Daytona. The racing career of the new BMW M8 GTE officially kicked off at the season opener of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Daytona (USA) this weekend. At the Daytona International Speedway, Jesse Krohn (FIN), John Edwards (USA), Nick Catsburg (NED) and Augusto Farfus (BRA) finished seventh in GTLM class after 773 laps, sharing driving duties at the wheel of the number 24 car. Their team-mates, Alexander Sims (GBR), Connor De Phillippi (USA), Bill Auberlen (USA) and Philipp Eng (AUT) came ninth with the second car entered by BMW Team RLL. The number 67 Ford GT claimed victory in the 24-hour race.
Both cars showed great reliability and managed to complete the tough endurance classic without major technical issues in the maiden race appearance for BMW Motorsport’s new GT flagship car. No other new BMW GT race car has ever been more reliable on its debut. This was the good news for all involved at BMW Motorsport and in BMW Team RLL. Considering the given Balance of Performance (BoP), it was obvious, even before the start of the race, that the two BMW M8 GTE cars would be out of contention for top positions. More important was the fact that the new car was able to master the challenge of a 24-hour race from the word go.
“Our BMW M8 GTE successfully completed its baptism of fire here at Daytona,” said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “To finish such a tough debut race with both cars after 24 hours without major technical problems is something we can be more than proud of. Everything has been said with regards to the reasons for the gap in performance compared to the competition. The car couldn’t show its true potential yet. That’s why BMW and IMSA will continue their productive and open talks and have agreed to find an appropriate BoP assessment for the upcoming events starting with Sebring, allowing the BMW M8 GTE to show its true performance for the benefit of the series, BMW and all of our fans.”
Marquardt added: “As a matter of fact we sent a great GT car into action that holds huge potential for the future. Everyone at BMW Team RLL and at BMW Motorsport gave their all to get the most out of this race under these difficult conditions. In the coming race appearances we are set to be stronger, and we want to fight for top positions. The BMW M8 GTE has got all it takes to do so in any case. Many team members in Munich and at BMW Team RLL in North America have worked very hard in preparation for this race over the past months. My compliments go to everyone involved. This was an impressive team effort displaying a lot of passion. I’m particularly happy about the strong debut race of the BMW M4 GT4 in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The fact that our teams managed to finish second and fourth in the first race of the season shows that we are absolutely on the right track with this car.”
BMW and IMSA have been working together for years in a very positive and constructive manner. The BoP system is an integral part of global sports car racing including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. BMW and IMSA will continue productive, open talks and have agreed to find an appropriate BoP assessment for the upcoming events starting with Sebring (USA), allowing the BMW M8 GTE to show its performance for the benefit of the series, BMW and the fans.
The spectators were treated to a kind of unusual season opener. The anticipated rain didn’t come on Sunday. Only a heavy shower at the start of the sixth hour brought extra action in the pit lane. In addition, many teams suffered punctures over the course of the 24 hours of racing. Apart from that, relatively few incidents occurred, with only four full-course cautions. Never before were more laps completed at Daytona than in this year’s edition of the race.
In the sixth hour, the four drivers of car number 25 suffered a blow, when the BMW M8 GTE’s right front tyre burst after Auberlen hit debris on the track. Following 30 minutes of repair works, the BMW NA Brand Ambassador was able to rejoin, 17 laps behind the leaders. A strong result was impossible after that early setback. More repair pit stops followed as a result of that incident. Ultimately the number 25 BMW M8 GTE took the chequered flag in ninth after 731 laps.
The drivers of car number 24 delivered a consistent and flawless performance, trying to get the maximum out of the race under the given circumstances. Final-stint driver Edwards crossed the line in seventh.