Virginia International Raceway (VIR) is one of the most challenging tracks on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) schedule and has always been a good track for BMWs over the years. It was especially so this past weekend as BMW M4 GT3 entries finished first, second, and fourth in the GTD class in the GT-only race.
Paul Miller Racing came into VIR with a healthy lead in the GTD class championship and showed that they were going to be the team to beat, as Madison Snow put the #1 M4 GT3 on the pole with a 1:45.225 lap. Turner Motorsport driver Patrick Gallagher also had a good qualifying, putting the #96 M4 GT3 in fifth in with a 1:45.913. Chandler Hull followed in ninth in the #97 car. The Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 continued to set the pace once the race got underway, as they led from start to finish and called the right strategy as the race had a couple of lengthy caution periods due to accidents. They even led the entire field ahead of GTD Pro class cars for several laps, despite Bryan Sellers feeling under the weather.
The Turner Motorsport cars were very strong as well, and the three BMWs ran 1-2-3 until late in the race, before Bill Auberlen had to slow down his pace in order to make it to the end on fuel, which allowed the #57 Mercedes to get past for third place. At the end of the race, the Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 of Snow and Sellers took the win and set a new GTD-class record for wins in a season with five. The Turner Motorsport #96 car of Gallagher and Robby Foley finished in second, and Auberlen still managed to finish a strong fourth.
Robby Foley had the fastest GTD lap of the race with a 1:45.365 and Madison Snow was right behind him with the second fastest lap in class with a 1:45.563. Bill Auberlen set the fourth fastest lap with a 1:45.637, followed by Bryan Sellers with a 1:45.820. There were only two GTD Pro class cars that set faster laps than the GTD-class BMWs, with Ben Barnicoat setting the fastest overall lap and the fastest in GTD Pro with a 1:44.916 in his #14 Lexus RCF GT3, followed by Jordan Taylor in the #3 Corvette with a 1:45.010.
The win by the Paul Miller Racing crew gave them a hefty 375-point lead in the GTD class drivers championship with two races to go, and they also lead the Sprint Cup standings (which only counts points from the shorter sprint races) and the Team championship. BMW also leads the GTD-class manufacturer championship. “Amazing doesn’t even come close to describing it,” said Sellers after the race. “Wins are so hard to come by in this series, and it’s why everyone does this. Before this, we’ve never had more than two wins in a season, so to get five is just crazy.”
The IWSC will visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 15th-17th, followed by the Petit Le Mans season finale at Road Atlanta on October 11th-14th. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images]