Sims Returns to Defend Canadian Tire Motorsport Park GTLM Victory in No. 25 BMW
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Alexander Sims, who co-drives the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE race car with Connor De Phillippi in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, placed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park circuit in his top-three favorite tracks after his debut season in the series last year.

He won three races in 2017 – the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, and the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at CTMP – so it’s easy to understand the 30-year-old British racer’s logic. But he really loves the challenge that the ultra-fast, 2.459-mile permanent circuit in Bowmanville, Ontario represents.

“It’s certainly got some very [gutsy] corners,” Sims said. “Although Turn 1 and Turn 2 are super high speed, actually Turn 3, there’s a lot of risk being had by the drivers to try and get a perfect corner in that Turn 3. Runoff is very, very small, and also, it doesn’t have a nice, straight braking zone, so you’re turning and braking at the same time.

“If you lose it at all at any point in the corner, you’re at maximum risk. It’s a pretty awesome track. The compression up into Turn 4A, 4B, that’s pretty fun. It’s got some really nice, unique traits about it. As I said, Turn 1 and Turn 2 is super high speed. Nice corners.”

Whereas he co-drove to all three victories last year with Bill Auberlen, who now splits his time in the No. 25 BMW during Tequila Patrón Endurance Cup rounds and the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class for other races, Sims and De Phillippi are a new pairing this year.

What’s also new in 2018 is the BMW M8 GTE race car, which presents some challenges, but Sims and De Phillippi have finished second twice this season, in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March and May’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. The No. 25 BMW team finished seventh in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last Sunday.

Sims is looking forward to getting back on track at CTMP this weekend. The two-hour, 40-minute Mobil 1 Sports Car Grand Prix begins at 2:05 p.m. EDT and will be televised on FS1 on a delayed basis beginning at 4 p.m. ET. It will be carried live by IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 138/XM 202/App 972, including all of Canada). 

“It was a real highlight for me last year to experience that track and realize how good it was,” he said. “It worked well for us with the M6 last year; so did Watkins Glen. The race at Watkins Glen went slightly more difficult for us this year than last year in the M8. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to recreate the same result (as 2017), but we’ll obviously do our absolute best to extract everything we can from the weekend.”

Sims came up through various open-wheel racing series in Europe and won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for young British drivers and became a BMW factory driver in 2014. He’s experienced race tracks and racing series around the world, but he really appreciates his experience so far in the WeatherTech Championship.

“It’s certainly been my most enjoyable racing season last year and the first half of this year that I’ve had,” Sims said. “I would almost go as far to say full-stop in my career to date. The mixture of relative sprint races and 24-hour, endurance races and everything in between is a real plus point for me.

“The circuits are phenomenal. I think IMSA does a really good job to keep the racing exciting and interesting even if you’re – what’s considered out of the race – one lap down or two laps down. There’s a chance for you to get back into the race, which I think for the overall show just is a positive.”

Beyond the on-track experience, Sims also enjoys the overall at-track environment in IMSA. He went so far as to compare the atmosphere at WeatherTech Championship races to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he did for the second time last month as part of BMW’s return to GTE Pro competition this year.

“Le Mans is pretty special,” he said. “It’s a big event and just a massively iconic race. It was an absolute pleasure to be there from my point of view. Last year, though, it honestly surprised me how many races over here still felt like a Le Mans-type environment. OK, they might not have had 200,000 fans. You might have 60-80,000 fans, but still, the environment at the racetrack was still a sort of party atmosphere, fans coming from seemingly quite a long way away to visit for the race.

“It was a big event, lots of camping, lots of barbecue smoke coming across the track into the night at Sebring and Road Atlanta. So, when I first went to Le Mans five years ago, that was crazy for me, because I’d only done single-seaters, but actually, having gone back there, it was almost just more of the same special environment that you get over here.

“It was lovely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying Le Mans. Le Mans is amazing, but it opened me up to realizing how special the races are over here.”

And it’s a safe bet that Sims again will experience the smell of barbecue smoke this weekend in Canada. Tickets are available now on CanadianTireMotorsportPark.com.

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