N ine races into the inaugural IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 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 GT car at the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway (USA).
The No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, driven by Connor De Phillippi (USA) and Alexander Sims (GBR), 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 (USA) and Jesse Krohn (FIN) co-driving, finished a very strong third, only 4.439 seconds behind their teammates, to cap a very exciting weekend.
At the one hour mark, 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. Not to be denied, 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. 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. He then 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.
Reactions to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at VIR:
Jens Marquardt (BMW Motorsport Director): “It is great to be able to celebrate the BMW M8 GTE‘s first win. Congratulations to Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi and BMW Team RLL on this fantastic result. The fact that our new BMW M8 GTE is capable of winning in its maiden season was evident in previous races. We were close a few times in the IMSA series and we had what it takes to get a top spot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now we have reached this milestone. In addition to the team and drivers, I would also like to congratulate all the employees in Munich who played a large part in this success.”
Connor De Phillippi (No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, 1st place): “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 programme. It’s time to celebrate.”
Alexander Sims (No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, 1st place): “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 Müller, 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 BMW M8 GTE’s first win is very sweet to get.”
John Edwards (No. 24 BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place): “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 (No. 24 BMW M8 GTE, 3rd place): “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.”