The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge series held its first two races of 2023 at Daytona International Speedway over the Roar Before the 24 weekend. New for this year, the VP Challenge series features 45-minute sprint races for Silver or Bronze rated drivers in either LMP3 prototypes or GT4-spec cars, with no mandatory pit stops required. There were five BMWs entered in the GSX (GT4-spec) field at Daytona, with Stephen Cameron Racing and Auto Technic Racing running the new F82-generation M4 GT4, and Turner Motorsport running a pair of previous generation F82 M4 GT4s.
In race one (there are two VP Challenge races run per race weekend), the five BMWs all qualified within a half-second of each other, with Vin Barletta qualifying the best of the bunch in sixth in the #95 Turner Motorsport car. Barletta, who also races for Turner Motorsport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge series, had a strong start to the race, moving up to third after ten minutes of racing. Meanwhile, the other BMWs were having good battles among themselves and with the other GT4 cars.
Barletta continued to stay in third for a good part of the race, but fell back after having a spin. Meanwhile, Patrick Wilmot moved his way up into third in the #88 Split Decision Motorsports M4 GT4 (F82), and Rob Walker slotted into fourth in the #25 Auto Technic Racing M4 GT4 (G82). They held those positions to the end, but the #88 car was moved to the back in postrace inspection after it was found that the car had suspension components out of compliance with the regulations. The team sourced the car from Europe and unbeknownst to the team had some components that were legal in another series but not here.
The disqualification of the #88 moved Rob Walker into third in the Auto Technic Racing car, which was the first podium finish in a pro race for the new G82 generation M4 GT4 here in the US. Turner Motorsport driver Francis Selldorff finished in fifth in the #95 M4 GT4 (F82) and Barletta recovered from the spin a finish in sixth. Sean Quinlan followed Barletta in seventh in the #19 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 (G82).
Rob Walker was also the best of the BMWs in race two, as he started in sixth, but worked his way up into third with some help from attrition on the track, and then did a great job holding off a Mercedes to finish on the GSX class podium in third. Francis Selldorff finished in sixth in the #95 car and was followed in eighth by Sean Quinlan in the #19. Vin Barletta finished in thirteenth in the #96 for Turner Motorsport. Patrick Wilmot had a great race going in the #88 Split Decision Motorsports M4 GT4 and was running in second when he was hit from behind by an Aston Martin, which received a drive-thru penalty, but it led to a DNF for Wilmot. Billy Griffin won both races in the Kohr Motorsport Ford Mustang GT4.
The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge will race next at Sebring in mid-March. —David Haueter
[Photos by LAT Images]