BMW convinced double podium was possible in Sebring 12 Hours

BMW convinced double podium was possible in Sebring 12 Hours

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Following a fraught debut for BMW’s new GT3 contender in January’s Rolex 24 Hours, the two Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run entries were much more competitive in their second IMSA outing, with both Augusto Farfus and Nick Yelloly charging up the field in the first stint to put their respective cars in early podium contention.

Yelloly and his teammates Marco Wittmann and Philipp Eng remained the main challengers to the leading Corvette as the race reached its final hour, only for a late gearbox problem to drop the #24 BMW a lap down in fourth.

The sister #25 M4 driven by Farfus, Connor de Phillippi and John Edwards was also in the battle for podium spots in the early part of the race until a power steering failure necessitated a lengthy repair job, leaving the trio 10th in the 11-car GTD Pro class.

BMW’s new motorsport boss Andreas Roos was encouraged by the pace shown by both its factory M4 cars at the round-the-clock enduro, but admitted that reliability problems prevented his squad from a double podium finish it thoroughly deserved.

“After twelve exciting hours of racing we leave Sebring with mixed feelings,” said Roos. “This race has once again confirmed that endurance racing not only has highlights in store but can also bring setbacks and the final results have been disappointing, of course. 

“Right up into the final phase it looked as if we could finish on the GTD Pro podium with our #24 and BMW M Team RLL. 

“But a race isn’t over until the chequered flag, and unfortunately a gearbox problem set us back a good hour before the end. The podium was clearly in the cards. 

“I’m convinced that the number 25 would have fought for the rostrum as well if it hadn’t been for the early problem with the power steering. It was important that we covered a lot of race kilometres with this car, too, to gather information.“

#96 Turner Motorsport Bmw M4 Gt3: Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen, Michael Dinan

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3: Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen, Michael Dinan

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

BMW was on course for victory in the Pro-Am GTD class until Turner Motorsport driver Bill Auberlen was pitched into a spin by Cetilar Ferrari’s Antonio Fuoco in his 500th race start for the Bavarian marque.

Auberlen then had to make an unscheduled pitstop after the team miscalculated his maximum driving time, dropping the #96 M4 he shared with Robby Foley and Michael Dinan to fourth in class.

Misfortune also struck another BMW team, Paul Miller Racing, that led the early stages of the race and was running second when Erik Johansson was hit by DragonSpeed driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who had nowhere to go after an LMP3 car had spun at Turn 1 in the third hour of the race.

BMW chief Roos felt another strong result slipped from the manufacturer’s grasp in the GTD class, but reiterated that he was pleased with the speed of the M4 at the Florida venue.

“In the GTD class, Turner Motorsport also was on course for the podium until the very end but then dropped back,” he said.

“Paul Miller Racing also was among the favourites with the BMW M4 GT3. It’s a shame that the team was denied a well-deserved top result through no fault of their own. 

“Overall, our conclusion is that the pace and performance of all four cars were very good. Now it’s time to analyse and fix the problems that have arisen.”

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