Drivers Named for 2022 Program with New BMW M4 GT3
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – BMW Team RLL is pushing all the chips to the middle of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO table in 2022.
After competing for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup last year in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class – the four longest races on the schedule – the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing operation will field the BMW M4 GT3 cars for the full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season in the new GTD PRO class.
The M4 is also new this year, replacing the BMW M8 GTE that previously competed in GTLM. BMW M Motorsport announced the driver pairings for BMW Team RLL’s two entries on Tuesday. The No. 24 BMW will be driven by Philipp Eng, Sheldon van der Linde, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly in the Rolex 24 At Daytona that opens the season at the end of this month. Connor De Phillippi, John Edwards, Augusto Farfus and Jesse Krohn will share the No. 25 BMW at Daytona. Van der Linde and Krohn will be in their respective cars only for the Rolex 24, with the remaining trios returning for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
The lineups boast plenty of Rolex 24 success, as BMW Team RLL won the GTLM class at the famous race in 2019 and 2020. Farfus was part of both efforts, joining Eng, De Phillippi and Colton Herta in ’19 and Edwards, Krohn and Chaz Mostert in ’20.
RLL President Piers Phillips said the team co-owned by Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Mike Lanigan is looking to continue that trend in 2022 and beyond, backing up the potent driver roster with a slew of new hires and a state-of-the-art shop under construction in suburban Indianapolis.
“You look at the program, and obviously GTD PRO with the new BMW M4 chassis, you’re not just ramping up from the team’s standpoint,” Phillips said. “You’re ramping up learning, understanding and how to run a completely new chassis. A GT3 car is lot different than a GTLM car.
“GT3 cars are designed primarily to be a customer car as part of a marketing exercise. They are – dare I say – easier to run and less complex. But it’s the same thing. If you want to win, you have to ramp your level up competitively to a level so you can beat people. In terms of how you approach it technically, it doesn’t really change.”
The decision to run a full 2022 season was made months ago to give team manager Chris Mower runway for expansion. Phillips said the team has been plucking talent from the Indianapolis area, a racing hub for sports cars, IndyCars and drag racing. This is a stopgap year of sorts since BMW has already tabbed RLL to run its two LMDh prototypes when that new class debuts in 2023.
“It’s just a quantity thing,” Phillips said. “It’s getting the right people; good people and the right mix of people. You have to be organized and regimented in terms of how you approach everything.
“We are staffed pretty much where we need to be,” he added. “The (IMSA) team is based in Indianapolis, after recently moving from Columbus (Ohio). It was a sad time but also an exciting move as well. We are building a new facility on the north side of Indianapolis that will house both the IndyCar and IMSA teams. We want to put everybody under one roof.
“Indianapolis has a lot of race teams, so being selfish, we got the pick of available employees – a lot more fruit on the tree for the team.”
Phillips said RLL is in effect prepping for ’23 when LMDh becomes the top prototype class. LMDh cars will be able to race both in the WeatherTech Championship and in FIA World Endurance Championship events including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“This new era of sports car racing that’s about to hit the United States, with the GT3 series and the LMDh program that’s coming, I think there’s a war coming that people don’t see,” Phillips said. “For people like myself who have worked in Europe and been to Le Mans and seen the WEC and being around those big manufacturers’ programs, know the influence they have not only on their own category but on the categories below, it really sets a standard. We went out with the mindset that we really needed to reach for the stars in terms of personnel, and I think my guys have done an absolute job of getting in top-level staff.”
For 2022, the objective is to conquer GTD PRO while simultaneously developing the LMDh with BMW.
“We want to win a lot of (GTD PRO) races and win the championship,” Phillips said. “That’s the goal; it always is. Working with a manufacturer always takes a different mentality and I think it’s a mentality that you’ve got to be aware there’s a journey and you’ve got a new car, a car that hasn’t raced on these circuits before.
“The U.S. circuits and diversity of the tracks in the IMSA championship is incredible. There will be some challenges, but I think we all approach it with the right mindset and we are all excited to see the new M4 on track. We’re looking forward to hopefully claiming the championship in its maiden season.”