Daytona. For BMW M Motorsport and BMW of North America, this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona (USA) represents one of the highlights of the season, even this early in the year. The new BMW M4 GT3 is set to make its debut at the endurance classic in Florida. BMW M Team RLL and Turner Motorsport were in action last weekend at the test and qualifying event, Roar Before the 24, where they secured their start positions for the 24-hour race. The big race is the perfect stage on which to mark the 50-year anniversary of BMW M GmbH, which will celebrate the occasion with a top-class programme both on and off the track.
The sporting foundations for the coming weekend were laid over the last few days, within the many test sessions and the 100-minute qualifying race. The two MOTUL BMW M4 GT3s run by BMW M Team RLL qualified 12th and 13th in the GTD-PRO class. At the wheel of the #24 car were BMW M works drivers Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) and Nick Yelloly (GBR), gaining as much experience as possible. Their team-mates Marco Wittmann (GER) and Philipp Eng (AUT) were only in action in the test sessions. In the #25 car, Augusto Farfus (BRA) and Jesse Krohn (FIN) skipped the qualifying race, while John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi (both USA) shared the cockpit. Turner Motorsport, with drivers Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Michael Dinan (all USA) and Jens Klingmann (GER) in the #96 BMW M4 GT3, failed to finish in the GTD class following a collision. As a result, they will start from the back of the field at the weekend.
"The 24 Hours of Daytona is a very special race for BMW M Motorsport in many regards - and for me personally," said Mike Krack, Head of BMW M Motorsport. "For the first time this season, the 50-year anniversary of BMW M will be duly celebrated, thanks to the efforts of BMW of North America at the racetrack. From a sporting perspective, we are extremely excited about our IMSA debut with the BMW M4 GT3. We have already seen at the Roar that setting up and classifying a totally new GT car can pose challenges that need a little time to master. However, the drivers and teams are constantly making progress and will continue to improve over the course of the race weekend. I am confident that we will see good performances at my final race as Head of BMW M Motorsport. I am really looking forward to it."
MOTUL is partner of BMW M Motorsport and lends its name to the BMW M Team RLL cars. "After two years of successful partnership, including the 2020 24h Daytona win, we are very proud to continue our adventure together," said Romain Grabowski, Head of Brand MOTUL. "This is not only a partnership renewal, it is a real challenge for our two companies with the introduction of the brand new MOTUL BMW M4 GT3 as we have both been working together on its technical development. We are hoping to provide BMW fans from all over the world with great excitement as well as top quality engine oil, allowing them to extract maximum power output from their BMW engines while benefiting from maximal protection." Fellow partners Akrapovič, H&R, Michelin and Puma are also working closely with BMW M Motorsport. They are joined by BMW of North America's partners BMW M Performance Driving School and Global Medical Response and BMW M Team RLL's partners Aero and Rousseau.
Special highlights in support programme.
As well as the race action, BMW M Motorsport and BMW of North America will also mark 50 years of BMW M with a host of highlights on the support programme for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Directly before the start of the race, there will be a parade of vintage and current BMW M cars, including a BMW M1 from 1980. Three race cars that made history by winning IMSA races will be on display at the 'Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition' in the 'Daytona Fan Zone': the BMW 3.0 CSL from 1975, the 2015 BMW Z4 GTLM, and the BMW M8 GTE that triumphed at Daytona in 2019.
Once again, BMW M is also the title partner of the BMW M Endurance Challenge, the 4-hour race that kicks off the season in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Four BMW M4 GT4s run by the Turner Motorsport, Stephen Cameron Racing and Random Vandals Racing teams will compete in the race on Friday. The field will be led by BMW M3 and BMW M4 safety cars. Attending as representatives of BMW M GmbH are CEO Franciscus van Meel and Timo Resch, Vice President Customer, Brand and Sales at BMW M GmbH.
The BMW M Endurance Challenge gets underway at 19:35 CET on Friday 28th January. The Rolex 24 starts at 19:40 CET on Saturday 29th January.
Quotes ahead of the 24-hour race:
Bobby Rahal (Team Principal BMW M Team RLL): "We are very proud to have played a role in a good portion of the history of BMW M Motorsport. For us, signing with BMW back in 2008 for the 2009 season was a huge honour - so for us to be part of this 50th anniversary of BMW M is really something special. We are super excited about racing the new BMW M4 GT3, once again introducing a new race car to BMW fans like we have done with the M3 GT, Z4 GTLM, M6 GTLM and M8 GTE. We have been fortunate to have success with each of those cars which makes it exciting to embark on this new project and hopefully have more success with this great new chassis in 2022. BMW M Motorsport has assembled another great driver line-up and our drivers will have to give us their best. There are a lot of good drivers in GTD PRO and we're looking forward to the competition."
Sheldon van der Linde (#24 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3): "Not a great qualifying race for us. Obviously, we would have liked to be further up on the grid. Our job is to make sure that everything runs smoothly within the team. For me personally it's the first race with the RLL team, so I was getting to know everybody during these days. My first time with BMW M Motorsport at Daytona means there's a lot left for me to learn."
Nick Yelloly (#24 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3): "We could see in the qualifying race where we are at the moment - and that's not where we want to be. Now we have to stick our heads together in the days to come. In general, it's pleasure to drive the BMW M4 GT3 and work with BMW M Team RLL. Now we just have to find some speed."
John Edwards (#25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3): "The qualifying race didn't end up great but fortunately there are no points awarded for it. Now we have a week ahead of us where we'll put our heads down and prepare for the 24-hour race to go for the result when it counts."
Connor De Phillippi (#25 MOTUL BMW M4 GT3): "Not the result we wanted, obviously. We executed well and had a clean race. We just didn't have the package to challenge for top positions. Let's hope it will be different next weekend and we can put on a fight."
Jens Klingmann (#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3): "For us the focus was on set-up work. It's important to find a good balance between racing day and night. There are still a lot of things to learn and discover with the new car. I think we made good progress and the car is in a good window. It is easy to drive which is important for a 24-hour race. Now we just got to make it fast. I am confident we'll get there soon."