A number of forced and unforced errors made BMW Team RLL’s finishes in this afternoon’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Road Race Showcase a disappointing sixth and eighth.
In the GTD class, Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn started second on the grid in the No.96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. Krohn soon took the lead in the class and pulled away from his rivals. Klingmann then extended the advantage further to over 16 seconds. The cautions allowed their competitors to get closer again but Klingmann managed the lead and crossed the line as the class winner.
In GTLM Sims, starting the No.25 M6 from the third position, quickly jumped to second and began hounding the leading Ford GT. Tomczyk, forced to start the No.24 M6 from the rear of the entire grid after an precautionary engine change post qualifying, was quickly through the GTD class in five laps. The race’s first caution period on lap seven gave him the chance to close to the rear of the GTLM class and after a return to green on lap nine he raced past both Corvettes into sixth place.
With the team deciding to run a different strategy, Tomczyk brought the No.24 M6 in for a stop on lap 19 and hand off to John Edwards after fuel and tire service.
Sims continued to hold second place in the No.25 M6, six seconds from the leader. As the remaining GTLM cars pitted, including Sims handing off to Auberlen on lap 25, Edwards moved up into second place. At the one hour mark Edwards raced in second, Auberlen in fifth. Only seven laps later Auberlen returned to the pits with a right front suspension issue. The crew effected repairs to the damper, but the No.25 car lost two laps and it appeared was eliminated from a good points day.
Fortunately, two caution periods in the final hour of the race allowed Sims, who replaced Auberlen on lap 51 during the final yellow, to regain the lead lap and challenge for a fourth place finish.
Auberlen added, “That race was quite a roller coaster ride. We were up, then down, then up again, and on the last lap right back down again.”
Contact with the No.4 Corvette on the final lap of the race and the resulting damage slowed Sims’ progress and he ultimately finished sixth.
“The end of the race was very exciting." said Sims "The M6 was working very well and I was better under braking than the Corvette in a few corners. On the white flag lap he had a bad run out coming out of the last corner and I was right behind him. Between turns one and three I felt I was close enough to make a move, but by the time we entered the corner the gap disappeared and a disappointing finish is the result.”
Unfortunately, the last caution period was caused by John Edwards in the No.24 M6 when he ran out of gas at the pit lane entrance as the team tried to maximize fuel mileage. He was towed back to the paddock and refueled but in the closing minutes of the race was unable to make up the two laps lost.
Edwards added, “Considering where we started the race we knew we would have to get clever with strategy. With where we stand in the championship we are are going to take the risk. We gambled today, but it did not pay off.”
“Certainly, today was a very tough day for us,” said Neil Fife, BMW Team RLL Race Engineer. “The No. 24 car gambled with a strategy that required a balance of reasonable pace and fuel mileage. Martin and John did an excellent job, but we missed the mark. Their misfortune assisted the No. 25 car to regain all of what was last from the mechanical issue earlier in the race and challenge for a top-four result. Unfortunately, contact ended what could have been a good point’s finish.”
Round nine of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, will be held Aug. 27 at Virginia International Raceway, in Alton, Va. The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
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