Nick Yelloly says he was celebrating his father’s 60th birthday Wednesday back home in the UK when he got the call that he would be joining Turner Motorsports for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The BMW factory driver was at the Florida circuit and turning laps in night practice the following day.
Yelloly said the experience was surreal but there was no hesitation when BMW asked if he would be able to fill in for Bill Auberlen, who was sidelined by possible exposure to COVID-19.
“It was 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon when they asked if I could be on standby, and I said yes,” Yelloly told Sportscar365.
“Then it was confirmed that I was going to be getting on a flight around 6:30 or 7 o’clock that evening and I knew my flight was 11 o’clock in the morning.
“I was out at my dad’s 60th birthday dinner, I went home, packed, did ten laps on my simulator, went to bed and got up early to get to the airport. It was a bit of a whirlwind few hours but all fine!
“I think I landed just before 4 p.m. and fortunately they had someone waiting for me with a little plane so they could then fly me to here. That took maybe 45 minutes.
“I think I landed [in Sebring] at half past five then had to do the credentials and the COVID check. Just as the session started I was signed off that I could go.
“I got changed in the car park when that was happening and then jumped on a pit cart and rode to the pit stand and got straight in the car.
“As soon as BMW called I texted them saying I’m on standby, I’ll sort the rest out later. Just let me know where I need to go, and that was it.
“They sorted the flight and I was in a car at 6am with my letter from IMSA saying I could come to the US and it all worked out smoothly.”
Yelloly, who was part of the winning BMW lineup at this year’s Nürburgring 24, was thankful that the travel went without a hitch because any delay could have put the team on the back foot.
“My manager the day before when he flew in got stopped at customs for two hours whereas I was five minutes and then straight out got my bag,” he said.
“If I’d have been stuck in customs I’d have missed practice [on Thursday] so I’d have just done warmup and then straight in, or we would have taken qualifying just to get me some laps.
“But then we would have had to start from the pit lane because I’m a Gold and [co-driver] Robby [Foley] is a Silver, so we did it the right way.”
Yelloly had previously met his co-drivers Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern along with team owner Will Turner at a BMW function in Munich, which he said has helped him get up to speed in trying circumstances.
“That makes my life a lot easier in knowing some of the guys,” he said. “[Thursday] I literally met the engineer as I fist bumped him, said ‘Hi, I’m Nick,’ and got in the car.
“The first communication was over radio more than anything, but it ran smoothly. I know the car base very well and how everything works so that wasn’t too difficult.
“The main thing will be to get the procedures right in terms of racing in the IMSA championship as I haven’t done that before.
“But I’m sharing a room here with Robby so I just ask him anything whenever I need to and I can just think about it.
“We actually all have the pedals in the same place so that’s easy. Seat-wise, it’s fine. I’m really unfussy when it comes to it so it’s just jump in and go.”