In case you haven’t noticed, BMW has been in a bit of a drought when it comes to winning class championships in IMSA. The last time it happened was back in 2014 when Turner Motorsport won the GTD class driver and team championships with the driver pairing of Dane Cameron and Markus Palttala and the Z4 GT3. 2014 was the first year of the new IMSA championship after the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am merged, which back then was called the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship (todays IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship).
Besides the merger into a new racing series, 2014 brought a few other firsts for the Turner Motorsport team. It was the first year that Turner Motorsport raced the Z4 GT3, after racing tube-framed E92 M3s that were built according to Grand Am specs in the previous Grand Am season. Cameron and Palttala were new to the team as well. “We had our eye on Dane after racing against him, because Bill Auberlen was driving in the GTLM class that season (with BMW Team RLL),” recalls team owner Will Turner. “Dane was going to drive with Paul Dalla Lana and then when Paul realized he couldn’t make a couple of races, we put Markus in. As soon as we saw how competitive Dane and Markus were together, Paul basically just said let’s run them together for a championship. We picked Markus because he had Z4 GT3 experience from the year before with the Marc VDS team. He was a very fast silver-rated driver, and that’s what you needed to compete in that class.”
The team got off to a slow start in 2014, finishing seventh in class at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The team got their first win in the third round at Laguna Seca, and then added wins at Watkins Glen, Road America and VIR, along with additional podium finishes at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Circuit of the Americas. Going into the Petit Le Mans season finale at Road Atlanta, the team held a slim four-point advantage over the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche and were just nine points in front of the #555 AIM Autosport Ferrari, but a fourth-place finish at Road Atlanta clinched the driver championship for Cameron and the team championship for Turner. Palttala missed out on sharing the driver championship because he missed the Indianapolis race to compete in the Spa 24 Hour, but he went on to capture the BMW Sports Trophy in 2014 with this success in racing the Z4 GT3 both in the US and in Europe.
The 2014 championship was a big one for Dane Cameron. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling to win my first sportscar title here at Road Atlanta,” he said after clinching the title. “This was just an amazing season for us. Recently Turner Motorsport did its 300th race with BMW, and today we added another to their fantastic record.” Cameron progressed up the motorsport ladder after his championship season in 2014, moving up into the top prototype classes and winning the 2019 DPi championship with Juan Montoya in an Acura Team Penske ARX-05. For 2023, he’ll be racing in the FIA WEC GTP class in the new Porsche 963 prototype with Porsche Penske Motorsport. Palttala is still a sought-after driver and coach, racing primarily in Europe.
As for the car, the winning Z4 GT3 from 2014 still sits in the Turner Motorsport garage and is owned by Michael Marsal, who drove it in the 2015 IMSA season with Palttala.
[Photos by David Haueter]