The first race win for the new BMW M4 GT3 in North America is in the books. Paul Miller Racing won the GTD class of the 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (USA) on Saturday. For the team and its drivers, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow (both USA), it was only the second race with the car after their debut at Sebring (USA). On Friday, Snow had recorded the first pole position for the BMW M4 GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In the GTD PRO class, BMW M Team RLL showed great fighting spirit with the #25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3, coming from the back of the field following a grid penalty after qualifying. In the end, the effort remained unrewarded due to unlucky circumstances in the race. Turner Motorsport came home fourth in the GTD class in the #96 BMW M4 GT3.
Snow and Sellers dominated qualifying and race in the GTD class, pulled a gap early and always kept control of the lead, even after a couple of safety car periods in the second half of the race. The #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 had lead the 12h Sebring as well, before suffering from a collision with another car. This time, team and drivers were rewarded for their impressive performance.
Connor De Phillippi and John Edwards (both USA), sharing duties at the wheel of the #25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3, had to start a fightback in the race after losing P2 on the grid due to a technical rule infringement during qualifying. De Phillippi drove the first stint and made up a lot of positions. His great fighting spirit, together with the strong pace of the car, resulted in the class lead with 40 minutes to go and a pitstop to be made. A podium finish was in reach, but a full course yellow at the wrong time cost BMW M Team RLL a lot of ground. In the end, all that Edwards could do was bring the car home in P4 in the GTD PRO class. After the race there were more bad news for BMW M Team RLL. As De Phillippi exceeded his maximum driving time having to wait for the pit lane to open during the full course yellow, the #25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3 dropped to P6. Turner Motorsport took fourth place in the GTD class. Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley (both USA) also had to start way back on the grid due to the same technical rule infringement in qualifying as BMW M Team RLL.
On Thursday before the race weekend, Bill Auberlen und Alex Zanardi (ITA) were honoured with their induction into the Motorsports Walk of Fame in Long Beach. Auberlen, who had celebrated his 500th race start for BMW at Sebring a couple of weeks ago, attended the ceremony, received his medallion and held a speech. Joining the 33 previous inductees of racing’s who’s-who, Auberlen entertained the crowd with stories from his distinguished career before giving heartfelt thanks to his family and teammates. “Out of all my racing highlights, to be there (pointing to his medallion on the sidewalk) is pretty amazing”, Auberlen stated. “But I am only one-percent of this. 99 percent of my success is due to the unsung heroes that have been with me throughout my career.”
Quotes after the race:
Connor De Phillippi (#25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3, BMW M Team RLL): “Not the result we would have liked but the car was fantastic to drive. We had a good strategy until that first yellow flag. Big thanks to the entire team. We all put in a tremendous effort after having the start that we did in the race. I think we learned a lot this weekend and we can apply that knowledge, move on to the next race and go for the win at Laguna Seca.”
John Edwards (#25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3, BMW M Team RLL): “We had a great car and Connor drove an amazing stint that put us in the position where we were getting ready to pit and we would have come out in the top three with fresher tyres than the two cars ahead of us. It was definitely setting up to be game on for the win if those yellows came at the right time but unfortunately they came one or two laps too early and we got hung out by that and got shoved to the back of the field. We had another yellow that got us back into contention and we were able to push hard and finish fourth on track on a day when we started behind the whole GTD field not once but several times.”
Bryan Sellers (#1 BMW M4 GT3, Paul Miller Racing): “Today was awesome! There is just something really special about this event – all of the crowds and people. For us, it is extra special because it is our first win with BMW as a team and as a manufacturer. I am glad to have this first one out of the way and to have the monkey off of our back. It is really great and now we see how we can continue building from here.”
Madison Snow (#1 BMW M4 GT3, Paul Miller Racing): “We had a lot of pressure going into this weekend. We knew what we could do and that we could win this race. We started out by getting pole, but it is a long race and there is a lot of carnage that can happen here. It was us going out there and doing the best that we could and thankfully, I was able to get a gap at the beginning. We had the BMW M4 GT3 set up quite well for this race, but we still have not had a lot of testing time with it. Judging by this car, there is a lot more that it is capable of and we are really looking forward to the rest of the season. There were some nervous moments towards the end with the yellow flags, but Bryan did a great job staying in front and taking us to the win.”