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Yelloly admits BMW GTP victory “wasn’t the way we wanted to win”

BMW Motorsport’s Nick Yelloly admits that inheriting victory from Porsche in the Six Hours of The Glen IMSA SportsCar Championship round “wasn’t the way we wanted to win”.

#25: BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Hybrid V8, GTP: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

The #25 M Hybrid V8 of Yelloly and Connor De Phillippi lost the lead in the final six minutes of the six-hour race at the iconic Watkins Glen track in upstate New York to the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963.

But the Nick Tandy/Mathieu Jaminet-crewed Porsche was stripped of victory when its underfloor skid block measured less than the permitted minimum thickness. The PPM team has since stated that it will “collect all of the data and follow the protest procedure” after claiming the front skid wear was “less than 1mm outside of the legal tolerance”.

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The Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW operation has made huge strides with its IMSA GTP program since a stuttering start in the Daytona 24 Hours, and was months behind its opposition from Acura, Cadillac and Porsche in getting its LMDh car out on track. 

But the car showed genuine pace throughout the Watkins Glen weekend, having already scored runner-up finishes at Sebring and Long Beach.

“We have been steadily improving, and the first win was within reach,” said Yelloly. “It wasn't the way we wanted to win, as we prefer to win on the track and celebrate on the podium.

“However, we gladly accept the victory nonetheless – after all, it is the first for the BMW M Hybrid V8 and also my first in the IMSA series.

“Therefore, it holds a special significance for all of us.”

1986 BMW March 86G GTP

1986 BMW March 86G GTP

It was BMW’s first GTP success since 1986, when John Andretti and Davy Jones triumphed – also at Watkins Glen – in the mighty McLaren NA-run, F1-engined March 86G. The last time a BMW prototype won a race in North America was in 1999 at Sebring with the V12 LMR.

BMW’s motorsport chief Andreas Roos added: “While we would have preferred to win on the track, this success is the result of long, hard work and the well-deserved reward for the fantastic performances of everyone involved in this program.

“I am particularly delighted that our pace was consistently strong throughout the weekend, and we set the top times. We have been improving from race to race, and we have earned our first victory in the GTP class. I am incredibly proud of our entire crew.”

Before the news of the Porsche’s demotion from first to last place in the GTP rankings, De Phillippi – who was behind the wheel when Jaminet passed him in traffic – rued what he thought was a missed opportunity to win.

The car had already bounced back from two clashes, one with Sebastien Bourdais in the Ganassi Cadillac and another with a GTD Lamborghini when Yelloly half-spun trying to lap it, but proved to be the car to beat in the final two hours despite several unscheduled pitstops.

“If someone had offered us second place after the first hour with the collision and the front-end change, we would have been happy,” said De Phillippi.

“But when you put yourself in such a good position and are comfortably in the lead, the outcome is very disappointing. Ultimately, I lost my entire cushion to the Porsche in just two laps while lapping the LMP cars. That's IMSA racing.”

The other BMW was crashed out on cold tires at the very first corner of the race by Augusto Farfus, who said: “I apologize to my teammate Philipp [Eng] and the team. We knew that with the relatively low track temperatures this weekend, it would be very difficult to get the tires in the right operating window.

“But I believed I had done everything in the warm-up lap to have optimal grip at the start. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and I lost control of the car during acceleration. That was ultimately my mistake.”

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