Will Turner says a “big part” of his team’s recent string of success in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge has been down to Robby Foley’s expanded seat time in their BMW machinery.
Foley has been tasked with triple-duty in recent IMSA events, jumping between the team’s No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 in the WeatherTech Championship races and Turner Motorsport’s two BMW M4 GT4 entries in Pilot Challenge.
It culminated with an unprecedented weekend at Virginia International Raceway that saw Bill Auberlen become the most successful driver in IMSA history with he and Foley’s GT Daytona class win, and one day later, victory in the Pilot Challenge race, with Foley finishing first and third in Turner machinery.
After focusing largely on its WeatherTech Championship program in recent years, the Massachusetts-based squad made the tactical decision to expand operations back into GS competition during the off-season, which Turner said is starting to pay dividends.
“We dipped our toes in the water last year back into Pilot Challenge,” he explained. “Over the long off-season we made the decision that we wanted to be back in the series, and to win and go for a championship, and we’d be really focused on that as well.
“What we did was set up two separate teams with the GTD and GS programs.
“Back at the shop it’s completely separate, so we’re not sharing a lot of resources. We’re putting full effort into both series.
“It’s super competitive in the WeatherTech Championship but it’s also really competitive back in Michelin Pilot Challenge too.”
Foley, who was scheduled to drive both the GTD and No. 96 GS entry this year, explained that the opportunity to double up in Pilot Challenge came after the intended full-season pairing of Connor Bloum and Aurora Straus did not continue past the Daytona season-opener.
“At the beginning of the year, none of us expected this,” Foley said. “There were two other drivers in the car.
“As Will said, the team was geared up to run two cars full-time for the whole season.
“That path changed after Daytona and the opportunity came about. Collectively, everybody behind the scenes decided this would be a cool thing to pursue.
“For myself it’s a lot of fun. I’m doing a lot of driving on the weekends for sure. But I love it and I get a lot of track time.
“To have the opportunity to win the [GS] race and also podium in the same race is cool.”
Turner believes the extra seat time for the 24-year-old has worked out as an advantage, despite sacrificing strategy at times.
“Robby thought I was kidding when I said, ‘Look, we’re going to get you so much seat time, you’re going to be able to drive this car in your sleep,'” Turner said.
“That’s been a big part of it. The more Robby got in this car and know the car, it’s an advantage.
“Having him in two cars is a little bit challenging for Don Salama (race strategist). But we always concentrate on the 95 car, and when that pits, soon after the 96 pits and Robby can jump in.
“Certainly it showed at VIR where fresh off the track, Robby got into the other car that was set up identically. His first three laps were some of the fastest in the race, in other car.
“It proved my point with seat time being everything.
“Hopefully it can continue to work out but Don Salama has to be on his feet, strategically, for that one.”
Turner said they’re committed to the two-car GS program for the remainder of the Pilot Challenge season while pursuing the GTD title at the same time with the potent Auberlen-Foley duo.
“We’re in it to do this,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it, especially the longer race this weekend. Because it is four hours and it does open up possibilities [in strategy].
“As long as Robby keeps eating his tacos and staying hydrated, we’re going to try and wear him out!”
Foley said he expects to drive “most of the four” hours in Sunday’s Pilot Challenge race, less than 24 hours after the six-hour WeatherTech Championship enduro.
“It’s cool to see how the dynamic of the race changes and to play two different strategies,” he said. “As long as I get enough rest and drink enough water, I should be OK.”