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IMSA Pair, BMW Juniors in M4 GT3 for 24H Sebring

Auberlen, Foley to get M4 GT3 taste at Sebring alongside BMW juniors and James Clay…

Photo: BMW

Turner Motorsport’s IMSA GT Daytona duo and two BMW Junior Team members are among the drivers named for the BMW M4 GT3’s next race at the 24 Hours of Sebring.

Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Neil Verhagen, Max Hesse and James Clay will share the 2022-spec car in the final round of the 24H Series next month as part of BMW’s pre-homologation development program.

The car has already raced on Michelin and Pirelli tires, while Sebring will mark its first time in competition on Hankook rubber as reported by Sportscar365 earlier this month.

Auberlen and Foley race together in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and have taken three victories so far this year aboard a Turner-run BMW M6 GT3.

Fellow American Verhagen and German racer Hesse form two-thirds of the RMG-supported Junior Team lineup that won two races in 2021 during its first GT3 campaign.

The Junior Team initiative led by mentor Jochen Neerpasch was revived last year and started out with a series of GT4 appearances before Verhagen, Hesse and Dan Harper graduated to the higher category this year.

Harper doesn’t form part of the five-man race lineup for Sebring, but will nonetheless be on-site at the Florida circuit where he is set to undergo test laps during the event.

Clay is the mandatory Bronze-rated driver in the crew and is an experienced American BMW competitor in the GT4 and touring car ranks.

Of the Junior team members, Verhagen is set for his first race outing in his native United States since the 2015-16 Skip Barber Winter Series.

The 20-year-old has competed predominantly in Europe since then, entering BRDC Formula 3 and Formula Renault before switching to GTs under BMW’s guidance last year.

“I cannot describe how excited I am about racing in my home country in the BMW M4 GT3,” said Verhagen.

“I have dreamed of racing in the U.S again for years. My parents will be at Sebring to watch me drive the new BMW M4 GT3. That is going to be a very special experience for me.”

Hesse, meanwhile, is set for his maiden race on American soil.

“The start at Sebring is a superb opportunity for us,” said the 20-year-old.

“Personally, I have never raced in the U.S, so to do that in the new BMW M4 GT3 and at such an iconic circuit is mega. Hopefully the weather will play ball and we will have our first full 24-hour race, after the race at the Nürburgring was cut short.”

BMW recently gave its M4 GT3 a race outing in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS at the closing round of the Endurance Cup.

Philipp Eng, Jesse Krohn and Augusto Farfus shared the car in the 3 Hours of Barcelona and finished 16th overall as an Invitational entry ineligible for championship points.

Eng suggested that “lots of lessons” were learned by taking the car to a new circuit and analyzing how it raced in a large pack of GT3 cars.

“It’s probably one of the best championships to learn [with the car] because the level of competition is just extremely tight, and there are so many good cars around,” he said.

“So for us it was very important to get the readings compared to the competition.

“It was just important to find out how the car behaves in qualifying with no fuel and new tires, and also in the race. In that regard, I would say it was very positive and we learned a lot.”

BMW is using its preliminary race outings to prepare for the M4’s global customer rollout next year.

So far it has only been driven by factory team members, but Sebring will mark the first instance of a Pro-Am lineup sharing the car in competition.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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