INSIGHT: BMW, Porsche chart GTP progress at Sebring

Jake Galstad/Lumen

INSIGHT: BMW, Porsche chart GTP progress at Sebring

Insights & Analysis

INSIGHT: BMW, Porsche chart GTP progress at Sebring


The dramatic ending of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring notwithstanding, it was clear that both Porsche and BMW had made great strides in their GTP programs since Daytona. Porsche Penske Motorsports was in position to have two cars on the podium, and possibly win, before the nasty crash in the chaos of Sebring traffic that took out both PPM Porsche 963s as well as the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06, giving the No. 31 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R prepared by Action Express Racing a clear path to victory.

So while in two races so far, it’s been the manufacturers that have the most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship experience — Cadillac and Acura — that have taken victories, Porsche and BMW are catching up quickly.

“I didn’t expect to be in such a position at the end of the race, when we look at our race today,” said Jaminet, who was leading in the No. 6 Porsche when the lead pack of GTPs came upon a pack of GT traffic that led to the pileup. “We had so much setback and bad luck with our 6 crew and even the 7, we lacked some pace in the day when it’s hot. But to be there at the end, and the car works…. Thanks to the boys, too, for the work because we went completely different on setup, and we were targeting to be fast in the night. This is exactly what happened. And then in the end, they gave me the tools. We had a good last stop and everything was perfect.”

The fruits of testing showed in the performance of the Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963s, even if their final results were disappointing. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Porsche had done a lot of testing, including a 36-hour test at Sebring. But testing isn’t racing, and all the teams came away from the Rolex 24 At Daytona armed with a lot of valuable data. That data was applied to further testing at Sebring.

“We looked at Daytona, what happened,” said Matt Campbell, driver of the No. 7 963 with Felipe Nasr and Michael Christensen. “And we actually were able to run those same paths during the testing here in February. So these things we are able to learn and acknowledge and fix for this race. So I think this was probably one of the key aspects going into this this weekend, especially after our 36-hour endurance test.”

Porsche and Penske also had the benefit of running the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring the day before, further adding to the information stores.

“We regroup, we believe in our work,” said Jaminet, mutedly celebrating a third-place finish with Dane Cameron and Nick Tandy. “We make steps all the time, on systems, on setups — it’s still a new car, so we are still discovering quite a lot of things as we go. We got the data, for example, of the WEC race. So it allowed us to react for today on the setup and I think in the end, we made the right call. We just need to keep to keep the same way of working, believe in ourselves believe in the team believe in the process.”

Thomas Laudenbach, head of Porsche motorsports, says there isn’t one thing he can credit for the strides Porsche Penske Motorsports made, except to say it was a lot of hard work. And while he won’t really celebrate until there’s a Porsche victory, he’s happy with the progress so far.

“For sure we made improvements to Daytona,” Laudenbach declared. “Obviously, we did work in the meantime. I still would say there is a long way to go. Positive side, clearly, we didn’t have any reliability issues, which was good. If you have one or two races without such a problem, it’s probably too early to say everything is solved. But that’s that’s definitely a positive sign and a positive direction.

“Looking at the qualifying, looking at the lap time, we still have to improve our performance. The good thing is here in IMSA you can fight for the victory. The format brings you back, even if you make mistakes, and I think it was all in all — probably not talking about the accident at the end, with the bad end on our side — it was great motorsport, and it was it was really great endurance racing. And I think that’s what we have to take with us. Sleep over the night, repair the cars and carry on.”

Steady progress, and lucky break near the end enabled the No. 25 BMW M Hybrid V8 to grab second in the 12 Hours. Jake Galstad/Lumen

Porsche has already cemented its legacy in the world of endurance sports car racing, from GTs to prototypes. BMW, on the other hand, has been in and out of the sport as a manufacturer, it’s last top-level prototype being the V12 LMR that earned BMW it’s only overall victory at Le Mans in 1999. Getting the latest start among the LMDh manufacturers, they’ve been behind the curve with the M Hybrid V8 the whole way. While the second-place finish for the No. 25 with Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde took a lot of luck, the BMW M Team RLL crew had the car there to capitalize on that luck.

“We just had to look back at our philosophy in Daytona, what our weaknesses were, and we had to switch to a different philosophy that would help fix those things,” said de Phillippi. “I think we solved probably two of our five main limiting factors. We probably have another, I would say, three solid ones that we need to we need to hone in on, especially going to another bumpy circuit like Long Beach coming up. That was one of our weaknesses here, the bumps, especially on traction on the exits of the corners. That’s going to be something that we need to dial in for Long Beach and really focus on if we want to be fighting for another podium.”

At Daytona, both of the BMWs hit trouble early with the hybrid systems, although the team soldiered on and were both running at the finish. That running, when there was practically zero chance for a good result, was valuable.

“There’s been a lot of work communicating, and of course on the simulator,” explained Yelloly. “I think we’ve done probably a couple of weeks in there between all of the drivers trying to get get our software working as we wanted to. Obviously it’s new to everyone, but particularly new to us — we haven’t run a prototype car. So we want to get it all working in conjunction perfectly. And I feel like we have already taken a good step forward, but there’s still a lot to improve. And also Daytona, we got a hell of a lot of data, which we hadn’t got in all the tests beforehand. So obviously the boys and girls were able to crawl through all the data, piece things together and come here for the test a couple of weeks ago and make already a small step forwards. Then when we got here we made another step towards the pack. It’s really quite a promising moving forward.”

Both teams and manufacturers have some momentum to carry them forward to Long Beach. A good result there, however, is going to be a challenge given the opposition’s experience on the street circuit. But just like the two previous races, there will be a mass of information gathered, and a lot of things to carry forward as the focus shifts to sprint races for a while