Rising open-wheel star Colton Herta is set for his foray into GT racing, having been named test and reserve driver for BMW Team RLL in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The 17-year-old second-generation driver, who has joined BMW’s Junior program in Europe, will supplement his new association with the German manufacturer with a return to Indy Lights, making for a busy 2018 season.
“I’ll be at all of the [IMSA] races and all of the tests and if something happens, I’ll be ready to hop in,” Herta told Sportscar365.
“I’ve always loved sports car racing; it’s really competitive and it’s super interesting, especially with a factory deal. BMW is a huge name.
“It’s a really big deal for me joining these guys and I’m just super happy for the opportunity.”
Herta, a standout in his rookie season of Indy Lights last year, will turn his first laps in the BMW M8 GTE in today’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Sebring.
It will mark only his second time at the wheel of a sports car, following his endurance racing debut in the 2016 Thunderhill 25 Hours in a Ginetta LMP3 car, alongside his father, Bryan.
“I’m super excited for it,” Colton said. “The car looks awesome.
“It’s going to be a bit challenging getting to where everybody else is because it’s a brand-new car. But they’re working very hard and we’re making big strides.”
While his main focus remains in Indy Lights, where he will return with Andretti Autosport, Herta said he’d jump at the opportunity for races in Europe this year.
The most recent American BMW Junior driver, Trent Hindman, supplemented his BMW-supported Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge program with outings in Europe, including the Zolder 24 Hours in 2015, where he claimed victory.
“As of now I have no plans of running GT4 [or European] stuff;” Herta said. “I’d love to, if something comes up.
“Obviously I’d like to make it to IndyCar but sports car racing is super competitive as well. I wouldn’t be unhappy if I was running with BMW full-time.”
Familiar Faces at Team RLL
Despite being new to the BMW family, Herta said it’s nice to see some familiar faces within the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-run operation.
Colton’s father, Bryan, drove for the team from 1996-1999 in CART, highlighted by a pair of victories at Laguna Seca.
“A lot of the guys here worked with my dad in IndyCar,” Colton said. “It’s nice to see everybody that has worked with my dad is still here. It’s a super loyal group.”