John Edwards has been a BMW works driver for the last eleven years, but will be stepping back from racing in 2024 as he pursues a new career as a pilot. In his new role, Edwards is flying a Citation Latitude for NetJets, which goes a bit faster than the race cars he’s driven over the years.

Edwards has been a pilot for years, but decided to do it as a career when the job market changed after COVID. “I started flying just because I loved it, and once I moved to the East Coast, I’ve been flying myself to races for the past eight years or so and really enjoyed it,” he says. “I originally thought I’ll take racing as far as I can take it, but once I’m done driving, I’ll make the switch. Over the past couple years as travel ramped back up after COVID, there’s been a huge pilot shortage, so I started thinking now would be the right time. As I looked at what could be the last half of my driving career, I thought there’s not a driver shortage and there is a pilot shortage, so it was a good time to transition.”

Edwards last race in a BMW as a factory driver was at the IMSA Six Hours of The Glen with Turner Motorsport on June 25th. Edwards had also driven in the first six races in the SRO GT World Challenge America series this year in the ST Racing M4 GT3. His career with BMW spanned over a decade, but the 2020 season stands out. “The Daytona win in 2020 was huge, and the biggest success I had in my sportscar racing career,” he says. “We also finished second in the driver’s championship and first in the endurance championship. We had a couple years of really bad luck and then we won Daytona and the endurance championship. That was a really satisfying year after a couple of hard years.”

Edwards biggest win as a BMW works driver was at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2020 with the M8 GTE.

Edwards recalls a funny interaction with BMW M Team RLL Team Principal Bobby Rahal that happened in only his second race as a factory driver. “I remember my first year with BMW, we were at Laguna Seca and I was having a battle with the Falken Porsche and was able to use traffic and go three-wide to get by him. The back straight at Laguna Seca is called the Rahal Straight, and at that time Bobby was still the guy on the radio with us. I was pretty new and when I look back, I can’t believe I had the audacity to say this on the radio, but Bobby came on and said great pass, and I replied ‘thanks Bob, do you think they’ll name a straight after me?’ I’m sure he told me to focus forward, but I could tell he was chuckling in the background.”

The Z4 GTLM was Edwards favorite race car.

Although his greatest success with BMW was in the M8 GTE, the Z4 GTLM was his favorite BMW to drive. “The Z4 was underpowered but had a great sound and shot flames out the back when you downshifted,” he recalls. “The feeling when you drove it was almost more like a slightly heavier formula car than a GT car. It was a pure driver’s car for sure. I remember I had driven COTA previously in another GT car and told people I didn’t really like COTA. I thought it must be great in a Formula 1 car with the downforce you have to change direction in the esses, but it just didn’t suit GT cars. Then I drove it in the Z4 and realized it just didn’t suit other GT cars, but it suited the Z4. I had a really good time going through the esses in the Z4, because you could really manhandle it around. It was a really fun car to drive.”

Edwards last race as a BMW factory driver was at Watkins Glen in June.

Although Edwards is now focusing on his career as a pilot, he would still like to do some racing in the future. “My wife asked me how I managed to find two careers in my life that I’m passionate about, and I’m very lucky that way,” he says. “I’ve changed my career, but I hate to use the word retirement because it’s so final,” he says. “Right now, I’m focused on the transition into my new career, but I would really love to still do some races in the future, whether it’s Daytona, a whole endurance season or anything like that. I would still love to go race at the Nürburgring if I have a chance. I don’t know where that will lead but I would welcome the opportunity to go drive again.” —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy BMW, David Haueter, LAT Images]



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