#66: Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3, GTD: Till Bechtolsheimer, Marc Miller

IMSA Notebook: Bechtolsheimer Translating Monaco to Detroit

Drivers Speak to Detroit Students; New BMW for 2022; GM’s New Tech Center

By Mark Robinson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Does racing on the iconic streets of Monaco help a driver prepare for the concrete jungle of Detroit’s Raceway at Belle Isle Park? Till Bechtolsheimer is about to find out.

The native Brit and New York City resident will team again with Michigan racer Marc Miller in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 for this weekend’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Belle Isle. While it will be Bechtolsheimer’s 11th IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship start, it’s his first on a temporary street course.

That’s why he’ll draw on racing historic sports cars at Monaco to get the feel of the Acura between the tight walls in Detroit.

Bechtolsheimer At Monaco

“The track felt too tight for those cars,” Bechtolsheimer recalled of the historics at Monaco. “I initially felt like I was not going to be able to get any proper speed down on track and it was going to be a bit of a parade. But within three laps, your brain somehow recalibrates and you’re absolutely flat out.

“There’s going to be an element of that as well here at Belle Isle,” he added. “In a GT3 car on the streets of Detroit, I could imagine the first couple of laps feeling a little cramped. But I’d like to think that the experience will be similar to Monaco, and you just adjust and kind of forget the fact that you’re on a street course and there isn’t really any room for error, and just kind of get on with it.”

Bechtolsheimer and 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans winner Miller finished eighth in last month’s first event on the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup calendar at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Their best 2020 finish was seventh in the sprint event at Sebring International Raceway. Bechtolsheimer believes racing last year on Charlotte’s ROVAL road course will benefit them this weekend.

“I think the road course at Charlotte has a similar ‘street course’ vibe,” he said. “You’re up against the walls and there really isn’t any runoff, so having run there in the NSX in 2020 will also be a help.”

Practice and qualifying for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic take place Friday on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit. The 100-minute race airs live at 5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and IMSA Radio.

IMSA Drivers, GM Exec Inspire Students to Pursue Racing Careers

“Someday maybe you’ll see me working with you.”

Those words from a high school student named D’Myra were just what two WeatherTech Championship drivers and a General Motors motorsports executive wanted to hear when they held a virtual question-and-answer session recently about racing professions with a group of Detroit-area high school students.

Felipe Nasr, co-driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi V.R, and Jordan Taylor, co-driver of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, joined Laura Klauser, Sports Car Racing Program Manager for GM, and a host of other dignitaries involved with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. They spoke virtually to nearly 100 students about the many job opportunities in the sport – be it driver, engineer, program manager or mechanic, not to mention options not as obvious including EMT, caterer and more.

The key message the speakers emphasized was for students to find an area they’re passionate about and go for it.

“You don’t know until you try,” said Klauser, who oversees for GM the WeatherTech Championship programs that Nasr and Taylor drive for, as well as the Chevrolet Camaro program in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

“It would be a shame to have something you think you’d like to do and you talk yourself off the ledge and you just don’t want to jump in and try it,” Klauser continued. “So definitely pursue it, and if you get into it and find, ‘Um, maybe this wasn’t for me,’ then try something else. You’re young, you have so many opportunities to get out there. Don’t limit yourself at all.”

Much of the conversation from Klauser, Taylor and Nasr focused on the need for a strong background in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to become involved with a race team. Klauser spoke of the many types of engineering degrees – computer, mechanical, electrical, industrial, materials – that could be put to good use in the sport.

“If you can find an engineering degree that’s very interesting to you, then go after it because the world will be your oyster,” she said.

Taylor, a five-time winner of the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic that returns Saturday at Belle Isle Park, said “math” was truly a four-letter word for him as a younger driver. He soon realized its importance at making him better in his profession.

“When the engineers used to talk with me about (math), it usually went right over my head and they’d try to put it in layman’s terms for me to understand,” Taylor admitted. “For a driver, everything is math these days, everything is science. A lot of stuff these days is actually in simulations, so like Laura was saying, computers are the future. It’s so true because we do most of our testing basically on a very fancy video game these days to develop the cars. That’s all math, that’s all software, that’s all science.”

Nasr began chasing his dream of racing at age 7 in go-karts. It eventually led to a ride in Formula One before he joined the WeatherTech Championship. The Brazilian’s first series win came at Detroit in 2018. He used his determination to become a successful racer as an example for the students.

“If you find something you like, go after it – full commitment – and never give up,” Nasr said. “There’s a lot of opportunities out there. You might have a few rocks on the way but just keep chasing whatever you need and you’ll get there.”

BMW M4 GT3, BMW Driving Academy, Maisach. 23.04.2021©Martin Hangen/hangenfoto

BMW Announces New Car Eligible for 2022 GTD, GTD PRO Competition

BMW Motorsport has announced its new, state-of-the-art BMW M4 GT3 customer race car based on the recently launched 2021 M4 Competition Coupe. The BMW M4 GT3 will be eligible to compete in the GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD PRO classes of the WeatherTech Championship starting in 2022.

Powering the new coupe is the P58 3.0-liter, inline, six-cylinder M TwinPower Turbo engine producing up to 590 horsepower and weighing 80 pounds less than the eight-cylinder engine used in the BMW M6 GT3 that currently races in the WeatherTech Championship.

The M4 GT3 engine receives additional modifications including a change in the mounting angle, engine-mounted oil tanks with an integrated oil/water exchanger, an intake system with charge cycle split and two throttle valves, an exhaust system with charge cycle split, GT3-spec engine mounts and rear torsional vibration dampers.

“BMW of North America is preparing to welcome the BMW M4 GT3 for the 2022 racing season and support our BMW Customer Racing family behind the latest offering from BMW M Motorsport,” said Victor Leleu, BMW NA Motorsport Manager. “We have little doubt that this car will be as successful as its predecessor, the BMW M6 GT3 – most recently the IMSA GTD winner at Mid-Ohio with Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and our friends at Turner Motorsport.”

The biggest improvements in the M4 GT3 compared to the M6 GT3 are in the areas of drivability, cost efficiency and operation. The M4 GT3’s handling and cockpit equipment are more comfortable for amateur drivers, the car is easier on the tires and offers greater consistency. Far lower lifecycle costs and longer maintenance intervals for the engine and transmission are vital economic factors. Operating the car has been made far easier by the fact that many basic settings can be configured directly via the steering wheel, without having to connect an external laptop.

In a transfer of technology between real and virtual motor racing, the steering wheel in the new BMW M4 GT3 was developed jointly by BMW Motorsport and sim hardware producer FANATEC. This revolutionary wheel is the first of its kind that works both in a real car and on a simulator.

“The first time I heard of the idea to design the BMW M4 GT3 steering wheel to be compatible with a simulator, I was flabbergasted – because I was thrilled by the concept from the word go,” said BMW works driver Philipp Eng, part of the BMW Team RLL trio that finished second at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in April and 2021 IMSA iRacing Pro Series Presented by SimCraft GTLM champion. “You have to take your hat off to the pioneering role that BMW Motorsport and FANATEC have taken on here, and to the courage to implement a project of this kind.”

GM Breaks Ground on New Technical Center

General Motors has broken ground on a new Charlotte Technical Center, a 130,000-square-foot facility in Concord, North Carolina, that will expand GM’s performance and racing capabilities that includes IMSA. The tech center will also accelerate strategic knowledge transfer between motorsports and production vehicle development.

The site was selected for its proximity to GM partner racing teams and major technical suppliers. The new technical center will support racing efforts across all series in which GM competes. The facility is a $45 million investment for GM and is scheduled to open in early 2022.

“After more than a year of unprecedented challenges for everyone, we reevaluated our plans and found we could expand the footprint and scope for the Charlotte Technical Center to make it an even greater resource,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports. “This new location and larger facility is a clean-sheet design, tailored for technology development and collaboration with our racing teams and technical partners.”

The new technical center will feature advanced virtual tools, including three state-of-the-art driver simulators, aero development and other software-enabled vehicle modeling technology that will enable faster analysis and iteration. The facility will expand GM’s capacity to process, analyze and leverage vast amounts of data, allowing its racing and engineering teams to optimize designs earlier in the development process while simultaneously delivering greater first-time quality.

“The new technical center that GM is building shows a real commitment to their racing programs and partner teams in particular,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, who fields a Daytona Prototype international entry in the WeatherTech Championship. “All the new technology, tools and equipment will allow us to collaborate more effectively and efficiently across all three series that we partner with them on – NASCAR, IMSA and Extreme E.”