For the want of four minutes and a liter of fuel.
All of endurance racing’s cruel and kind possibilities played out in the winding chapter that was IMSA’s GT Le Mans class at Daytona. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing No. 67 GT had been knocked around for large portions of the Rolex 24, but thanks to great driving and crafty race strategy, lost laps were recovered and the possibility of a win came into focus.
Running on fumes, Richard Westbrook pitted for an emergency splash of gas at 12:34 p.m.; by 12:38, the red flag waved, sealing the team’s fate as its closest contenders continued to circulate.
Falling from first to fourth, the beneficiary of Ford’s misfortune was BMW Team RLL, whose No. 25 M8 GTE went through all manner of adversity before those fateful four minutes transformed a runner-up result into a grand victory for the factory team.
BMW’s win would have felt like a gift in one of IMSA’s sprint races. But in the context of a 24-hour race, where calamities of varying degrees tend to visit most of the cars in the field, it felt like part of the show. Had IMSA thrown the red flag a few minutes earlier…if the Ford was able to stretch its tank a few more miles…it could have been Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon celebrating in Victory Lane.
For BMW Team RLL’s Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Colton Herta, and Philipp Eng, there were no woulds or coulds in the conversation. Having been on the wrong end of a similar ill-timed pit stop just prior to a red flag, Farfus felt a sense of relief after fortune smiled over his team.
“Well I had a similar experience back in Petit Le Mans when there was similar weather condition, I think it was maybe three or four years ago, and I was in the lead, halfway through the race, and then they put a red flag out and I pitted, I think, maybe two or three laps before and then they put the red flag and then we lost the race there,” he said.
“So today the luck was on our side. I have to say the team was extremely on it [with] the strategy. We knew all the possible scenarios so we are prepared for our four hours stint for myself, which was the maximum driving time, so I jumped in the car … was three hours probably 59 minutes and I was ready to go today. So I have to say, hats off to all the BMW guys. They are everything because we are extremely on top of the game and I think that gave us the advantage.”