Kyle van Hoften has been covering the IMSA race weekend at Laguna Seca for BimmerLife.com and BMW CCA’s Instagram. Be sure to check out our Saturday and Sunday coverage as well!
“Start your engines!”
This goes for the racing drivers and cars, the fans in attendance, and ideally, you, too. There’s a heightened level of excitement at IMSA races and this weekend’s Motul Course de Monterey is no exception. We’re excited to bring you highlights not just of who will cross the finish line and in what order, but also of the energy here at Laguna Seca this weekend for this fourth stop of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
If you were looking for more crossover into why these race weekends resonate with more than just the ardent racing fan, we have that, too. This weekend’s BMW CCA coverage on BimmerLife and on social media is being brought to us by our friends at KW Suspensions. You can drive to this race in your KW-equipped daily driver to watch top-level race cars use the same KW equipment and technology on the track. And we’ll lay it out here “above the fold” for you—KW Suspensions are adding in a weekend discount of 10% off of their products, too. Use code “BMWCCA” through Tuesday, May 16th at www.kwsuspensions.com and your car will perform exactly like an M4 GT3. OK—maybe not that part, but the discount is real!
So, what is happening here at WeatherTech Raceway just south of the Bay Area in coastal California? For starters, racing, fun, camping, fantastically large ice cream cones, carnival rides, karting, and seeing friends. Specifically, after the Mazda MX-5 Cup and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, most of the on-track activity is for the busy Michelin Pilot Challenge and then the WeatherTech Championship. The former includes GS and TCR class cars together; the latter presents GTD, GTD Pro, LMP2, and the still-new GTP classes on the track concurrently.
There are 26 Mazda MX-5s competing in their third stop this year. Many BMW fans and racers got their start going zoom-zoom in a Mazda, so this event is always fun to see. Supercar fan or not, seeing—and hearing!—33 Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo2 cars rip through the eleven turns and 2.238-mile (every thousandth counts) track piques interest from fans young and old.
After those two single-marque series, the Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car Racing (TCR) classes bring fantastic variety. The 23-car GS class includes many BMW fan favorites like the two Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 cars joined by another roundel-sporting G82-chassis from Cameron Racing. The last time the Turner GS cars competed (Sebring), they finished one-two. These will be darting around racing versions of other familiar cars like Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros, Porsche 718s, Mercedes AMG GTs, Aston Martin Vantages, McLaren Arturas, and Toyota Supras. Or are those BMW Supras?
Thirteen cars comprise the TCR class. Hyundai Elantras and Audi RS3s make up most of the competitors with a unique (in the US) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce and Honda Civic FL5s and FK7s.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge will be Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PST. The WeatherTech Championship race punctuates Sunday’s schedule at 12:10 p.m. PST with a total of 38 entrants. There are nine entrants in the GTP class with the two BMW Hybrid V8 GTPs battling three Porsche 963s, two Cadillacs, and two Acuras. Most likely staring at their taillights will the eight Oreca LeMans Prototype 2 cars.
If GTD and GTD Pro confuse you, this season they are only differentiated by their driver levels. GTD Pro has five entrants while GTD has sixteen, all racing similarly prepped racecars. Paul Miller Racing, fresh off consecutive wins at Sebring and Long Beach will be going for three in a row with its BMW M4 GT3. Rounding out the BMW participation, Turner Motorsport has brought the McIntosh #97 and the Liqui Moly #96 M4GT3 cars.
Friday was mostly a practice day—for everyone. Laguna Seca is the first stop on the 2023 IMSA schedule with any real elevation and the track itself is certainly different, too. The GTPs are competing here for the first time, charging down the corkscrew dropping more than 160 feet between the eighth and ninth turns with a grade of eighteen percent.
“This track is one of the most low-grip tracks we race,” Will Turner mentions. “Tire degradation here is strong, so you have to careful how hard and when you push. It’s all about not rushing the corners and being patient. You want to be going fast at the end of the race, not necessarily the beginning. That will give us a chance.”
Any surface and course structure requires quality suspension but a low-grip track like Laguna Seca with its elevation changes and challenging turns suggests control is critical. Many know KW provides consumer and racing products, but it is interesting to see them tested at the highest level here.
“Events like the Motul Course de Monterey are really great testaments to KW Suspensions’ strengths,” says Frank Vasquez, Brand Manager at KW Suspensions and ST Suspensions. “When our aftermarket customers look for performance, it’s nice to be able to point to a weekend like this where there are so many GT4 cars running various KW Racing coilovers and our KW V6 Racing suspensions are in so many GT3 cars like the BMW M4 GT3s and the Porsche 992 GT3 Rs. Customers can see what these coilovers go through and how manufacturers depend on them for their customer racing programs. That translates into confidence that we have something for whatever their needs are, too.”
It’s shaping up to be great weather around the Monterey peninsula for the races. Families are out in force with more kids pulling their parents around in earnest than the other way around. Access continues to be a great feature of IMSA races with fans getting up close to these cars and meeting drivers during autograph sessions and even just walking around the paddock. Saturday, BMW CCA has Meet and Greet sessions with Paul Miller Racing at 2:15 p.m. PST followed by one at Turner Motorsport at 3 p.m. Sunday morning will be BMW CCA members’ chance to meet the RLL Racing team and see the new BMW Hybrid V8 GTP cars.
Check back for more at bimmerlife.com and on our social media pages.—Kyle van Hoften