BMW M4 GT4 entries had impressive performances in the pair of IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge sprint races at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), as well as the two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race, with six podiums and two wins among those three contests.
In VP SportsCar Challenge, Greg Liefooghe has proven to be the fastest driver in the entire field and was on the pole for the first race, but he had to start from last after not making it to the grid by the start of the formation lap, which put Turner Motorsport driver Francis Selldorff in the lead position at the start of the race. Selldorff, who was leading the driver points coming into VIR, padded that lead by winning the first VP Challenge race from start to finish. Liefooghe put in an impressive drive to work his way through the field to take second place and was followed in third by Turner Motorsport driver Vin Barletta to make it a BMW sweep of the podium.
Liefooghe got some redemption in race two, as he started on the pole after setting the fastest lap in race one and held the lead through the entire race to get the win for Stephen Cameron Racing, followed in second by Selldorff. Third place was taken by Porsche driver Sebastian Carazo. “The key was not starting from the back,” Liefooghe said. “This new BMW has been really amazing for us,” he added. “They kind of built on all the strengths that the previous car had. It’s a little bit better everywhere. It seems to have a little bit more tuneability than the old car as well, so we’re able to tune it a little bit better for each track. Overall, the car is just amazing.”
Sean Quinlan also had a strong race in race two, finishing fourth in his Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 after not starting race one. Vin Barletta finished eleventh in race two after being penalized for causing a wreck earlier in the race. Barletta was followed in twelfth by Patrick Wilmot in the F82-generation M4 GT4 of Split Decision Motorsports, which didn’t finish race one. With just two races to go at Road Atlanta in mid-October, Francis Selldorff holds the championship lead by 230 points over Porsche driver Sebastian Carazo.
In Michelin Challenge, it looked like it was going to be another great race for Turner Motorsport, as Cameron Lawrence started from the pole in the #95 M4 GT4 that he shares with Robert Megennis, but was hit from behind and knocked off the track by an Aston Martin while running in second, even though the Aston Martin was a lap down. That pretty much ended their race, as they finished in twelfth. It continued a string of bad luck and mistakes that has marked the #95’s season, though they are one of the most competitive cars in the GS class field.
The Turner Motorsport #96 car of Robby Foley and Vin Barletta had a much stronger race, even though Barletta took an early off-track excursion that did damage to the rear of the car. It didn’t look so good from the back, but Robby Foley managed to work his way back up through the field with some help from good strategy calls to finish in second behind the #71 Camaro GT4.R. The Random Vandals Racing #92 entry of Paul Sparta and Kenton Koch also had a strong race, finishing in fourth.
The second-place finish by Foley and Barletta was well ahead of the eighth place finish of the #72 Mercedes that was leading the championship, which put them in a tie for the lead in the driver points with Mercedes drivers Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak. Next up for Michelin Pilot Challenge is a four-hour race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the weekend of September 15th-17th, followed by the two-hour finale at Road Atlanta on October 11th-14th. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images]