Rolex 24 hours at Daytona – Thrilling start to BMW's 2014 racing season
Bimmerfest was on location covering BMW Team RLL fielding two Z4s in GTLM and Turner Motorsport's Z4 in GTD at the epic Daytona Motor Speedway. This Rolex 24 kicks off what is going to be an exciting inaugural season of the United SportsCar Championship.
After 24 hours of running, BMW Team RLL brought the number 55 car home in second place. With just laps to go, Joey Hand had the 55 within 3 seconds of the leader but traffic and lack of straight line speed kept the BMW to a second place finish. The 56 Z4 was sitting solid in 3rd place until a bad rear wheel bearing brought the car into the garage around the 20 hour mark. Quick work got the 56 Z4 back into the field and home in a respectable 4th. Without the bad luck it could have been an easy 2-3 for the team.
Successful USCC debut for BMW Team RLL at the Daytona 24 Hours
Turner Motorsports number 94 GTD Z4 raced admirably despite several setbacks. Early contact forced the 94 to fight from the back of the field. After an incredible push TMS was stymied again with headlights and taillight electrical issues forcing an extended pit stop. Despite these setbacks, the Turner Team was relentless and battled up to P9 and then in the closing stint pulled into a solid 7th place.
Top-Ten Finish for Turner BMW Z4 in Rolex 24 Hour
If you've never watched motorsport and all the acronyms are confusing you it is OK. Even seasoned viewers will be going back to school this year with the merger of the two governing bodies, the IMSA and Grand-Am. The confusion starts at the top as the two race series merged and kept the IMSA name. That means it is a new series but under one of the old names. To make matters worse, each race body had several race series and numerous car classes in those racing series. There are tons of technical details that went into the merger but in the simplest terms here is what we ended up with -
- IMSA – Governing body. A combination of the previous IMSA and Grand-AM
- United SportsCar Championship – A combination of Grand-AM and ALMS with four classes
- Prototype – The fastest cars on the circuit. Combination of Daytona Prototypes and ALMS P2 prototypes and the DeltaWing thrown in for fun.
- Prototype Challenge – A spec classe, so the name prototype is a little confusing. This is a direct carry over from ALMS Prototype Challenge.
- GT Le Mans – GTLM – Cars are based on production chassis and then heavily modified. The factory BMW team – BMW Team RLL – Races their Z4s in this class.
- GT Daytona – GTD – Car are based on production chassis as well but are slower then the GTLM cars. Turner Motorsports runs their Z4 in this class.
Additionally IMSA runs the Sports Car Challenge Series in conjunction with the United SportsCar Championship. The Sports Car Challenge Series race was run on Friday as a support race and featured a good number of Bimmerfest sponsors and friends. The series is made up of two classes -
- Grand Sport – GS cars like Turner's tube chassis, carbon fiber body M3 has been a winner in this class before.
- Grand Touring – GT class that is a favorite of Bimmerworld and Turner Motorsport
It might take a bit of memorization and perhaps a cheat sheet but knowing the classes helps get into racing. That way when a GTLM Porsche passes a GTD Turner Z4 you won't waste your breath cursing them out. Understanding the classes also helps you appreciate just how much goes into every race and the race teams. The technical regulations for the classes are phone books and teams have them memorized inside out and are looking for every advantage.
What does that mean for BMW? They have two Z4s from BMW Team RLL, the factory team, running in GTLM. GTLM is the faster of the two classes, the cars are physically wider, run more tire and are much more technical then the GTD. BMW builds the GTLM and GTD Z4s alongside the production Z4 and there is a lot of metal that is the same as the production car. That is where the similarities end. Under the carbon fiber hood, the engine is lifted from the E92 M3 and makes 480hp which is impressive as regulations force it to breath through two intake restrictors not much bigger then a silver dollar. The V8 is bolted up to a sequential transmission, the hardware is old school by racing standards but the software that runs the hydraulically actuated shifts is state of the art. The mechanicals are wrapped in tons of aero sculpted carbon fiber designed to give the Z4 as much grip as possible.
The Z4 is a work of art, the amount of machined bits is mind boggling and the use of carbon fiber is impressive. For instance the factory headlight housing was too heavy so it was gutted and replaced with a molded carbon fiber piece that holds the light projectors. How many hours went into just the headlights? The downside to the Z4 is the shorter wheelbase and raked rear profile mean it is lacking in top speed. High speed tracks like Daytona are not where the Z4 shines so the 2nd and 4th finish for BMW is a testament to the team's hard work and no quit attitude.
In the slower but no less exciting GTD class, our friends Turner Motorsport fought it out with a Z4 of their own. If GTLM has the volume turned up to 11 GTD is about an 8. The cars are heavier, less powerful, run a narrower tire and are subsequently slower. Privater racers such as Turner run in this class with a pro driver paired up with an amateur driver. The term amateur is misleading; they're still world class drivers, they just don't drive for a living. The battles are no less fierce and the competition is just a high. Despite setbacks during the race Turner fought for a hard earned 7th place.
24 hours of non-stop racing takes its toll on man and machine. The cars and the crew are covering in grime, dents or bruises. Part of 24 hours of endurance racing is simply making it till the next day. Will your car or your team break down and send you laps down or out of the race? Turner and Team BMW RLL are pros and took on the 24 hours like the racing vents they are.
With the opening round of the first United SportsCar Championship in the books for 2014 our attention turns to the Twelve Hours of Sebring starting on March 12th. Do yourself a favor and check out the USCC 2014 schedule and find a race to attend and cheer BMW on at. You'll walk away with a better appreciation of your BMW and you will have a great time!
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