The IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge series held its first races on a street course, in rounds three and four at St. Petersburg, Florida, as part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar race weekend. Although the top two cars in the GSX class were in a class of their own in both races, BMW drivers performed well with the M4 GT4.

There were sixteen total GT4-spec cars in the St. Petersburg races, and six of them were BMW M4 GT4s. In race one (VP Challenge has two 45-minute sprint races per race weekend), a promising start by Stephen Cameron Racing driver Greg Liefooghe and Split Decision Motorsports Patrick Wilmot went for naught, as Liefooghe had ABS and traction control issues that set him way back, and Wilmot had an electrical problem that forced him to retire after running as high as fourth in the race.

With Liefooghe and Wilmot out of the running, Swish Motorsports driver Michael Dayton (pictured above) led the BMW charge in his #12 M4 GT4, moving up to fourth overall and first in the Bronze Cup category for Bronze-rated drivers–a class that most of the GSX drivers fall into. Stephen Cameron Racing driver Sean Quinlan also had a strong race, finishing fifth overall behind Dayton and second in the Bronze category. Mark Brummond of Auto Technic Racing followed in fourth in Bronze Cup in the #25 M4 GT4. The overall race was won by the #21 McLaren Artura, with the #82 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in second and the #59 Ford Mustang GT4 in third.

Greg Liefooghe finished third overall in race two.

Race two took place on the same day just a few hours after race one, and both Liefooghe and Wilmot made it onto the grid after the issues they had with their cars in the first race. Liefooghe started third in race two (based on the second fastest lap in qualifying) and Wilmot started in fifth. Both Liefooghe and Wilmot got by the #59 Mustang on a restart after the first caution to move into third and fourth, and Liefooghe held that position until the end, with the #21 McLaren once again getting the win followed by the #82 Aston Martin in second.

Patrick Wilmot finished fifth overall in race two.

The McLaren and Aston Martin had a great battle for the lead for most of the race but were several seconds ahead of everyone else. Liefooghe ran relatively unchallenged in third while Patrick Wilmot did a great job holding off the Mustang for most of the race before it got by him into fourth on the last lap. Michael Dayton had another very strong race in the Swish Motorsports M4 GT4, finishing sixth overall and first for the second consecutive race in the Bronze Cup. Liefooghe and Wilmot had the fourth and fifth fastest laps in the race, but both were around a second behind the fastest lap of the winning McLaren.

The next two rounds of the IMSA VP SportsCar Challenge take place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 7th-9th. —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy LAT Images]



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