It was as podium finish for BMW Team RLL at last weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona in Round 1 of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship while the Porsche customer team Wright Motorsports crossed the line in fourth place in the GTD class and the Turner Motorsport team competed in its 400th race with BMW also in the GTD class, with the #96 BMW M6 GT3, driven by American drivers Robby Foley, Bill Auberlen, Aidan Read and Colton finishing sixth in their class.
The 59th edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona took place under blue skies and warm temperatures of over 20 degrees Celsius, with this endurance classic race getting under way on Saturday afternoon with multiple incidents and yellow flags.
“There were fierce battles like in a sprint race,” says Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “The collisions in this intense long-distance event resulted in a lot of repair work, and one of our cars even had to retire. We held our position in the top five over the distance, but unfortunately this year, we missed out on claiming a podium step by ten seconds. Congratulations to Wright Motorsports on finished a strong fourth. The points are very important for the championship. Next up is Sebring.”
Porsche factory driver Patrick Long from the USA shared the driving in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R with his fellow countryman Trent Hindman, Belgian Jan Heylen and Austrian Klaus Bachler. For much of the race the team looked to be on course for a podium finish at Daytona, however, a collision cost considerable time.
During the course of the race, Jan Heylen drove the No. 16 car through the heavy traffic of the GTD class unscathed and made up positions, meaning that after five and a half hours, the Porsche 911 GT3 R took the lead for the first time. Over the following laps, the team maintained the pace of the front-running pack. However, a collision during the night meant that the car was able to continue but with significant damage on the left hand side of the car.
Patrick Long explained:
“We were going really well and had our eye on the podium over long stretches. At times we even had a faint hope of a class win. A nudge with the No. 9 Porsche left our car in bad shape. The damages to the body hampered us on the straights. It’s a shame. Still, fourth place gives us a lot of championship points. I prefer to focus on this positive aspect. I’m now looking forward to Sebring.”
Meanwhile further down the field, the Hardpoint EBM team’s first outing in a Porsche 911 GT3 R ended with a tenth place finish, with drivers Earl Bamber from New Zealand, Rob Ferriol from the USA, Denmark’s Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge from Great Britain, having been seriously hampered by a faulty front splitter which affected the car’s performance.
The BMW Team RLL reached the podium in the GTLM class after 24 hours of tough racing at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway, with the #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE taking a well-deserved third place, whilst the #25 car completed the race in fifth position.
The #24 BMW was driven by Brazilian Augusto Farfus, American John Edwards, Jesse Krohn from Finland and Marco Wittmann form Germany. Technical problems meant that teammates Connor De Phillippi from the USA, Canadian Bruno Spengler, Austrian Philipp Eng and Timo Glock from Germany were unable to get on the podium, having been in contention for much of the race.
Following the race at Daytona, Bobby Rahal, Team Principal for the BMW Team RLL, summed the race up by saying:
“It was a tough race; obviously the Corvettes were hooked up and we did the best we could. I wanted better for our guys who had worked so hard. They did a great job but we still have a podium which is not bad in a 24-hour race. With the #25 car we unfortunately had a bit of an issue that cost its chances later on. But still, the drivers did a super job, stayed out of trouble. We have the satisfaction that we did what we could and are now looking forward to Sebring and doing it there.”
Marco Wittmann commented:
“Overall, a podium finish is a successful result. Of course I was hoping for the win and to go home with a watch, but in the end, we have to admit that the Corvettes had better pace this weekend; they were slightly stronger and were leading nearly the entire race. I think we still can be proud to finish in P3 on the podium. It is the first time for me to stand on the podium in America so that was a great experience.”
Result GTLM class
1. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette C8.R #3, 770 laps
2. Milner/Tandy/Sims (USA/GB/GB), Corvette C8.R #4, 770 laps
3. Edwards/Krohn/Farfus/Wittmann (USA/FIN/BR/D), BMW M8 GTE #24, 769 laps
6. MacNeil/Estre/Lietz/Bruni (USA/F/A/I), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 760 laps
Result GTD class
1. Ward/Ellis/Dontje/Engel (USA/CH/NL/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #57, 745 laps
2. Habul/Marciello/Grenier/Stolz (AUS/CH/CDN/D), Mercedes-AMG GT3 #75, 745 laps
3. Sellers/Snow/Lewis/Caldarelli (USA/USA/USA/I), Lamborghini Huracan GT3 #1, 745 laps
4. Long/Hindman/Bachler/Heylen (USA/USA/A/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 745 laps
10. Ferriol/Bamber/Nielsen/Legge (USA/NZ/DK/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 R #88, 737 laps
12. Robichon/Vanthoor/Kern/Campbell (CDN/B/D/AUS), Porsche 911 GT3 R #9, 702 laps
17. Giovanis/Plumb/Plumb/Trinkler (USA/USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R #64, 515 laps
Round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the 12 Hours of Sebring, is scheduled to take place from 17th to 20th March, 2021.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Porsche AG and BMW