Official release: Today, nine races into the inaugural racing season of the BMW M8 GTE, BMW Team RLL added another entry in the record books by delivering the first victory and first double podium finish for the all-new BMW M8 GTE at the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
The No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, driven by Connor De Phillippi and Alexander Sims, completed 88 laps of the classic Virginia International Raceway two-hour-and-forty-minute race, winning with just a 1.323 second margin of victory. The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE, with John Edwards and Jesse Krohn co-driving, finished a very strong third, only 4.439 seconds behind their teammates, to cap a very exciting weekend.
Opening the race in a big way, starting drivers Edwards, in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE, and De Phillippi, behind the wheel of the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, rocketed forward at the green flag to move into the second and third positions respectively. De Phillippi’s jump from his fifth place starting position earned him the VP Fuels Stand on the Gas Award.
Edwards inherited the lead when the No. 67 Ford GT pulled off with problems on lap 28, pitting one lap later to hand off to Krohn. De Phillippi pitted on the next lap, handing the No. 25 M8 to Sims.
At the one hour mark, Krohn raced in second position, Sims in fourth. Sims was slowed by an off course excursion and a resulting collision with a GTD car that ultimately caused him to serve a drive-through penalty on lap 39. Not to be denied, the British ace and the team set upon a plan to get back to the front. Sims pitted for fuel and tires under the race’s only caution period while Krohn stayed out, now in the lead. Krohn pitted on lap 54, returning to the fight in fifth. By lap 62 the large crowd at VIR could see that today would be BMW’s day. Sims, now in the lead, built up a 45 second gap to the balance of the GTLM field following the next round of pit stops. Krohn had charged from fifth to third by lap 65 while Sims, counting on his Michelin tires to double stint, took advantage of his margin to pit for only fuel and deliver the first win for the BMW M8 GTE by just over one second.
“First and foremost, congratulations to all at BMW Team RLL.” said Victor Leleu, BMW of North America Motorsport Manager. “The race demonstrated a flawless execution from the crew, engineers and drivers. Everyone has put their heart and soul into the M8 GTE program and we couldn’t be happier we were able to deliver the car its first-ever win today at VIR. The team has had to adapt to a lot of changes with this new program. We had a few challenging races this year but no one ever doubted the potential of the new car from day one. Even after the cruel result at the previous race at Road America, everybody felt strong and kept plugging away, knowing it was just a matter of time. Today is that day! I’m very proud we proved the worth of the all-new M8 GTE against the most competitive GT field in the world.”
“Great team effort today! Everybody did an excellent job!” said Brandon Fry, BMW Team RLLTechnical / Racing Operations Director. “We had a good pit stop strategy and the drivers did an awesome job. This is something we’ve been working towards for a while and we have had some bad luck go our way but everything finally came together today. So, good job by everybody. Super proud of the team!”
Connor De Phillippi, driver No. 25 BMW M8 GTE (P1): “Today is the first win for the BMW M8 GTE. I am so proud of these guys. We got so close at the last event and these guys have been working their tails off since last November. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this whole program. It’s time to celebrate!”
Alexander Sims, driver No. 25 BMW M8 GTE (P1): “What an eventful race. Connor did a great job at the start to get us up to P3. I got in and raced past the Corvette, I tried to get by Dirk, but I made a mistake, committed too much and lost control, unfortunately hitting a Lexus. We received a drive-through penalty which I thought was the right decision, it was my fault. At that point I thought the race was over but amazingly there was a safety car that brought us back into contention. From that point on, our pace was really good. We were strong and able to race with the guys around us and yeah, for the last stint, the Michelin tires held on fantastically well to the point we could double stint them at a track that is notoriously hard on tires such as VIR. Great strategy by the Rahal Team and BMW and great pace from the car, the M8 GTE’s first win is very sweet to get.”
John Edwards, driver No. 24 BMW M8 GTE (P3): “It’s a great day to have both cars on the podium. We were competitive all race long and there was a tight battle at the end. I thought Jesse had a shot at the Corvette but every time he got closer he would lose downforce and grip, but either way, a great job by him to regain some of the spots we had lost in the pit stop. Overall, a really great day for the first win for the BMW M8 GTE and a double podium for BMW.”
Jesse Krohn, driver No. 24 BMW M8 GTE (P3): “Super happy for the team, for BMW Motorsport and for Alex and Connor. The team really deserves this. They really deserved 1st and 2nd, but unfortunately time ran a little bit short at the end and I couldn’t deliver. Overall, a really, really good day for the team and for BMW.”
The tenth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will take place at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 9th and be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET.