The end has arrived for GTLM in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. After 22 years, the American equivalent of the GTE category is shelved.
Having been part of it for four years racing the BMW M8 GTE and scoring a total of three victories including the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona, Connor De Phillippi looks back with fondness on his time in GTLM.
“It was the top level of GT,” De Phillippi said when speaking with GT REPORT.
“It was raw, special built GT cars. The era here in IMSA has come to an end and I’m very thankful to have been a part of that.”
While the BMW M8 GTE raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship for one season and made two Le Mans appearances, its biggest success were achieved in the USA, of which De Phillippi was often a part.
“The most special memory certainly would be the 24 Hours of Daytona victory in 2019. But even smaller ones, the very first one of the car at VIR was pretty special. Alexander Sims and I actually won the first race for the M8 which was pretty special.
“Hopefully we can end the program with a win – that would be the perfect send-off for the car.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. A strong start to the race eventually ended in disappointment as De Phillippi ran wide exiting the last corner, damaging his car and forcing it to retire in the pits.
“It was obviously not the result we wanted. We would’ve rather had both cars on the podium and been fighting for the win but after the first pitstop it was pretty clear we were at a pretty big disadvantage in the pitstop cycle.
“Track position at Road Atlanta is pretty much everything. During the race you saw every car at one point have a chance to get in the front of the pack and if you could get to the front you could manage the pace a bit and you could run in clean air and hold the lead. As soon as you fell behind in dirty air it was hard to make any moves so we always kept losing a handful of seconds due to refueling times and that put us on the back foot.
“In the end we executed a perfect race with the #24 car – obviously we didn’t finish with the #25 car – but in the end all we could ask ourselves was to run a perfect race with the #24 car and third is all they managed with a little bit of luck.”
With a stop-gap year until the debut of the BMW M LMDh in 2023, BMW’s incoming M4 GT3 will be the only representative in the IMSA championship in 2022.
“We learned a lot from the M8 and it’s been applied to the M4. The car’s a whole new animal and testing starts at the end of this year already – next month – to start preparing for 2022.
“Plans are still being finalized, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be a part of the program here in IMSA next year running in one of the M4 GT3 cars. I got the chance to drive it last month at the Nürburgring and it’s a really impressive car and I’m just really excited to get it on track in Daytona and see how it stacks up against all the other GT3 cars.”
Christian Rodriguez contributed to this article.
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