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De Phillippi Joins BMW Team RLL; Auberlen Set for NAEC Role

Connor De Phillippi has been named to a full-season seat with BMW Team RLL for 2018…

Photo: BMW

Connor De Phillippi has been named to a full-season seat with BMW Team RLL for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as longtime driver Bill Auberlen will step back to an endurance-only role next year.

The 24-year-old Californian, as predicted by Sportscar365, will join the Bobby Rahal-led organization, alongside the returning John Edwards and Martyn Tomczyk in the pair of new BMW M8 GTE cars.

The team’s fourth full-season driver has yet to be confirmed, although is believed to be Alexander Sims, who starred in his first season in WeatherTech Championship competition this year.

“To be part of the BMW family is something I am very proud of,” said De Phillippi. “Driving for BMW Team RLL is quite an achievement for me and I hope I can add to the success of the team next year.”

De Phillippi, Edwards and Tomczyk completed the M8 GTE’s first U.S. test at Homestead-Miami Speedway this week, with further testing planned at Daytona during the IMSA-sanctioned test, which kicks off on Tuesday.

The 2018 season will mark RLL’s 10th season campaigning factory entries on behalf of BMW.

Auberlen Set for NAEC Role

BMW veteran Auberlen, meanwhile, is set for a reduced program next year, as the 49-year-old focuses on the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup-only races.

Auberlen will also support BMW of North America’s customer racing programs as a brand ambassador. 

“First and foremost I am a racing driver and am looking forward to four races with BMW Team RLL in 2018,” Auberlen said. “My goal remains to get to the top of the list in all-time North American sports car victories and I want that achievement to be shared with BMW.

“We are only three wins away. We have not yet determined what else I may be driving but every opportunity in a BMW racing car is a good one.”

BMW North America Motorsport Manager Victor Leleu added: “While I don’t believe it could ever be said that Bill Auberlen was underutilized in his first two decades with BMW NA, we have made a mutual decision to take better advantage of his expertise and now to primarily support our growing customer racing programs in addition to competing with BMW Team RLL in the four IMSA endurance races this season.

“We are delighted that Bill has agreed to become a BMW NA brand ambassador and we fully expect his unbounded enthusiasm for the brand to continue to excite BMW fans with “Bill Power.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Binky

    November 30, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    One of those signings that’s unexpected, but makes perfect sense. Time to move up after a couple years of starring in GT3.

    As for Bill, it seems they only need one full time Californian in the team. Despite his age, he’s still plenty capable.

    • Thomas

      November 30, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      Its probably likely that Auberlen could be the factory driver that every prospective BMW Customer Racing car owner wants to be loaned for a race weekend. I can imagine that as a deal cluncher for someone weighing up several GT3 or GT4 options

    • Cosmo DeLuca

      November 30, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      It was being discussed at Laguna Seca, but most dismissed it. I suppose we should listen to old bald guys in plaid shirts.

  2. JeffB

    November 30, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    It had to happen sooner or later at nearly 50 years old, but damn. Bill not doing the full season is a genuine bummer. Nuts.

  3. TomE

    December 1, 2017 at 3:08 am

    Agree with JeffB. Thought Bill had another full season in him. An interesting year with the new car.

  4. Tommy S

    December 1, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Brilliant move by BMW with snagging De Phillippi. Of course Bill had another full season in him, but a guy like De Phillippi would not have remained on the market for future years. So I think they saw this as their chance to start building the next generation and future of BMW Motorsport in NA.

  5. Ed

    December 1, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Connor will be a great addition, but I am seriously ticked to see Bill demoted to part time. Excited to finally see the M8 in action though I still think it’s a bit too big of a car, would have preferred an M4 GT3/GTE combo.

  6. Nate B

    December 1, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Excellent move by BMW to secure De Phillippi, he’s been mega in the Land Audi R8 cars this past year. I could see Bill easily picking up those 3 wins and then some if he’s partnered up in Conti for GS or ST.

  7. tracer

    December 1, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Outstanding pick up for BMW. I’ll miss having Bill for the full season, but I’m not surprised to see him move to an enduros only schedule now that they’re moving to a new car. Will be interesting to see the driver pairings in both IMSA and WEC.

    • KW

      December 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      My expectation is: Tomczyk/Edwards and Sims/de Philippi for IMSA with Auberlen and Spengler as third drivers for the NAEC rounds; Fisichella/da Costa and Eng/Farfus for FIA WEC with Tomczyk and Sims as third drivers for Spa and Le Mans. Anyone to bet against it?

      • Griffm3

        December 1, 2017 at 10:49 pm

        Marco wittman and Maxime martin might be in line for the 3rd seats in WEC but other than that I am not betting against you.

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