IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rookie Alexander Sims says his first year in the championship has exceeded his lofty expectations.
After racing the GT3 variant of the BMW M6 with ROWE Racing in Blancpain GT competition last year, the 29-year-old Englishman got the call to join the factory BMW Team RLL squad this season.
The results have been nothing short of impressive, with three consecutive podium finishes, including back-to-back wins, that have put Sims and co-driver Bill Auberlen second the GT Le Mans points standings, a mere three points behind the class-leading Corvette C7.R.
For Sims, reaching the WeatherTech Championship was a major step in his racing career, and having success in the hyper-competitive GTLM class is the icing on the cake.
“I always held IMSA in very high regard in terms of the GT scene,” Sims told Sportscar365. “It’s absolutely lived up to what I thought it would be.
“Really, really high level of competition, awesome circuits, really, really challenging, and a fresh challenge for me to go into.
“Speaking to me now on the back of three very good races in a row, it’s obviously going even better than I expected to be quite honest. We haven’t had many issues on our car.
“Unfortunately, the sister car has had a couple of issues that cost it some good results, but for us it’s been very smooth and we’ve just got to try to continue it for the rest of the year.”
It has been a breakthrough year for the the RLL squad, which snapped a winless drought of 16 races with Sims’ first win at Watkins Glen last month.
Sims said hard work from team and manufacturer alike to develop the car has been critical to finding consistently strong results.
He added that the help of experienced co-drivers like Auberlen and John Edwards has been invaluable to him and fellow IMSA debutante Martin Tomcyzk as they get up to speed on tracks that he has never seen before except on a simulator.
“Bill, first of all, has been helping me a heck of a lot,” he said. “There’s probably not too many people you’d rather have alongside of you. From that point of view, it’s been really, really helpful.
“Martin has obviously been the same thing as me in terms of his experience, so we’re going to loads of tracks and having a lot of learning phases on track.
“It’s just fun to talk about moments that you inevitably have when you’re learning circuits with Martin who is in exactly the same position, you can bounce things off one another and genuinely laugh about all the things you just about got away with.”
While Sims is loving his time driving the BMW M6 GTLM, he is as excited as everyone about the brand’s new 2018 challenger, which he saw for the first time when images of the car were made public earlier this week.
“It looks really cool,” he said. “It looks good. Martin did some of the driving at Lausitzring and has given us some feedback, and he said it’s pretty positive.
“I’m just looking forward to it and driving it myself to see what it’s like.”
Sims said a potential return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with BMW after debuting in the race in LMP2 back in 2012 is a goal, and he hopes he can be a part of the manufacturer’s Le Mans plans in the coming years.
“It’s not my decision who does it, it’s just really nice that BMW has got a program in both IMSA and WEC with a car designed from the ground up as a GTLM, GTE car,” he said.”
“Obviously Le Mans is a big, big pull. If over the next few years I can be a part of that, that would be fantastic. I’m not taking anything for granted, but it’s obviously the jewel in the crown of endurance racing.”