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BMW Bookends The GTLM Class At The 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona

The GTLM Class Winning BMW M8 GTE and BMW Team RLL crew on the podium at Daytona.  Image Credit: BMW Group USA

BMW Bookends The GTLM Class At 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona

Words By: Brandon O'Brien
Images By: BMW Group USA

With all nine GT LeMans (GTLM) entries still running at the end of the rain shortened
Rolex 24 hours endurance race held at Daytona, BMW placed first with the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE while the troubled No. 24 BMW M8 GTE was at the rear in ninth place.

Conner De Phillippi (USA), Augusto Farfus (BRA), Phillip Eng (AUT), and Colin Herta (USA) enjoyed a largely trouble-free race.  Herta set the fastest GTLM lap time of 1:42.908 minutes on lap 64.  For much of the race the No. 25 maintained a mid-GTLM pack position.

During the night rain started to fall causing the track conditions to rapidly deteriorate.  With seven hours to go race control stopped the race for safety reasons.

When the race was re-started the BMW drivers avoided making any major errors on the slippery surface and established the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE  in the leading group. Augusto Farfus, who was in command during his stint, slowly moved the No. 25 up from third to second ... and then with what was to be the final lap into first.

Moments after taking the coveted position the race was red flagged for the second time and was never resumed.

The GTLM Winning No. 25 BMW M8 GTE in the rain at night during the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  Image Credit: BMW Group USA

The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE being driven by Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi (ITA), John Edwards (USA), Jesse Krohn (FIN), and Chaz Mostert (AUS) did not have the luck of it's sister car.

Early in the race the car was dropped off the air jacks at the very moment that Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a racing incident in 2001, was pushing his specially adapted steering wheel into place on the column.  As a result of the jolt, the column was damaged and Zanardi was unable to engage the steering wheel correctly.  "We really tested countless possible scenarios in the run-up to the race, and then something happens in the first pit-stop which has never happened before",  stated Zanardi after the race. This required a time-consuming complete replacement of the steering column.


Alex Zanardi driver exchange during the running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  Image Credit: BMW Group USA

Watching the live race feed of Zanardi driving at night was magical.  His ability to accelerate using his left hand on the steering wheel,  braking using the specially designed brake lever with a down-shift button with his right hand made not having legs seem immaterial.


The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE getting serviced during the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  Image Credit: BMW Group USA

By the first race-suspension the No. 24 was already several laps behind the GTLM leaders.  As the race continued, the BMW M8 GTE dropped further back as a result of several smaller incidents.  With all the work, testing, and practice by BMW to make this car adaptable for Zanardi and the other three drivers it was a shame that it was unable to be in the lead group, primarily due to a never before seen issue.  To quote Zanardi again, "But that is motorsport for you".


Augusto Farfus pointing to the tribute to the late BMW Team Schnitzer principal carried on the back of both BMW M8 GTE's at Daytona.  Image Credit; BMW Group USA

The race weekend was overshadowed by the news of the death of long-term  Schnitzer team principal Charly Lamm.  In his memory, BMW Team RLL, competed with the words "Godspeed Charly" on the rear of both BMW M8 GTE's at Daytona. Culture, at times, becomes the most important word in motor culture.

Godspeed, Charly.

TAGS: Agusto Farfus, BMW, M8, GTE, Alex Zanardi, GTLM, Conner De Phillippi, Phillip Eng, Colin Herta, Team RLL, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 57th, Brandon O'Brien