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De Phillippi in LMP3 Races to “Be Prepared” for LMDh Possibility

Connor De Phillippi dipping toes into LMP3 ranks in Michelin Le Mans Cup…

Photo: MPS Agency

Connor De Phillippi says his experience in LMP3 competition this year has been to better prepare himself for a possible run in LMDh in 2023, should he get the call from BMW Motorsport to be part of its factory program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The 28-year-old American made his Michelin Le Mans Cup debut last month in a Phoenix Racing-prepared Ligier JS P320 Nissan alongside Bronze-rated driver Frank Kraling, with the pairing set to also contest this weekend’s season finale at Portimao.

“As a driver you want to be prepared,” De Phillippi told Sportscar365. “I hadn’t driven formula cars since 2012. GTLM makes a lot of downforce but obviously a light aero car vs. a GT car is certainly different.

“I took the initiative myself. I want to be as prepared as possible if an opportunity were to arise.

“There’s a lot of talented guys out there that have been driving LMP2 or DPi and I just want to give myself a fair shot at that if that chance comes.

“I think a lot of drivers have made themselves vocal about wanting a shot to do it. But it’s one thing to make yourself vocal and it’s another to be prepared.”

De Phillippi, who had a promising career in the junior-level open-wheel ranks prior to a switch to sports car racing, explained that the deal with Phoenix came through car owner Kraling, whom he had worked with while in the Porsche junior program in Europe.

“He knew I had a slow year and asked that if he bought an LMP3 car would I drive with him,” he said.

“We did a lot of testing this year — as he hasn’t driven in three or four years — just to get a lot of laps for him during testing, which is great for me because then it was no pressure and just get up to speed.

“It was just like putting the running shoes back on. It was very surprising how quickly getting back into an aero car was very easy.

“It’s always easier going up in grip in my opinion. It’s always more difficult to come back down.

“Fingers crossed, I would love to hopefully have a chance at that at some point. It’s out of my control. I just have to perform when I can.”

While having been used to GT machinery in recent years, De Phillippi says jumping into a LMP3 car has been a positive experience.

“Everything is just easier,” he said. “Tire deg is less because the car is way lighter. It’s so much more fun. We did long runs at the test day and just being able to push every lap and not think as much about tire deg.

“It’s really just recalibrating your mind on braking points and things. With a car that’s so much lighter and with more aero, you can be so much more aggressive with your driving style, which fits me personally. 

“It took me a couple of years to really adjust my style to be a GT driver. I have that figured out now and going back now to that more aggressive approach on braking, on corner entry and things like this… 

“I’ve always been a high-speed corner guy, so getting in a car like that really just brought a lot of joy with me.”

De Phillippi said his plans for 2022 with Krailing are undecided and depend on his availability amid what could be a full-season return to the WeatherTech Championship with the new-for-2022 BMW M4 GT3.

The BMW factory driver is only contesting the Michelin Endurance Cup races this year as part of a reduced program for BMW Team RLL with its BMW M8 GTE.

“There’s still a lot of question marks for a lot of us,” De Phillippi said. “They’re still trying to figure out what the plan is for next year. 

“As that develops in the coming months, I’ll have a better idea. Do I want to do [more prototype racing]? Absolutely. Will I have time? I don’t know.”

De Phillippi: Bright Future Ahead for BMW

De Phillippi got his first taste of the M4 GT3 during one of his recent trips to Europe and was left “very impressed” with the GT3 contender.

“For me the M4 is an incredible car,” he said. “A lot of guys have been talking positively about it. I did about 15 laps on the [Nürburging] Grand Prix track and I was very, very impressed with it.

“The way BMW is built right now… The new car is fantastic. Also the leadership we have with Mike Krack has been incredible. He brings a really good atmosphere within the brand.

“I would say, arguably, within BMW we have some of the strongest driver lineups. With the M6 being what it is this last year, it’s been a little more difficult to be competitive. 

“Now with this new car coming, a lot of us are really excited. I think the dynamic we have within our driver group is the best there is out there.

“I’ve had the chance to drive with multiple brands and I’ve been happy in those places, but at BMW, the fun factor and enjoyment you have on race weekends is for me the highest I’ve ever had and I think that will have a bit impact on our future.

“With Mike Krack leading the helm I think it’s going to be a really successful next 5-10 years for BMW Motorsport.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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