Attrition is a part of endurance racing, but is especially so when you’re running flat out for 24 hours with dozens of other cars. It’s part of the challenge and the charm of endurance racing, and every BMW entered in the Rolex 24 at Daytona had attrition impact their race, including the Paul Miller Racing #1 M4 GT3 that finished on the podium in the GTD Pro class.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona was in its 62nd running this year and is the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. There were 59 cars entered among four different classes, including the pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8s wearing #24 and #25, the Paul Miller Racing #1 M4 GT3 in the GTD Pro class and the Turner Motorsport #96 M4 GT3 in GTD. GTD had the highest number of entries per class at 23 cars. The top five cars in GTP completed 791 laps, and there were 89 laps run under caution.
The M Hybrid V8 cars running in the GTP class were certainly more competitive than they were last year when the new cars debuted, but both of them were victims of attrition. The #25 car of Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Maxime Martin and René Rast were the fastest of the two BMWs and managed to stay with the top five cars for much of the race but had a leak in the gearbox cooler that cost them time, as well as a brake change late in the race. They finished seventh as the win went to the #7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963, which was followed on the podium by the #31 Cadillac and the #40 Acura. The #24 M Hybrid V8 of Philipp Eng, Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus and Dries Vanthoor finished in eighth after losing several laps due to a broken tow strap. The car stopped on track with an electrical issue well into the race and had to be towed off, but the tow strap broke, and the car lost more time as a new strap was retrieved. Overall, the stoppage cost them thirteen laps.
The Paul Miller Racing team was competing in its first race in the GTD Pro class and despite a lackluster qualifying, the car performed very well in the race with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen and Sheldon van der Linde taking turns at the wheel. The car led the class for many laps and seemed poised to fight for a class victory, but had an issue late in the race cost them time as the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari took the lead and won the class. The Paul Miller Racing BMW finished on the podium in third behind the #77 AO Racing Porsche. The #1 car fell back due to a brake issue, when the right front brake pad wore down to nothing and the rotor then broke from the added heat. Sellers said it was something he had never seen before in all his years of racing, but it was a strong performance by the team to get it fixed and still finish in third. The #1 M4 GT3 set the fastest lap in the GTD Pro class.
Turner Motorsport proved to be very competitive in the GTD class race with drivers Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher, Jake Walker and Jens Klingmann and were running in second place when the car hit debris on the track which caused the oil pump belt to come off. The team brought the car in and got it back out after a repair, but the delay dropped them down to fourteenth. The GTD class was won by the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes, which was followed on the podium by the #21 AF Corse Ferrari and the #34 Conquest Racing Ferrari.
The BMW teams may not have finished where they were hoping to at Daytona, but their performance bodes well for the rest of the season, and it was a valuable learning experience for Vanthoor and Rast, who will be driving the M Hybrid V8 for BMW M Team WRT in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year. “Looking at our results this weekend is, of course, very disappointing,” said Head of BMW M Motorsport Andreas Roos. “But we have shown that our BMW M Hybrid V8 could keep up with the competition and even led at times. If you compare that to our debut a year ago, we have made huge strides in the right direction in terms of performance. Unfortunately, we had technical issues during the night with both cars, which should not happen in such a race. We now have to analyze these precisely to ensure that we are better prepared for the upcoming races. It is also a shame that Paul Miller Racing with the BMW M4 GT3 had problems at the end and fell back to third place in the GTD PRO.”
Next up on the IMSA schedule is the 12 Hours of Sebring in mid-March, an endurance race that’s half the distance of Daytona but is twice as hard on cars and drivers.
[Photos by David Haueter]