Turner Motorsport set a very impressive record at the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship race at Laguna Seca on Sunday, May 12, 2024, becoming the team with more race starts with BMW than any other team in history. The Laguna Seca race was their 557th professional race with a BMW, eclipsing the mark set by the legendary Schnitzer Motorsport team in Germany. To celebrate that record, the Turner M4 GT3, driven by Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher, wore the #557 in the race on Sunday and capped the day off with a strong second-place finish in the GTD class.

Turner Motorsport started their first professional race in 1998 when the team competed with an E36 325i in the SCCA World Challenge race at Topeka, Kansas. Back then, Turner was taking cash advances on credit cards and the team was sleeping five guys to a room at races to stay afloat. The team has come a long way since then, collecting nine championships over the years as they’ve raced everything from those first E36 cars to the new M4 GT3. “Thinking back to 1998, our first World Challenge race, it seems like so long ago in some ways, but it also seems like just yesterday,” said Turner. “If you had asked me then what my plans were for the future, I never would’ve told you that we’d still be racing BMWs 26 years later!”

Will Turner at Laguna Seca in 2001 for a Speedvision World Challenge race.

Turner Motorsport was the most successful BMW team in the Laguna Seca race. Patrick Gallagher put in a great lap in qualifying to put the #557 M4 GT3 into second in the GTD class behind the pole-sitting Lamborghini, with the top eight cars in the class within a half-second of each other. The #557 stayed at the front of the field for the entire race and was leading at the end with Robby Foley at the wheel. But then he had contact with the #40 Acura GTP car while trying to hold off the #57 Mercedes that was right behind him in second. The contact put him off the track and the Mercedes got by for the win, but Foley was able to get the car back on track and finish a strong second.

Turner Motorsport drivers Robby Foley (far left) and Patrick Gallagher (next to Foley) celebrate second place.

The second-place finish was certainly a letdown when a win looked to be in the cards, but it gives the team good momentum going into the next race at Watkins Glen in June. “It was a fantastic day – until just before the end of the race,” said Foley. “Unfortunately, there was obviously a misunderstanding when lapping with a prototype. From my point of view, he pushed me off the track as I wanted to turn into the corner, but I need to take a closer look at the footage. Second place is still a great result, and we take a lot of important points with us. However, when you’re so close to victory, it still leaves a bitter taste.”

In GTD Pro, the Paul Miller Racing team had an uncharacteristically bad weekend with the #1 M4 GT3 driven by Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. Snow is usually very strong in qualifying but could only manage a 1:21.003 lap that put him seventh in class and was around 1.3 seconds off the lap time of the pole-sitting #4 Corvette of Nicky Catsburg. The team didn’t fare any better in the race, ending up seventh out of nine cars in class, with the class win going to the #77 AO Racing Porsche.

Nothing seems to ever go BMW M Team RLLs way in the top GTP prototype class. Both cars were strong in qualifying at Laguna Seca, with Philipp Eng qualifying a very impressive third in the #24 M Hybrid V8 he shares with Jesse Krohn. Eng’s time was just two-tenths behind pole-sitter Sebastian Bourdais in the #01 Cadillac and stayed in the top three during his stint in the race, but the car dropped back after the pit stops to change drivers. Jesse Krohn then lost time in the #24 car when going off track and collecting one of the signs alongside the circuit, ultimately ending up ninth. “The positive is that we showed good pace throughout the weekend,” said Eng. “We were in the top-three in every session. The car also felt very good in my first stint. It’s very disappointing that we then fell so far back. We need to analyze exactly how this could have happened. We will attack again in the next race.”

The #25 M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi showed good pace in qualifying as well, with De Phillippi qualifying in fifth, but the team ran into issues in the race, losing time early in the race while changing the right rear wheel, and Nick Yelloly going off course in the races second hour that lost more time. The #24 finished seventh. “It was a tough race,” said De Phillippi. “We had a good car this weekend, but we lost too much of time and positions, especially in direct duels and when lapping the GTD cars. We still need to work on the drivability of the car, and we generally need to do a better job with race procedures. In this tight field, it’s about tenths of a second, so we can’t afford any mistakes. We will make another attempt at the podium in Detroit.” The GTP class at Laguna Seca was won by the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 of Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet, which was the 100th sportscar win for Roger Penske.

The BMW M4 GT4 entries in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Laguna Seca were not competitive with the balance of performance adjustments given to them before the race. The fastest BMW in qualifying for the GS class (the #39 Carbahn car driven by Sean McAlister) could only manage thirteenth on the grid, and the top finishing car in the race was the #92 Random Vandals M4 GT4 of Paul Sparta and Kenton Koch that finished eighth, followed by the #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 of Dillon Machavern and Robert Megennis in ninth. The race was won by the pole-sitting #69 McLaren Artura GT4.

The next race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule is the Chevrolet Grand Prix on the streets of Detroit, which will feature only the GTP and GTD Pro classes. All classes will be back together for the Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen on June 20th-23rd. The next race for Michelin Pilot Challenge is a four-hour race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 7th-9th. —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy LAT Images, BMW, Turner Motorsport]



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