The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship hasn’t raced since 2022 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, but the Michelin Pilot Challenge and VP Racing SportsCar Challenge raced there this past weekend with several BMWs entered for the two series. It was round four of the Michelin Pilot Challenge and one of only two four-hour races on the schedule (the other being Daytona), while the VP Challenge series held their third and fourth rounds of the year.

The M4 GT4s were on the back foot from the get-go at Mid-Ohio, due to a balance-of-performance adjustment for barometric pressure that’s given to the turbocharged cars to level the playing field. The BMWs in both series were to run with less power. “For this race, they have us at power level three, which is the lowest level we’ve ever had to run at,” says Turner Motorsport owner Will Turner. “It’s the least amount of power we’ve had in a year and a half of racing these cars now.”

None of the BMWs were that quick in qualifying in either series. In VP Challenge, Vin Barletta was the fastest of the BMWs with a 1:29.032 lap, which was around two seconds off the pole time of the #21 McLaren Artura GT4. The top four of the five M4 GT4s in the race were all within around a half-second of each other in qualifying.

Patrick Wilmot (in top photo) had the best races of any of the BMWs in VP Challenge in his Split Decision Motorsport #88 M4 GT4, finishing fourth in both races, with the win in race one going to the #59 Ford Mustang GT4 and the win in race two going to the #21 McLaren. Auto Technic Racing driver Mark Brummond finished second in the Bronze category (for Bronze-rated drivers) in race one and was followed in third in the category by Turner Motorsports Vin Barletta. Michael Dayton of Swish Motorsports finished second in the Bronze category in race two in the #12 M4 GT4, while Brummond finished in third.

Mark Brummond finished on the Bronze category podium in both VP Challenge races.

In the four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race, which was the premier race of the weekend on Sunday, the BMWs were again off the pace in qualifying. Sean McAlister was the fastest BMW qualifier in ninth with a 1:27.119, which was around nine-tenths off the pole time of the #69 McLaren. The pair of Turner Motorsport BMWs were a few spots behind in eleventh (Francis Selldorff in the #96) and twelfth (Dillon Machavern in the #95). Paul Sparta qualified the #92 Random Vandals BMW in eighteenth and Joe Dalton (who was new to Mid-Ohio), qualified in 22nd in the #97 Turner car. Interestingly, the lap time of the #93 Honda Civic TCR that was on pole in the lower TCR class was only eight-tenths off the pole time of the McLaren in the GS class, and it set a qualifying time faster than all of the BMWs.

The M4 GT4s typically race better than they qualify, and a few of them ran in the top five during the race, though that was helped by attrition and setback for other cars, including the pole-sitting McLaren. The #39 CarBahn Motorsport M4 GT4 and the #92 Random Vandals M4 GT4 were having a great battle for position but it all went wrong when Kenton Koch in the #92 clipped Jeff Westphal in the #39 in the very high-speed turn one, sending Westphal hard into the wall and destroying the car. Thankfully Westphal walked away from the wreck and Koch was given a five-minute stop and hold penalty for causing the accident.

The #39 CarBahn BMW chases the #92 Random Vandals BMW through turn12.

With the #39 out of the race from the accident and the #92 effectively out from the long penalty, that left the Turner BMWs as the only three BMWs in the field, but by the end the #95 of Dillon Machavern and Robert Megennis was the only M4 GT4 running in the top ten. Megennis put in a strong drive in the final 40 minutes to move up to sixth at the end. The #97 Turner car of Patrick Gallagher, Vin Barletta and Joe Dalton finished down in fifteenth after the team had to repair it from damage caused in the VP Challenge race earlier that day, and the #96 Turner car of Robby Foley and Francis Selldorff finished in 20th after suffering a broken right suspension after contact with a Mustang. The race was won by the #88 Aston Martin, followed by the #46 Aston Martin and the #57 Mercedes.

The #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 of Dillon Machavern and Robert Megennis finished sixth in Michelin Challenge.

The Mid-Ohio race was Patrick Gallaghers first in an M4 GT4, though he’s a regular with Robby Foley in the Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 in the WeatherTech series. Gallagher grew up going to races at Mid-Ohio when his dad raced in SCCA, has raced there a lot himself and even taught at the Mid-Ohio School, so it was a fun experience to race the M4 GT4 at this track that he knows so well. “The M4 GT4 is amazing, and it’s the best GT4 car I’ve driven,” he said. “I’ve always liked turns one and eleven here, because they’re really fast and turn one is blind, but the BMW is really good in the tight, technical stuff in turns four through nine. Mid-Ohio is still of the most technically challenging racetracks in the country. It’s higher grip with the repaving but it still has that feeling it’s always had, where you are not exactly sure where the edge is. It’s difficult to tell the difference between 95 percent grip and 100 percent grip.”

The Michelin Pilot Challenge series will race next at Watkins Glen, New York on June 22nd. The VP Racing SportsCar Challenge series next two rounds are at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 12th-14th. —David Haueter

[Photos by David Haueter]




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