Title defender BMW shows strong form in Daytona and confirmed its speed with a well-earned podium position. Only the Corvettes were faster. But not by much… 2021 is the last year for the GTLM category and the swan song for the majestic Motul BMW M8 GTE. Needless to say, BMW Motorsport wants to send it off with a bang, so the stakes are high.
A STEEP CHALLENGE FOR ANY TEAM AND CAR.
After a successful qualifying race during the “ROAR” ahead of the 24-hour race weekend, the BMWs locked out the third row of the GTLM grid. The Rolex 24 of Daytona is a steep challenge for any team and car. However, to add to BMW’s challenge, the Motul BMW M8 GTE was handed a 20kg ballast in a “balance of performance” adjustment.
Come race day with everything set and only the green flag to be dropped, BMW was poised to repeat its success in the last two Rolex 24-hour races once again. The skies were clear, with no rain due throughout the weekend. Anyone knows that a 24-hour race is never without drama, and this race was no exception. Drama struck only seconds after the green flag dropped when Bruno Spengler misjudged the Weathertech Porsche’s pace and clipped its rear end in an overtaking maneuver, sending it into a spin before even entering the first turn.
A THIRD BUT HARD-FOUGHT PODIUM POSITION
The Canadian was later handed a drive-through penalty, which sent BMW back in the order. Up front, the #24 car of Marco Wittmann, John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, and Augusto Farfus was mounting the pressure on both Corvettes, but after 24 hours, the American GTs were just a little bit too fast, and the #24 car had to settle for a third but hard-fought podium position. The #25 car of Bruno Spengler, Timo Glock, Philippe Eng and Connor De Phillipi recovered from their impact with the Porsche and the penalty. However, an engine issue reduced the car’s power output and forced them to continue the race on the back foot. The #25 red Motul BMW M8 GTE finished in fifth place.
Bobby Rahal (team principal BMW Team RLL)
“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 (BMW Team RLL, #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place GTLM class)
“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.”
Timo Glock (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 5th place GTLM class)
“It was hard that we fell back with, I think, eight hours to go when we suffered an issue that affected the engine performance. Until then, we were running really well in the top-three. Connor was even in the lead at some point, and he really did a great job to get us in front of the Corvettes, but this is how 24-hour racing is. The team did an excellent job, trying everything, also with the #24 car, to challenge the Corvettes. They were slightly ahead of us but in the end, we have to take it like it is. Overall, it was a great experience. I enjoyed my first appearance here at Daytona. The team did a fantastic job, the mechanics worked really hard over the run up to get both cars into a good shape, as did the engineers. It was great fun.”
Bruno Spengler (BMW Team RLL, #25 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE, 5th place GTLM class)
“For sure, I am a bit disappointed about the final result because we had a chance for the podium today. To fight for the win would have been difficult as we saw that our other car, which had a very good pace, was not quite able to go the pace of the Corvettes. So, congrats to them; with a one-two, they did a really good job. It was a shame for us that we had that issue in the last hours of the race. A massive thanks to the team and the mechanics; they were fighting so hard through the night and the day and made everything work perfectly. It’s awesome to work with a team like that. Now we are going to focus very strongly on Sebring. We are going to do everything to bounce back there. Regarding the incident at the start when it was going green, I went on throttle as we do at every start here in IMSA, and the car in front of me did not quite go at the same time as me, so unfortunately, I nicked the rear corner of his car. I tried to avoid him, but it was just enough to spin him around. That was a bit of an unfortunate situation but definitely not intentional. Unfortunately, on their car there was quite a lot of damage, but these things can happen.”