The pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8s finished fifth and sixth in the GTP class at the Six Hours of Watkins Glen this past weekend. On the face of it, fifth and sixth place finishes are not all that impressive, but the sixth-place finish certainly was in this case after the enormous effort it took to get that finish.

On the last lap of practice on Saturday at Watkins Glen, Connor De Phillippi lost control of the #25 M Hybrid V8 in turn one, slid across the track and ran into the Armco on the opposite side. Connor wasn’t injured, but the damage to the car was bad enough that it was not repairable. The decision was made to have the test car that was at RLL headquarters in Indiana driven to Watkins Glen, but it wasn’t as simple as taking a ready-to-race car off the truck.

Connor De Phillippi (on right side of car in drivers suit) looks on as the spare car is finished up for the race.

IMSA rules required that the drivetrain components had to be taken out of the wrecked car and put into the spare car, which led to an all-nighter for BMW Team RLL crew. The “new” #25 car was finished right before the race and had to be started from pit lane since they didn’t make it to qualifying. They also had to serve a drive-thru penalty for not making it to the grid for the formation lap. Starting at the back, drivers Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly then had to drive through all the GT traffic before they even got into the GTP field.

Amid several caution periods over the six hours and a downpour in the last hour that led to a red flag stoppage, the #25 car worked its way back into contention and finished sixth in class, which was a testament to the team for having the perseverance to put the car together and then support it through six hours of racing. “Thank you to the entire team for the incredible effort to get the car to the start after my accident on Saturday!” said De Phillippi. “This applies not only to our #25 crew but to everyone, as the #24 team also helped. The car was only finished just before the start, so for us it was just about completing a clean race. But the balance improved over the six hours, and if we hadn’t been stuck behind the Acura at the end we might even have been able to run with the leading trio.”

The #24 M Hybrid V8 of Philipp Eng and Jesse Krohn had an up and down weekend. Eng was fastest in the practice session on Friday but could only qualify in eighth with a 1:32.851 lap, with the pole going to the #40 Acura with a 1:32.209 lap. The pair kept it clean during the race and finished ahead of the #25 car in fifth. “Fifth place is not the result we wanted, but except for qualifying where we had balance issues, I was quite satisfied with our pace over the weekend,” said Eng. “We had the fastest time in practice, and I could also keep up with the pace of the Cadillacs in the race.” The GTP class was won by the #7 Porsche 963.

In the GTD Pro class, Madison Snow qualified the #1 Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 in sixth, and the car was very competitive in the race until the end, with Bryan Sellers and Neil Verhagen in the car along with Snow. The #1 car was running second in class when the red flag flew for the heavy rain that fell, but they dropped back to eighth after being given two drive-through penalties for failing to adhere to the minimum refueling time and for passing under yellow, mistakes which are very unusual for this championship-winning team.

The Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 finished eighth in GTD Pro.

In the GTD class, Patrick Gallager qualified the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 in a solid fifth, just a second behind the pole-sitting #12 Lexus. The car, driven by Robby Foley and Jake Walker along with Gallagher, was running in the top three at times during the race, but was shuffled back to fifth after the pit stops for changing to rain tires and then back to slicks in the closing stages of the race. The GTD race was won by the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG, which has now won four of five races this year and has a big lead over Foley and Gallagher, who are second in the championship.

Turner Motorsport finished a solid fifth in GTD.

The GTD Pro and GTD classes will race next at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario, Canada on July 12th-14th. The GTP class (as well as LMP2, GTD Pro and GTD) will be back in action at Road America in Wisconsin on August 1-4, 2024. —David Haueter

[Photos by David Haueter]




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