The #24 BMW Z4 GTLM of BMW Team RLL led the sister #25 BMW to the chequered flag in the highly-competitive GT Le Mans class at yesterday’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, the fourth round of this year’s Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
After leading most of the race, the #24 of John Edwards and Lucas Luhr completed 108 laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in yesterday’s 2h40 race, and finished 20.4 seconds ahead of teammates Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner in the #25.
This victory is a special one for BMW, almost exactly 40 years since Hans-Joachim Stuck won at the same track in his BMW 3.0 CSL. The Z4 GTLMs are competing in similar liveries to the 1975 BMWs, to commemorate 40 years of BMW Motorsport in North America.
BMW is now first in the GTLM Manufacturers’ championship. Auberlen and Werner are 2nd in class, with Edwards and Luhr moving up to third.
The race was started by Werner (#25) and Luhr (#24) from 1st and 2nd respectively. Luhr moved past his teammate soon in the early stages of the race. The BMWs ran 1-2 for the opening 40 minutes, but they were both delayed in pitstops, pushing Edwards (#24) and Werner (#25) back to 2nd and 3rd.
Edwards moved back into the lead with 1 hour gone, but Werner had gone back to 4th. Edwards stayed in the car until the chequered flag, but Auberlen took over the #25 at the final stop on lap 64. By that time, the Z4s were back running 1-2.
“It is nice to get to the top step of the podium after our teammates did it at the last race,” commented John Edwards. “It has been a really good weekend for BMW, but these don’t come easy. It has been over two years since I had a win. Today we had a lot of traffic and I was able to get through it a bit better than the rest and that is what gave me an advantage. I just kind of managed the pace from there. I don’t think I really did too many quicker laps than the rest of the field except that I got through the traffic, so that was definitely the key. After two years it is a relief to finally be back on the top step.”
“Apparently the West Coast market is a good one for BMW,” said Bill Auberlen. “It is good for us, we came here, we did really well in Long Beach and won, and now we have decided let’s switch it up and the black car wins. You cannot be happier for this team. The team is amazing. I came into the pits with just barely a gap, it was tooth and nail with the Porsche and the Ferrari and our pit stop gave me a gap that I could baby those Michelins, because we were very hard on our tyres today. I just kept them under me. They stayed there the whole time just enough to make it to the end to finish second. This moves our team car up in the points and this is about as good as it is going to get. I just lucky we had that gap because if I had to fight at the end it would have been tough, but I was up for the challenge. The car was as good as the car could be.”
The next race for BMW Team RLL in the USCC GTLM class will be Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, at Watkins Glen, NY on June 28.