BMW Team RLL’s Lucas Luhr feels the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season presents a fresh start and a new challenge for the German manufacturer, as it transitions from the Z4 GTE to the all-new M6 GTLM.
After two seasons with the compact, normally aspirated Z4, BMW debuts the turbocharged M6 sports sedan in both the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class at this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.
According to Luhr, who topped the GTLM time sheets in the opening day of testing at Daytona, there’s been a significant transition — particularly from a driver’s point of view — in adapting to the latest-generation car.
“It’s a whole new game,” Luhr said. “We’re coming from a normally aspirated Z4 to a turbocharged M6. It gives you a whole different feel and sound inside the car.
“Also, the drivability from a turbo engine is different from a normally aspirated engine.
“Plus, I think for those of you that have seen our car, it’s not the smallest one on the grid. The vision inside and everything, you have to get used to it a little bit.”
The pair of Rahal-entered BMWs have shown the early pace this weekend, in what’s been a rather rapid but extensive development cycle.
The GTLM class variant, featuring primarily tire and slight aero differences from the GT3 car, has racked up nearly 7,000 miles in testing since November, primarily at Sebring and Daytona.
Luhr, who has played a key part in the development of both the GTLM and GT3 variants, has been pleased with the progress so far but realizes there’s still much more to come, particularly in the lead up to its competition debut later this month.
“When you develop a brand-new car like we’ve done with the M6, you obviously have some pieces which are not ideal,” Luhr said. “And they’re still not ideal.
“We’re still in the middle of putting the car to the full extent. So some vision things, especially inside the car, we’re still working on.
“For us, the race is so far away that we have to focus on these three days, go back home, look through all the data and find problems or see that we’re sorted and there are no problems.
“Then as we come back to the race at the end of the month, there’s a whole different approach.”
There’s many unknowns for the entire GTLM class heading into the Rolex 24, with everyone, barring Porsche and Corvette, debuting all-new machinery, something Luhr feels will play a factor in the outcome.
“It’s not only for us a brand-new car, it’s also the competition, nearly everybody has a brand-new car except the guys from Weissach, as they just have slight updates,” Luhr said.
“Nobody really knows what they have in terms of 24 hours and race conditions.
“Of course you go testing but testing is testing and racing is racing. From our point of view, I think we’ve done enough homework to be optimistic to have a good result here.
“But still, it’s day one of the official season starting, so its early. We still have a lot of homework to do.
“We’re completely aware of that and everybody is pushing very hard at BMW and also at Team RLL. At the end of the day, it comes down a little to racing luck.”