Super Sebring Event brings together IMSA, WEC and the BimmerLife Live Blog!
Stay tuned to BimmerLife next weekend as David Haueter will be covering Super Sebring with race updates, images and driver commentary from Sebring International Raceway! In addition to the daily summaries, be sure to visit our live blog regularly. If you happen to see David, say hello to his BMW CCA family.
All eyes of the sports car racing world will be on Sebring International Raceway in Florida over the weekend of March 17-18 as the “Super Sebring” event brings together the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). . Each series will have its own lengthy endurance race at the famous 3.74 mile track, with the season opener the WEC 1,000 miles of Sebring on Friday and the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday. The Michelin Pilot Challenge series will also host a two-hour race on Thursday afternoon.
This year’s 12 Hours of Sebring is the 71st edition of the race and it is the first time since 2000 that BMW has competed in the top prototype category. Back in 2000, BMW Motorsport competed with two V12 LMR prototypes, with the No. 42 car of JJ Lehto and Jörg Müller finishing third overall behind two Audi R8s, having won the overall race in 1999 with Tom Kristensen as the third driver Lehto and Muller.
All BMW entries this weekend will compete in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring races. BMW is not yet in the WEC series this year, but that will change next year when BMW M Team WRT competes in the hypercar class with the M Hybrid V8. In the IMSA GTP class, BMW M Team RLL will field two M Hybrid V8 prototypes with Phillip Eng, Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittmann in the number 24 car and Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde in the No. 25
There are three M4 GT3 competitors in the GT classes, with the #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 competing in GTD PRO with Bill Auberlen, Chandler Hull and John Edwards, along with the #96 car in GTD with drivers Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher, and Michael Dinan. Defending Sprint Cup champions Paul Miller Racing will also field their #1 M4 GT3 in GTD, with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis at the wheel.
The 12 Hours of Sebring is half the length of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but most drivers will tell you it’s twice as hard. Most of a lap at Daytona consists of straights and banked corners, but a lap at Sebring requires more braking and gear changes, and there are the infamous bumps in various sections of the track that punish the driver. IMSA held an official test there in February and the single M Hybrid V8 that RLL took was bottom of the timesheets in almost every session. IMSA adjusted the BoP (Balance of Performance) for the Sebring race after this test, with the BMWs gaining around 17.4 hp and a weight gain of around 22 pounds. There have been adjustments across the GTP field, but it’s odd that the Cadillac V-LMDh cars, which performed much better than the BMW in testing days, are lighter than the BMW and have received the same horsepower boost.
Adjustments were also made in the GT classes for Sebring (which both use the same GT3 cars), with five cars including the M4 GT3 receiving a 33.1 lb weight reduction. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 that dominated at Daytona received a 33.1-pound weight increase but will still be very strong at Sebring. The Porsche 911 GT3 R made the most of the BoP adjustments with a 5mm larger air restrictor which could bring this car to life at Sebring after being at the bottom of lap times at Daytona. A strong finish at Sebring is all about staying out of trouble and going fast as attrition is a big factor in racing.
Five M4 GT4s of the new G82 generation competed in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Thursday. Auto Technic Racing has a fast driver pairing in their #25 car, Bill Auberlen and John Capestro-Dubets. Stephen Cameron Racing will have Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan in their #43 car, and Random Vandals Racing will have Paul Sparta and Kenton Have a cook in the number 92 car. Turner Motorsport also has two entries, with Robert Megennis and Cameron Lawrence in the #95 car and Robby Foley and Vin Barletta in the #96 car. There are 27 entries in total in the GS class.
While there are no BMW competitors in the WEC race, it also promises to be an exciting race, with Ferrari, Peugeot, Porsche, Cadillac and Toyota all competing in the hypercar class. The Sebring race will be the first race where LMDh and LMh cars compete in the same race. LMDh cars are the prototypes based on chassis made by approved manufacturers and available to any team while the LMh cars are built from scratch by the manufacturer. For example, the BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh car uses a chassis manufactured by Dallara, but Ferrari designed and built their entire 499P LMh car from scratch, including the chassis. IMSA calls their prototype class GTP, while WEC calls their Hypercar, but the cars are allowed to compete in both series. In the Sebring WEC 1,000 mile race, the Porsche and Cadillac are LMDh cars and compete in the Hypercar class, but no LMh cars compete in the IMSA race in the GTP class. Understood?
We publish on a BimmerLife Live blog during the race like we did at Daytona with race updates, pics and driver commentary! Check back often for our latest updates on one of the most important race weekends of the season! In addition, the IMSA website provides full information on IMSA events in Sebring, including TV broadcast times. You can also learn more about WEC racing on their website. – David Hauter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, BMW]