Lime Rock Park in Connecticut has traditionally been a good race track for BMW, but it wasn’t a good day for the BMW teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Saturday. None of the three M4 GT3s entered in the GTD class made it to the podium and two weren’t even close.
The Lime Rock race was the first event of the year for GT cars only, with the GTD Pro and GTD cars. The second GT-only race will take place at VIR on the last weekend of August, but all the classes will race together before that at Road America on August 3rd-6th.
The BMW entries from Turner Motorsport and Paul Miller Racing were off the pace in qualifying. Madison Snow has been one of the best GTD qualifiers this season in the #1 Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 but could only manage ninth in qualifying with a 51.643 lap. Both Turner Motorsport cars were a touch faster, with Patrick Gallagher the fastest BMW in sixth in the #96 car with a 51.419 lap and Bill Auberlen just behind him in seventh in the #95 car with a 51.469 lap. The pole went to the #32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a 51.157. The top nine cars were within a half-second of each other.
The BMWs often race better than they qualify, and the Paul Miller Racing car worked its way toward the front of the field, but the team had their chance of success ended when Madison Snow was given a penalty for making contact with another car in the pits while the car was running in first place at the time. The penalty moved them to the back of the GTD field and they never really recovered, finishing eighth.
Turner Motorsport also looked to be in the hunt for either a win or a podium finish for the #95 car of Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull. Auberlen had worked his way toward the front, but the team was caught out when a caution period occurred right after they had pitted under green flag conditions. They were also off the pace toward the end of the race and ended up in eleventh.
The #96 Turner Motorsport car of Patrick Gallagher and Robby Foley had the best finish of the BMW trio, ending up in fourth, but they were not in a position to fight for a podium finish at the end of the race. The #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 won the GTD class race and was followed in second by the #92 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R and in third by the #77 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R. The Heart of Racing team also won the GTD Pro class with their #23 car, which started on the pole in that class.
With four races left, the Paul Miller Racing duo of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow still have the lead in the GTD class drivers’ championship, but they lost a big chunk of that lead to the Heart of Racing Aston Martin team that won at Lime Rock. Paul Miller still has the lead in the GTD team championship as well, and BMW has the lead in the manufacturer’s championship. It should be an exciting final four races of the season! —David Haueter
[Photos by David Haueter and Ingrid Kretschmann]