The pair of M6 GTLMs fielded by BMW Team RLL finished this past weekends Monterey Grand Prix 9th and 10th in a race mired by tire troubles. Using a new specification Michelin, Bobby Rahal’s team struggled to find an optimum setup to suit the rubber, with the race announcers on FOX Sports 1 deeming it similar to driving on ice for drivers Lucas Luhr, John Edwards, Dirk Werner, and Bill Auberlen. The team next heads to two tests at the stroried Watkins Glen circuit where Rahal hopes his team will figure the new compound and be competitive once again by the next round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Series. In the second race featuring PC and GTD cars, Turner Motorsports entered M6 GT3’s finished 5th and 12th respectively. BMW Team RLL next races at the 6 of the Glen July 3rd, so hopefully the next two months of preparations and testing put the M6 GTLM back to the front of the grid.
By Mitchell Weitzman
The 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continues its tour of California this weekend with the Continental Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda, at the storied Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. While the M6 GTLM remains winless thus far this season, the new turbocharged challenger sees the return to a venue of considerable success for BMW Team RLL, who scored a sweeping 1-2 finish at Laguna Seca last year. It’s not to say the M6 has been off the pace so far this year, scoring two poles at Sebring and Long Beach in the hands of endurance veteran Bill Auberlen; the first win will surely come sooner that later. New competition from Ford’s new GT racing car as well as Ferrari’s new, and also turbocharged, 488 GTE has made the always competitive GTLM even that much closer. Also don’t forget the Corvettes and Porsches that remain as challenging as ever, with the #4 Corvette winning the Florida pair of enduros. Laguna Seca should be a good fit for the larger, F12-based racer, being able to use the wide, sweeping corners of the Salinas hills to it’s benefit. It’s surprising and a real testament to the speed potential of the M6 GTLM that it was able to score a pole at the tight Long Beach street circuit despite it’s size disadvantage compared to smaller, mid-engined American and Italian rivals. In GTD, Turner Motorsport will field a pair of M6 GT3s as well, making it a 4xM6 assault.
Interestingly enough, the race weekend will be split into two separate two-hour sprint races, the first featuring the Prototype and GTLM classes, with the second the Prototype Challenge and GTD classes. Race one starts at 11:15 a.m. PT Sunday the 1st with Race 2 following at 3:45 p.m. PT. A 3 day pass to see all events is $90 a ticket, with a Sunday pass coming in at $70. Supporting races include the one-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Mazda MX-5 Cup. For those that have not been to Laguna Seca, it’s well worth the trip to the scenic Monterey Peninsula. I highly recommend climbing all the way to the top of the famed ‘corkscrew’ as well as viewing from the hill above the Andretti Hairpin, turn 2, giving a great look at drivers overtaking under heavy braking.
BMW Team RLL will participate in the Nov. 17-18 IMSA test at Daytona International Speedway marking the first public test of BMW’s latest endurance racing challenger, the BMW M6 GTLM. As announced during last season’s Petit Le Mans weekend, BMW Team RLL is expected to campaign two M6 GTLM race cars in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The M6 GTLM recently completed its first US test at Sebring International Raceway in late October along with a M6 GT3 machine that will provide the foundation for BMW’s worldwide customer racing program. 2015 season drivers Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and John Edwards participated at Sebring along with 2014 GTLM driver champion Kuno Wittmer, who has signed with BMW of North America to compete in the three endurance classics of the IMSA Championship – namely the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans. Wittmer will also participate in the development of the new race car. At the Daytona test the drivers will be Auberlen, Edwards, Lucas Luhr and BMW DTM driver Bruno Spengler. Spengler raced the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona with BMW Team RLL.
The three-day Sebring test was a successful one and was also notable as it provided the opportunity for 2015 BMW Motorsport Junior driver Trent Hindman to test last year’s Z4 GTLM. The 20-year old proved to be a quick study and was rapidly up to speed in the No. 24 car after being briefed by BMW Team RLL driver John Edwards. Edwards co-drove with Hindman to the youngster’s 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Grand Sport class drivers championship. Named as a BMW Motorsport Junior driver in 2015, Hindman raced twice in Europe with his Junior teammates. In October, one weekend after co-driving to the win at the season ending CTSC race at Road Atlanta in a BMW M3, Hindman co-drove to the victory in a BMW M235i Racing with his Junior teammates at the 12 Hour race in Brno, Czech Republic. Although not driving, Hindman will join BMW Team RLL to observe the Daytona test.
2016 will mark BMW Team RLL’s eighth season of successfully racing for BMW in North America. The M6 GTLM will be the third BMW model campaigned by the team. In the past seven seasons, racing first with the BMW M3 and then the Z4, the team has amassed 57 podiums, including 13 wins. The team finished second in last year’s GTLM class Manufacturer, Team and Drivers championships.
The 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship begins with the 54th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 30-31, 2016. Follow BMW Team RLL on Twitter at @BMWUSARacing for updates.