We might be a bit biased saying it, but we reckon the BMW M8 has one of the best car liveries on the grid. We catch up with BMW Motorsports works driver and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Connor De Phillippi to find out what it’s like piloting the red “Motul” beast in some of the world’s most legendary races.
Connor, how has your racing season been this year?
This is my third year with BMW. Overall, things have gone really well from the get-go. We had great speed, but during the 24 Hours of Daytona we had an issue that took us out of the race early on and we weren’t able to recover any of those laps back. In general, our performance has been really good this year. We just didn’t have that luck. Even at Sebring we had the wind at our fingertips, ready to win the race and then ended up getting taken out by a car in another class with 10 minutes to go. It just seemed like little things like that the whole season, things that were out of our control. With the things that were in our control, like the car’s performance, I feel we made a big step forward this year.
How are you finding the car?
I really enjoy it. We started off on the back foot in our first year, but we still managed to get two wins in that debut year with the car. Since then, we’ve come a long way with it and we’ve certainly got it going in the right direction with driveability and set-up. It’s got a different driving style that I’m used to. I’ve always been a pretty smooth driver, but I like to attack. I’ve had to learn how to drive the M8 in a quick way. That’s taken longer than I expected, but at the end of last year it really clicked. And that’s where I felt my performance personally was at a new level.
In what way was the M8 different to what you’re used to?
I drove in Carrera Cup, Super Cup and spent two years in Audi R8 GT3 in GT Masters and the VLM Championship on the Nordschleife. Coming from rear and mid-engined cars, this was the first time I drove a front-engined car. It took me some time to get accustomed to it. That attack factor wasn’t the way to drive this car. It would give you what it could, but if you asked for more you would lose lap times. You had to know when to scale it back. It doesn’t have the same traction as a car with the engine at the rear. So we’ve put a lot of emphasis in how to find performance in the low speed corners. And that’s where we’ve made a lot of progress this year.
What’s it like to compete at something like the Daytona 24 Hours compared to sprint racing?
I grew up in sprint racing. When I got my first chance to do a proper endurance race, I was completely hooked. With endurance racing, I love the whole strategy aspect: fuel saving, out laps on cold tyres, in laps, all of these little details suddenly become tenths of a second, that add up to handfuls of second. These little details are something that I’ve always exceled at. With 24 Hours of Daytona, it’s by far the biggest endurance race in North America and it’s one of the big four everyone wants to win. Florida always manages to mix things up. It’s not a matter of if it rains, but when it rains.
What’s the team camaraderie like during an endurance race?
When you work with so many great drivers, and to have them as your teammates, we become brothers, especially over a race weekend. We share the same passion and the same goal and pushing each other. It’s not about who can pull off the fastest lap time, it’s about pulling off the best stint you can and helping each other. That’s why I love endurance racing.
The partnership with Motul was signed this year at Daytona. What difference does Motul’s products make to your success?
Motul has years and years of experience in motorsport, and across multiple forms of motorsport. And I think that technology transfer and knowledge from other forms of motorsports brings a lot of value to us in terms of performance and reliability. Whether it’s motorcycles or off-road vehicles, all the things Motul learns in those spectrums and being able to apply that to endurance racing adds that special value to it. It’s been great having Motul on board and I’ve loved driving this red car. I think this livery is the best we’ve had. Mentally as a driver, it makes the car feel fast. If you think your car looks amazing and a total weapon, you will drive better.