The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship visited the streets of Detroit on June 1, 2024, for a combined race weekend with Indy Car, their second after racing together at Long Beach, California, in April. It was the WeatherTech series first race on the new street circuit in Detroit after racing at the nearby Belle Isle circuit from 2007 through 2022. With limited space and a short track, the Detroit race featured only the GTP and GTD Pro classes.

The nine-turn, 1.645-mile street circuit in Detroit is not particularly exciting or well laid out. It’s super tight and bumpy in places and generates a lot of crashes, which is the main reason the Paul Miller Racing BMW ended up with a fifth-place finish while the #25 BMW M Team RLL had a DNF. The large GTP prototypes aren’t made for tight street circuits, and there was a lot of mayhem in the Detroit race.

The pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 cars were quick in practice, particularly the #24 with Philipp Eng at the wheel, but neither one of them qualified all well in a session that had a red flag stoppage before it ended. Eng was the fastest of the two with a 1:06.001 lap that put him in sixth, around six-tenths off the pole time of Nick Tandy in the #6 Porsche 963. Nick Yelloly was two spots behind Eng in eighth in the #25 car with a 1:06.425 lap. The Paul Miller Racing #1 M4 GT3 is usually fast in qualifying, but Madison Snow was the slowest car in the GTD Pro class and over two seconds off the time of pole-sitter Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette.

Things went poorly for the #24 M Hybrid V8 from the start, as Eng was given a drive-through penalty for jumping out of line too early on the race start, but things went worse for the #25 car later on. Nick Yelloly was running in fourth in his opening stint in the #25, but Connor De Phillippi then put the car into the tire barrier on his out lap after pit stops, followed by a harder hit against the wall that damaged the right rear and led to a DNF. Jesse Krohn did an admirable job of trying to hold off other cars in the #24, but ended up seventh, as the GTP class was won by the #10 Acura. There have now been five different winners in the GTP class in five races, but a BMW hasn’t been one of them.

Meanwhile, in GTP Pro, the attrition of other cars, including both Corvettes, a Mustang and a McLaren, led to the Paul Miller Racing #1 M4 GT3 moving up to fifth by the end after languishing toward the back of the GTD Pro field for most of the race. The GTD Pro class was won by the AO Racing Porsche, which had their second straight win. The fifth-place finish for Snow and Sellers put them in fourth in driver points in the championship. “I think resilience is the word of the day this weekend,” said Bryan Sellers. “It was a tough weekend as soon as we rolled onto the track – we knew we weren’t going to have the pace. But, in these races what really matters is survival. Survival is what moved us up quite a bit of places.”

Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen, New York on June 20-23, 2024, which is also the third round of the Michelin Endurance Cup championship that also includes Daytona, Sebring, Indianapolis, and Road Atlanta. The drivers will certainly be looking forward to the fast and flowing natural road course at Watkins Glen after banging and bumping around the streets of Detroit.

—David Haueter

[Photos courtesy LAT Images]



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