Nick Yelloly declared BMW M Team RLL’s podium finish in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as a ‘huge step’ after the team survived the late-race mayhem to finish second overall.
Yelloly, Connor De Phillippi and Sheldon van der Linde recorded the BMW M Hybrid V8’s first podium finish in only its second race start in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship enduro.
The No. 25 car finished behind overall winners Action Express Racing in a chaotic finish that saw the top three cars from Acura and Porsche eliminated in a multi-car incident with 20 minutes to go.
For BMW, the result comes after a Daytona debut where the V8-powered hybrid prototype struggled with both reliability and pace.
“It’s a really nice feeling,” Yelloly told Sportscar365.
“For RLL and for BMW M Motorsport to take this step is huge for us. I’m just obviously very, very happy for everyone back at base, back in Munich.
“It’s been a long, hard six to eight months of graft and to reward them with a bit of silverware is very nice of course.
“We’ve made a good step forward as well. Of course, with our general performance, we’re not there yet but we’re sure we can take a good step and hopefully for Long Beach we’ll have another one.”
The Briton was buoyed by the improvement BMW made compared to Daytona, stating that the M Hybrid V8 “can actually fight” against GTP class rivals Acura, Porsche and Cadillac.
While having dropped a lap down with less than 90 minutes to go due to a left-rear brake change, the No. 25 car got back on to the lead lap shortly after, courtesy of another late-race yellow.
“You always hope of course, but actually to put it on paper, it’s really, really quite nice to be able to take a step,” Yelloly said.
“We can actually fight once the tires are switched on as well. We can actually fight and stay on the back of the pack.
“I’m super, super happy. A bit drained now but I need some water and I’ll be fine.”
Yelloly’s remarks were echoed by co-driver Van der Linde, who commented that BMW outperformed expectations, particularly when the car was running on fresh tires.
“I think everyone expected us to drop off the back in this race, which clearly wasn’t really the case,” Van der Linde said.
“Especially in the beginning, we double-stinted the tires and it was maybe a bit more the case.
“When we had new tires, it wasn’t really so we could hang on well. The car had some good pace.
“We could catch the No. 31 car at some point. So that’s always a good sign, because they’re the reference here at the moment.”
BMW “Probably Would Have Won” Without Brake Change
Had the No. 25 car not needed the brake change, Yelloly reckoned they could actually ended up winning the race.
“Literally, the brakes were perfectly fine and then in the last hour, they told me to save the brakes, and I didn’t even know,” van der Linde said.
“The car felt fully normal as well. From my point of view, it didn’t feel awkward, but obviously it cost us quite a bit of time in the pits in the end.
“[It was] only the left side but it cost us a lap in the end. Which we then got a wave by and we were on the same lap.
“We just couldn’t get past Aitken, because they have a lot more torque out of the corners, which makes our life difficult.
“We have to dive from five car lengths back, and it’s just too risky, obviously, for a podium to go for it.”
The time loss meant the BMW ran behind the No. 31 Cadillac by the time of the multi-car incident involving Filipe Albuquerque, Mathieu Jaminet and Felipe Nasr.
“We would have probably won, unfortunately,” admitted Yelloly.
He added that after the incident he pushed to wrestle the victory from Aitken’s clutches, but ultimately came up short by 2.9 seconds to Jack Aitken.
“Of course I was going to try,” he said. “I know Jack quite well.
“Obviously, he’s English as well. I knew I would try and have a chance because he actually struggled on the restart previously more than I did.
“But because we were slower for quite a few laps, they just managed to switch their tires on slightly better than we do at the moment.
“So it’s something we’ve got to work on and yeah, if we can do that, I’m sure we’ll be fighting for wins in no time.”