BMW M Team WRT’s first race with BMW in the United States was a very successful one and happened to be at the most famous race track in the U.S. and perhaps the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The trio of Philipp Eng, Sheldon van der Linde, and Dries Vanthoor won in the #30 M4 GT3 with a 57-second gap to the second place Mercedes.
The Indy 8 Hour was the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge series, which features five races around the world at Bathurst (Australia), Kyalami (South Africa), Spa (Belgium), Indianapolis (US), and Abu Dhabi (UAE). The victory for Team WRT at Indy was BMW’s third consecutive win in the series after wins at Spa and Kyalami, giving BMW the lead in the manufacturers standings and putting Philipp Eng in second position in the driver’s championship. The Indy 8 Hour was also the final round of the GT World Challenge America championship.
The BMWs were fast in the three qualifying rounds at Indy, with each of the three drivers in the cars getting a turn, followed by a pole shootout with the ten fastest cars. All four of the M4 GT3s entered in the race made it into the pole shootout, with the #30 car of Eng, van der Linde, and Vanthoor the fastest in fourth, just three-tenths off the pole time of the #20 Huber Motorsport Porsche. The #94 BimmerWorld Racing car of Bill Auberlen, Chandler Hull and Robby Foley was fifth fastest, followed by the #31 Team WRT car of Augusto Farfus, Charles Weerts, and Maxime Martin in sixth. The #38 ST Racing M4 GT3 of Samantha Tan, Neil Verhagen, and Jake Hill ended up in tenth in the shootout.
BMW M Team WRT quickly worked their way into the lead in the race, with the #30 and #31 cars getting to the front in the first laps and running one-two in formation until the #30 car was given a penalty when Dries Vanthoor exceeded his maximum 65-minute stint driving time by eleven seconds. That penalty gave the lead to the #31 car, but the #30 car eventually worked his way back into second. That car then took the lead around six hours into the race when Augusto Farfus collided with a Ferrari and incurred suspension damage that lost them several laps. If it weren’t for that accident, it’s likely that BMW M Team WRT would have finished first and second.
Team WRT kept the #30 at the front for the final two hours after taking the lead and were never challenged for the win. The victory was BMWs third consecutive in the series and BMW became the first manufacturer to repeat as winners of the Indy 8 Hour, with Walkenhorst Motorsport winning in 2020 with an M6 GT3 driven by Connor De Phillippi, Nicky Catsburg, and Augusto Farfus. “It’s a great feeling to win a race in the USA for the first time with BMW M Team WRT,” said Team Principal Vincent Vosse. “We had two very strong cars, and it was a big help that tire wear was low on this track and in these temperatures. That gave us an advantage over our competitors. The setback is the retirement of our second car because we were on course for a double victory, but such mistakes happen. That’s racing. Now, let’s see what we can achieve in the title fight in Abu Dhabi.”
The BimmerWorld Racing team was very competitive for almost the entire race, running in the top-five overall until experiencing refueling issues that caused them to retire from the race. The ST Racing M4 GT3 also experienced issues with refueling, where they couldn’t pump fuel into the car fast enough on two different pit stops and exceeded the maximum refueling time. They ultimately finished in twelfth place overall and fifth in the Pro-Am class.
The next race for the Intercontinental GT Challenge championship will take place at Abu Dhabi on December 9th-10th. —David Haueter
[Photos by David Haueter]