BMW Team RLL began its final preparations for this coming weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona (USA) with the ‘Roar before the 24’. The team spent three days at ‘Daytona International Speedway’ with the two MOTUL BMW M8 GTEs. The official test ahead of the first GT highlight of the year had a new format; as well as the test sessions, the programme also included a qualifying race, in which the grid positions were determined for the endurance classic.
BMW works drivers Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock (both GER) are making their debut with BMW Team RLL in the BMW M8 GTE. While Wittmann did drive in the GTD class at Daytona five years ago, this is Glock’s first appearance at this prestigious event in the US state of Florida. The ‘Roar before the 24’ provided both drivers with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the BMW M8 GTE and the team. Wittmann competes alongside last year’s winners John Edwards (USA), Jesse Krohn (FIN) and Augusto Farfus (BRA) in the #24 car in the GTLM class. Glock shares the driving duties in the #25 car, which won the 24 Hours of Daytona two years ago, with Bruno Spengler (CAN), Connor De Phillippi (USA) and Philipp Eng (AUT).
After the training sessions on Friday and Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon was all about qualifying for the qualifying race that was to prove very successful for BMW Team RLL. On a damp track, Wittmann set the fastest time to secure pole position, with Glock just behind him in second place.
The grid positions for the 24-hour race itself were determined in the ‘MOTUL Pole Award 100’ on Sunday afternoon. Two drivers per car took part in the 100-minute qualifying race with Wittmann and Farfus in the #24 car, Glock and Eng in the #25. Conditions were extremely tricky. Rain before the race meant that the track was initially wet, until the sun appeared and the asphalt started to dry out visibly. Glock and Eng crossed the finish line fifth in the GTLM class, with Wittmann and Farfus behind them in sixth place after they had to come in for an unscheduled pit stop.
In the GTD class, the Turner Motorsport team is on the cusp of a milestone with the 24 Hours of Daytona representing the 400th race with BMW for principal Will Turner (USA) and his team. They are perfectly positioned to mark the occasion with another fine result after Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen (both USA) won a strong qualifying race in the #96 BMW M6 GT3 to secure pole position for the 24-hour race.
The 59th edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona gets underway at 15:40 local time (21:40 CET) on 30th January.
Quotes after the Roar:
Timo Glock (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE): “It was very exciting for me to drive at the start and get a feel for how everything works, including in the car. It went really well. However, it was obviously a challenge to drive at Daytona for the first time – and in the wet. My goal was to learn as much as possible and to bring the car back in one piece. That worked out wonderfully and I am very happy so far. It is really enjoyable and I am looking forward to next weekend. My impressions are very positive, the team is superb, the guys are doing a great job, and it is a real pleasure to work with them. We will now see what next weekend has in store for us.”
Philipp Eng (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE): “It is extremely cool to be back here at Daytona with BMW Team RLL and my team-mates. We sorted out everything that is important for next weekend. As far as the preparation is concerned, it was a very successful test. We also did some great work on such things as seat position and practicing the driver changeovers. The car is really good, we are all happy, and I am now looking forward to the 24-hour race finally getting started.”
Marco Wittmann (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE): “It is excellent to be back racing at Daytona. This is my first time in the BMW M8 GTE, and it is awesome fun. The ‘Roar’ started very well for us. It was also super cool for me to drive in qualifying and to put the car on pole. Unfortunately, not everything worked exactly as it should have done in the qualifying race, as a result of which we now start the 24-hour race from sixth place. However, all hope is not lost – 24 hours is a long time. We will now use the next few days to ensure we go into the race well prepared, and will do our best to get to the front of the field. Generally speaking, the mood is good and there is a great spirit in the team.”
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE): “It was great to have this first weekend here at Daytona. Unfortunately, the qualifying race did not exactly turn out as we expected. The weather was very difficult. We made a wrong call with the first stop by having another set of wets and that I think cost us a little bit in race performance. But it was very important to prepare for the big race and to get the mileage for Marco who did a brilliant job.”
Robby Foley (Turner Motorsport, #96 BMW M6 GT3): “You can never take a win for granted but that’s all we went for today. The start was exciting. We had a bit of rain and everybody had to deal with that, but we had a clean start. I wanted to take it easy and not scratch the car before next weekend. We could pick up a few cars and then we decided to wait a bit until the track was ready for dry tyres. The strategy worked out. Pole position for sure is the best place to start. I think you can control your own destiny a bit better.“
Bill Auberlen (Turner Motorsport, #96 BMW M6 GT3): “I don’t think I’ve ever had a qualifying race. It’s cool to win something new. I like it! To qualify on pole for the Daytona 24-hour race is amazing. That is really great because the crown jewel of IMSA is Daytona.”