Stay tuned to BimmerLife this coming weekend as David Haueter will be covering Super Sebring with race updates, pictures, and driver comments from Sebring International Raceway! Check in regularly with our live blog in addition to daily recaps. If you happen to see David, say hello from his BMW CCA family.
All eyes in the sportscar racing world will be fixed on Sebring International Raceway in Florida on the weekend of March 17th-18th, as the “Super Sebring” event brings together the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Each series will have their own long endurance race on the famed 3.74-mile circuit, with the WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring season opener on Friday and the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday. The Michelin Pilot Challenge series will also hold a two-hour race on Thursday afternoon.
This years 12 Hours of Sebring will be the 71st edition of the race and it will be the first time since 2000 that BMW has entries in the top prototype category. Back in 2000, BMW Motorsport entered a pair of V12 LMR prototypes, with the #42 car of JJ Lehto and Jörg Müller finishing third overall behind a pair of Audi R8s, after winning the race overall in 1999 with Tom Kristensen as a third driver with Lehto and Müller.
All of the BMW entries this weekend will be in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring races. There are no BMW entries in the WEC series this year, though that will change next year when BMW M Team WRT competes in the Hypercar class with the M Hybrid V8. In the IMSA GTP class, BMW M Team RLL will have a pair of M Hybrid V8 prototypes entered, with Phillip Eng, Augusto Farfus, and Marco Wittmann in the #24 car and Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, and Sheldon van der Linde in the #25 car.
There are three M4 GT3 entries in the GT classes, with the Turner Motorsport #95 M4 GT3 competing in GTD PRO with Bill Auberlen, Chandler Hull, and John Edwards, along with the #96 car in GTD with drivers Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher, and Michael Dinan. Defending Sprint Cup champions Paul Miller Racing will also have their #1 M4 GT3 entered in GTD with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, and Corey Lewis doing the driving.
The 12 Hours of Sebring is half the distance of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but most drivers will tell you that it’s twice as hard. Most of a lap at Daytona is on straights and the banking, but a lap at Sebring requires more braking and gear changes, and there are the notorious bumps in various segments of the track that punish the driver. IMSA held an official test there in February, and the single M Hybrid V8 that RLL took was at the bottom of the time sheets in almost every session. IMSA adjusted the BoP (balance of performance) for the Sebring race after that test, with the BMWs getting a gain of around 17.4hp and a weight increase of around 22 pounds. There were adjustments across the GTP field, but it’s odd that the Cadillac V-LMDh cars, which performed much better than the BMW in the test days, is lighter than the BMW and got the same horsepower increase.
There were also adjustments made in the GT classes for Sebring (which both use the same spec GT3 cars), with five cars including the M4 GT3 getting a 33.1-pound weight reduction. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 that dominated at Daytona was given a 33.1-pound weight increase, but is still going to be very strong at Sebring. The Porsche 911 GT3 R got the best of the BoP adjustments with a 5mm larger air restrictor, which could make that car come alive at Sebring after being at the bottom of the lap times at Daytona. Having a strong finish at Sebring is all about keeping out of trouble as well as being fast, as attrition is a big factor in the race.
There are also five of the new G82-generation M4 GT4s entered in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Thursday. Auto Technic Racing has a fast pair of drivers in their #25 car with Bill Auberlen and John Capestro-Dubets. Stephen Cameron Racing will have Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan in their #43 car, and Random Vandals Racing will have Paul Sparta and Kenton Koch in the #92 car. Turner Motorsport also has two entries, with Robert Megennis and Cameron Lawrence in the #95 car and Robby Foley and Vin Barletta in the #96. There are a total of 27 entries in the GS class.
Although there are no BMW entries in the WEC race, it promises to be an exciting race as well, with Ferrari, Peugeot, Porsche, Cadillac and Toyota all competing in the Hypercar class. The Sebring race will be the first race where LMDh and LMh cars compete in the same race. LMDh cars are the prototypes based on chassis’ that are manufactured by approved builders and available for any team to buy, while the LMh cars are built from the ground up by the manufacturer. For instance, the BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh car uses a chassis manufactured by Dallara, but Ferrari designed and built their entire 499P LMh car from the ground up, including the chassis. IMSA calls their prototype class GTP, while WEC calls theirs Hypercar, but the cars are allowed to compete in either series. In the 1,000 Miles of Sebring WEC race, the Porsche and Cadillac are LMDh cars and entered in the Hypercar class, but there are no LMh cars entered in the GTP class in the IMSA race. Got that?
We’ll be posting on a BimmerLife live blog during the race as we did at Daytona, with race updates, pictures, and driver comments! Be sure to check in regularly to see our latest updates on one of the most important race weekends of the season! Additionally, you can find all the information you need for the IMSA Sebring events on the IMSA website, including TV broadcast times. You can also find out more about the WEC race on their website. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, BMW]