Alexander Sims finished eighth in class for BMW Team RLL in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway, Florida (US), on 27-28 January 2017, overcoming difficult conditions and fierce competition throughout the race.
Sims shared the #19 BMW M6 GTLM Art Car with full-season teammate Bill Auberlen and fellow BMW factory drivers Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler, finishing 12th overall out of a total field of 55 cars. Designed by American artist John Baldessari, this was the 19th BMW Art Car in the manufacturer’s history and only the third to have finished a 24-hour race.
With a lap time of 1:44.659, teammate Auberlen qualified the BMW Art Car tenth in class and 24th overall. Auberlen also started the race, with the green flag flying at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. He soon made his way up to ninth and later eighth in class. Auberlen and Farfus later managed to get the #19 BMW up into the top-four in class during the night, running as high as tenth overall behind a field of much faster prototypes.
Difficult weather conditions were the theme of much of the race, and despite a total of 21 full-course yellows to calm the field after incidents and the most torrential rain showers, BMW Team RLL remained competitive throughout the race, with Sims’ car staying in the top 20 overall for almost the entire 24 hours and 651 laps.
Sims impressed in his first ever race on American soil, driving the BMW Art Car for a total of seven hours and two minutes – longer than any of his co-drivers – over the course of the 24-hour race, and logging 177 laps on the historic banks of Daytona International Speedway.
Unfortunately, the BMW M6 GTLM struggled with the pace against its GT Le Mans class-challengers but the team’s consistency and fighting spirit got them to the end of the gruelling 24-hour race, crossing the line 12th overall.
This has only left Sims eager to come back for more: “I absolutely loved racing at Daytona for the first time, but it was a difficult race,” Sims said. “We came here wanting to win so to finish eighth in class is obviously quite disappointing. The team did a brilliant job but the pace just didn’t reflect this – it’s a testament to how strong the GTLM field is in the WeatherTech Championship. However, we’ll come back fighting and looking for improvements at Sebring.
“It was a very special experience racing at Daytona and a huge privilege to drive the BMW Art Car. I was in the car for a while in the middle of the night when the race was under caution for rain. There was a lot of yellow flag running but safety has to come first. Luckily the weather cleared up for the last few hours and the racing was exciting across the board. This is all quite new to me and is a massive learning curve but I’m really looking forward to the rest of the IMSA season and can’t wait to get back out on track.”
The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona was the first race of the new season for the Cambridgeshire-based driver, whose 2017 programme will revolve around a BMW factory drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, racing across North America.
After almost a two-month break, Sims will return to race in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on 15-18 March 2017 for round two of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, also held in Florida.
Source. Mel Wicks/Photo. BMW