BMW Team RLL finished fourth and fifth in front of the large crowd that watched Sunday’s two-hour-and-forty-minute United SportsCar Championship Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway (US).
John Edwards (US) and Lucas Luhr (DE), driving the number 24 BMW Z4 GTLM, finished fourth. Bill Auberlen (US) and Dirk Werner (DE) finished fifth in the number 25 machine. Both BMWs ended the race in the same positions from which they started. The race was won by the Porsche of Nick Tandy (GB) and Patrick Pilet (FR).
BMW Team RLL raced two different strategies as both cars looked to get the most out of the new “single-stint” Michelin tyre that has enlivened the GTLM field. The car of Edwards and Luhr planned a four-stop race – making one more stop than the rest of the field – in order to shorten the length of each stint and not push beyond the distance of the tyre’s optimal performance.
Auberlen and Werner raced with a different combination of Michelins, so they set up for a “traditional” three-stop race.
The number 24 crew had a flawless day, executing each stint systematically. Qualifying driver Luhr started the race, handing over to Edwards at the midpoint after 44 laps. The number 25 team had two small issues during the race. Starting driver Auberlen had a spin in turn 1 on lap 20, but raced back to sixth before handing over to Werner on lap 29, who went off track on lap 68, losing the rear fascia of the car and picking up grass in the grille as he came back on track.
Auberlen and Werner now stand third in the Driver points. Edwards and Luhr are in a tie for fourth. BMW remains second in the Manufacturer points, but now nine back from Porsche.
Bobby Rahal (Team Principal, BMW Team RLL):
“Once again we beat the Corvettes, and that is one thing we can be proud of. It is now the fourth race in a row Porsche has won, so they obviously have found something. It was a good race for Lucas and John, they had a different strategy, that paid off and they ended up with fourth. For the number 25 car we ran a different strategy, and it wasn’t quite as good. The car’s pace was actually not bad, but we just don’t have the pace of the Ferrari or the Porsche. Also the Corvette hasn’t had the pace of those two cars for the last couple of races. We did the best with what we had today.”
John Edwards (Number 24 BMW Z4 GTLM, 4th place):
“We have come a long way from Road America and our struggles there. We could almost match the Porsche’s pace if we added a pit stop to the race, so that is what we did on the number 24 car. I believe COTA and Petit Le Mans will see us much more competitive.”
Lucas Luhr (Number 24 BMW Z4 GTLM, 4th place):
“There was definitely an improvement from the last race. There were times today where we were quite competitive. We split the strategy with the two cars, and we came out a little bit ahead of the 25 car, but we’re both still too far behind.”
Bill Auberlen (Number 25 BMW Z4 GTLM, 5th place):
“We ran a slightly different strategy to the number 24 car and we didn’t quite have its pace. They added an extra stop and it worked. We both finished ahead of the Corvettes, so we have gained points on them, but we all need to find a little bit something more if we are going to take it to Porsche.”
Dirk Werner (Number 25 BMW Z4 GTLM, 5th place):
“It was a tough race. We had to fight hard to come in P4 and P5. It is not nice to lose ground towards the end of the season, but we’re not out of it.”