IMSA held the “Roar Before the 24” test days at Daytona International Speedway this past weekend, to give teams a lot of testing time before the race weekend kicks off, with qualifying held at the end of the Roar weekend to set the grid for the race. The pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8s looked competitive during the Roar test and will start in fourth and eighth for the race.
There were six practice sessions over the Roar weekend before qualifying, and the #25 M Hybrid V8 was in the top three fastest lap times in every session except for the last one, while the #24 car lagged a bit behind as new drivers Dries Vanthoor and Jesse Krohn got up to speed in the car.
In qualifying, Connor De Phillippi put the #25 car in fourth on the GTP grid with a 1:33.022 lap, less than four-tenths off the pole time of defending champion Pipo Derani in his Cadillac V-Series.R. “In qualifying we had the best car of the whole weekend,” said De Phillippi. “We are satisfied that we have made a good step in the right direction. There is still some optimization to be done here and there, but I am happy for the team about the significantly better result compared to last year. We are slowly but surely getting to where we need to be to close the gap.” De Phillippi will share the #25 car with Nick Yelloly, Maxime Martin and René Rast.
Jesse Krohn qualified the #24 M Hybrid V8 in eighth with a 1:33.499, which is impressive considering that Krohn is new to the GTP program with BMW and has only tested the car occasionally before this past weekend. All GTP entries were within a second of each other in qualifying lap times. “This is not the place where I wanted to end the session,” said Krohn. “I didn’t get everything together for a fast lap after we had focused on race speed and not on qualifying in the test sessions. Of course, it would be better to start further ahead, but we definitely have a much better car for the race than the start position suggests. I think we are very well prepared.” Krohn will share the #24 car with Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus and Dries Vanthoor.
It was a different story in the GTD Pro and GTD classes, where the Paul Miller Racing and Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 entries were off the pace during the entire Roar test and for qualifying. IMSA sets a different BoP for Daytona than the rest of the schedule, so while the M4 GT3 was very competitive in the 2023 season and won the GTD championship, it hasn’t been that competitive at Daytona. It was the same story last year with the M4 GT3 entries at Daytona.
Madison Snow (who is now a BMW M Motorsport factory driver) is one of the best qualifying drivers out there but could only manage to qualify twelfth out of thirteen cars in GTD Pro, with a best time of 1:45.831 in the #1 M4 GT3. That time was over 1.4 seconds off the pole time of Sebastian Priaulx in his Porsche 911 GT3 R. Priaulx is the son of Andy Priaulx, who won multiple championships with BMW in World Touring Car racing. Snow will share the #1 M4 GT3 with Bryan Sellers, Neil Verhagen and Sheldon van der Linde.
In GTD, Patrick Gallagher qualified the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 in sixteenth out of 23 cars, with a 1:45.861, nearly matching Snow’s fast time. He also was around 1.4 seconds off the GTD pole time of Parker Thompson in his Lexus RC F GT3. Gallagher will share the #96 M4 GT3 with Robby Foley, Jens Klingmann and Jake Walker. With a lack of pace compared to the frontrunners, the BMW teams must rely on race strategy and reliability to be toward the front at the end of the 24 hours.
The race action gets underway at Daytona on Friday, with the four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race (sponsored by BMW) at 1:45 p.m. The Rolex 24 will start at 1:40 p.m. and finish at 1:40 p.m. on Sunday. For info on broadcast times and channels, visit the IMSA website. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT IMAGES]