Bruno Spengler believes that tire management was “super critical” to victory in Thursday’s IMSA iRacing Pro Series race at virtual WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Canadian extended his points lead with his second win in as many races, following a strategic run for the No. 7 BMW M8 GTE that went the entire 90-minute race on a single set of virtual Michelin tires.
Having sacrificed early race pace to the pole-sitting No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Ford GT of Rodrigo Pflucker, Spengler and his BMW Motorsport teammates came into form in the second half following a mid-race competition caution.
While the three factory BMWs were on double-stint strategies, the No. 97 AIM Vasser Sullivan BMW of Shane van Gisbergen opted to take fresh Michelins during his pit stop, a move that ultimately saw the Kiwi make up considerable ground in the closing laps.
“We talked about it for a long time, but we kept our strategy to stay on the same set of tires,” Spengler said post-race.
“[Shane’s] strategy paid off because he was very close to me at the end with a very good pace.”
Spengler explained that the factory BMW squad made the call pre-race to double stint, despite knowing the risks.
“When we did some testing and long runs, we ended up with a very low percentage tire life at the end of the long run so we were very concerned,” he explained.
“That’s why the start of the race was trying to manage the tires but still trying to follow the two Fords in front of me, which were slightly quicker at some point.
“I kind of had to do both. I had to take care of the tires knowing that at the end of the race would be very important but also follow the pace and not being under pressure from behind.
“Tires were super critical today but that’s what made it fun, to see different strategies and people doing different stuff.”
Pit Stop “Sacrifice” Nearly Paid off for Van Gisbergen
Van Gisbergen, who was running inside the top-10 in his opening stint, dropped to 16th as a result of his green flag stop on Lap 31 for four fresh tires, although managed to quickly gain back positions.
“The race was very exciting,” he said. “We decided to sacrifice a bit of time and take the tires. That paid dividends.
“We really had some grip at the end and charged forward.
“We were sort of in no man’s land [before the stop]. There were five or six cars ahead of us with similar speed but we were five or ten seconds behind.
“We saw the guys in front didn’t take tires so we sacrificed only four or five spots to have a lot more grip. Two or three laps after, I was back up to where I was before the pit stop.”