A banner day for BMW occurred in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season opener, as the manufacturer secured both GS and ST wins in the BMW Performance 200 Friday at Daytona.
Turner Motorsport took the GS win with Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana in the No. 96 M3, but the car was excluded after the race for a technical infraction. That promoted the No. 48 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, in the hands of Shelby Blackstock and Ashley Freiberg, to the overall victory.
In ST, Murillo Racing took its first ever CTSC series win with the polesitting No. 56 BMW 328i, driven by Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing.
After an early pit lane exit violation, the No. 96 pitted a second time on Lap 25 for full service. That stop occurred nine laps earlier than its eventual challengers (Lap 25 compared to Lap 34), but the strategy gamble paid dividends later off when the car surged into contention after running outside the top 10 at the race’s halfway point. Five full-course cautions helped the strategy work, as the race ended under yellow.
“The race started out perfectly, we ran in the top three and decided to pit for strategy reasons,” Dalla Lana said. “Of course forgetting the rules this year are changing a little bit, and my favorite pit lane monitor wasn’t there, we then exited the pit lane incorrectly. That set us back 60 seconds stop and go. But we knew we had a strong car as it unfolded.”
When it came down to the final half hour of the race, the GS class drama intensified. The lead cycled between the Turner BMW, No. 13 Rum Bum Porsche 997 and No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 before two of the three dropped from contention.
John Edwards, in the No. 46, ran wide at Turn 1 but avoided contact with the wall. Meanwhile Matt Plumb, who was leading in the No. 13, had a brief loss of power exiting the first hairpin to allow Turner’s BMW, driven by Auberlen, to sneak through to the lead on exit.
“Once I got it up to second, the Porsche was quick,” Auberlen said. “We were racing, and racing and racing, then I had my Rahal teammate John Edwards on my tail. The Porsche bobbled a little bit. We were still to the good, and then the full course yellow came out and saved us for sure.”
The changes promoted the other two Fall-Line BMWs into second and third, with Edwards falling to fourth at the finish.
Blackstock and Freiberg improved from 12th to second on the road, in what already was a good result for the pair of open-wheel ladder veterans now forging their sports car paths.
The No. 47 Fall-Line BMW improved from 25th to third by the flag, courtesy of a clean first stint from Steven Bertheau and a second half charge from co-driver Spencer Pumpelly.
But the result was short-lived for them; a time penalty was added after the race for an unserved race procedure penalty. That promoted Edwards and co-driver Trent Hindman, who started the No. 46 and led the race early, back to third.
The two remaining BMWs that followed were the No. 97 Turner M3, co-driven by Tom Kimber-Smith and Michael Marsal, and Rum Bum’s No. 03 M3 co-driven by Hugh Plumb and 15-year-old Kaz Grala. The No. 97 recovered from a pit incident where Marsal contacted another entering car.
James Davison and Joel Janco were best of the rest in the No. 09 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage in sixth, ahead of the No. 7 Rebel Rock Porsche 997, and a trio of Ford Mustang Boss 302 Rs.
BMWs also dominated in ST, with two of the top three starters engaged in the battle for the lead throughout the race. Polesitter Mosing in the No. 56 Murillo entry fought tooth-and-nail with up-and-comer Tyler Cooke in the No. 81 Bimmerworld entry before both handed off to their co-drivers, Eric Foss and Gregory Liefooghe, respectively.
Behind them, the No. 24 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche Cayman advanced into third ahead of a pair of Honda Civic Sis. Cory Friedman and David Baum started 10th but moved forward from there.
The day ended in disappointment for Michael Valiante (No. 93 HART Civic Si) and Ryan Eversley (No. 75 Compass360 Racing Civic Si), as they collided at the entrance to the Bus Stop chicane battling over fourth place while lapping another car to their inside.
That incident triggered the final yellow of the day and promoted two other Porsches into the top five.
The No. 42 Team Sahlen Cayman, as the Nonnamaker team returned to CTSC after ending its Daytona Prototype team in the offseason, finished fourth in ST. The No. 50 Berg Racing Porsche Boxter of John Weisberg and James Vance finished fifth.
The CTSC season resumes at Sebring on March 14.