryan Sellers: We moved from a bad school district to a good school district when I was around nine years old, and I was struggling with my grades. My parents came to me and said I needed to put in more effort, and they said we could do a hobby together that I would like if I kept my grades above a B average. I had seen pictures and trophies from when my dad’s brothers were karting when they were younger and that was my first pick. My dad told me to think about it for a couple of days, but when he asked me again it was the same answer.
BL: You were really on the ladder to move up through open-wheel racing and into IndyCar. How did you end up getting into sportscar racing?
BS: I felt like I was on a pretty good path. There were a lot of opportunities in the feeder series but not a lot of opportunities in Champ Car (now IndyCar). You felt like if you would get to a certain point that you would make it. I got to the Atlantic series and had some success there, but when it came time to do anything else there was just nothing available. The seats were so limited, and the good-funded programs already had their drivers. I had a relationship with someone at the Panoz racing team (Don Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series, which evolved into today’s IMSA series) from when I did Formula Ford 2000 and the option came up to drive for them in the GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
BL: I remember when you drove for BMW Team PTG in the 2006 ALMS in an E46 M3. Do you have good memories of that season, even though the car wasn’t very competitive at that point?
BS: For me it was a great season because it was one of my initial steps into sportscar racing and there were great people on that team with Tom Milner (team owner), and my co-drivers Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, and Justin Marks, who I drove with. You got to learn from some of the best in the business and I have super-fond memories of Bill and learning how things worked underneath him and how Tom ran the team. Tom had this reputation of being difficult, but I think that was unwarranted. I think he was extremely fair. He was kind of famous for saying things like ‘if you crash my car, don’t come back,’ but it’s because he ran a program on a limited budget and there wasn’t much money to fix cars, even though people thought he had a big budget.
BL: Were you still trying to get back into open-wheel racing in your early days of sportscar racing?
BS: I fell in love right away with sportscar racing. I found the cars difficult in the beginning, with adapting from open-wheel cars into sportscars, but I loved it so much with the team aspect, the connection you had with your co-drivers and the atmosphere. As soon as I started my first year of sportscar racing, I really had no desire to go back to open-wheel. I was having a good time.
BL: You’ve driven a lot of cars over the years. How long does it take you to really adapt to a new car and start to get the most out of it?
BS: I think the adaptation to a car is ever-evolving. The reality is that in sportscar racing you don’t have a lot of time. Most of the time you’re sharing a car with a co-driver in a one-hour practice session, and you have a yellow flag or something, so you end up with fifteen or twenty minutes with each practice to evaluate and improve. For me, getting up to speed in a car takes about ten laps, but what you find is the more you drive the better you get, especially on things like out laps on cold tires and qualifying runs.
BL: How difficult was it to adapt from the mid-engined Lamborghini that you drove for several seasons to the front-engined M4 GT3 this year?
BS: One of the difficulties in switching from the Lamborghini to the BMW was learning how to manipulate the car, because you really only learn that in race situations, things like how to adapt with the car as tires degrade, which was very different. The technique of driving the M4 GT3 is very different. Other race cars I’ve driven have been very “on the nose” race cars, where you have to be very aggressive with your driving approach but the M4 GT3 doesn’t like that. It likes more finesse and carrying more mid-corner speed, and it likes the driver to have a little more patience. The beauty in it is that once you realize what the car is looking for and you start driving it that way, it really transforms and comes to life. If you drive it the way it’s intended, it’s incredibly fast.
BL: Were you surprised by how competitive the M4 GT3 was right out of the box at Sebring?
BS: To be honest, no. When you look at the car it seems like it should be fast, and we really ran it at Sebring just as it came from the factory. BMW did such a good job with it, especially with the ergonomics. I don’t mean that just in terms of the seating position or adjustability, it’s everything from its functionality to the auto start systems and the way it handles pit lane procedures. Everything is just very well thought out with the details and the drivability of the car.
BL: You guys won the second race you competed in with the M4 GT3 at Long Beach and then had several other podium finishes during the year as well as a win at Lime Rock. Was there a highlight of the year that stood out to you?
BS: I look at the entirety of the season and am very proud of the team, with taking a new car, not having any mechanical failures, and winning two races and finishing on the podium in others. That’s a pretty big testament to the people we have behind us. One of the best races that stood out to me in terms of the performance of Madison and myself was Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to fight for a podium with the weather delays and other things that went against us, but I felt that race should have been a third win for us. I felt the same way about VIR, we just had a little hiccup that kept us from winning. I felt the best car we had all year was at the Petit Le Mans finale, but it just didn’t work out with the weather and track conditions.
BL: Can you talk about how important it is to have a good relationship with your co-driver?
BS: To me, it’s one of the most important relationships you can have. The only thing second to that is the relationship between the drivers and the engineers. The continuity of having the same co-driver is so important, especially if it’s someone that you get along with. For Madison and I, next year will be our seventh year together. We had a really good relationship right away and just clicked. He’s the best adaptive studier that I’ve ever encountered when it comes to driving. His ability to take feedback that you give him and watch him apply it is unrivaled to me, and I think that’s one of the things that makes him so good.
BL: Do you do anything in the off-season to stay sharp, like sim racing or karting?
BS: Not really. Normally we get some off-season testing that helps to keep us sharp, but I use the off-season to refocus on fitness and rebuild the fitness that I’ve lost over the season with traveling and not being able to train as much. I enjoy running and also do some weight training.
Though nothing official has been announced yet, it’s expected that Bryan and Madison will compete once again in the IMSA GTD class in 2023 with the M4 GT3. —David Haueter
[Photos by David Haueter and LAT Images]