After the first day at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, we have already seen BMWs on the podium! Day one ended with a 90-minute long Formula Drift Super Drift Challenge. Of the eight entrants, three were BMWs and two finished on the podium: Rome Charpentier continued his success with a win in his BMW E36 while Trenton Beechum took third in his E46.
Super Drift Challenge is an invitational event. Competitors are drawn from the Formula Drift series, which opened on this same course last weekend. Charpentier eclipsed his second-place finish from last weekend’s event and claimed his first Super Drift victory at Long Beach this weekend.
Friday also included qualifying for the five IMSA BMWs in Long Beach this race weekend. Paul Miller Racing will start in P3 for the Saturday 2 p.m. PST 100-minute race. Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow are in a strong position to follow up last year’s GTD win at Long Beach.
Turner Motorsport has two entries in GTD this year, the now-numbered 97 McIntosh Systems M4 GT3 and the familiar LIQUI MOLY number 96 car. Chandler Hull, paired with Bill Auberlen, will start in the #97 car in P7 while Patrick Gallagher will start in P8, then handing over the reins to Robby Foley in this short sprint race. Qualifying ended under red, with the Turner cars finding themselves straddling the middle of the fifteen car GTD field.
“We won’t have a lot of time to push forward,” Will Turner said after qualifying, “but we’ll tighten the belts, put our heads down, and go like mad.”
Bill Auberlen has been impressed with Chandler Hull’s first laps at Long Beach. “Chandler put in a ton of laps to feel comfortable with threading the needle between the unforgiving walls of Long Beach. He then went after qualifying and put in a solid seventh, which puts us in the fight. I can’t wait for the race!”
The two RLL Racing GTP entrants also straddled the middle of the eight-car field. Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly’s #25 BMW Hybrid V8 will start in P4. Philipp Eng an Augustus Farfus will be right behind in P5 in car #24. After 24 hours in Daytona and twelve hours in Sebring, this will be the GTP cars’ first sprint race. While De Phillippi and Yelloly were part of the P2 finish in Sebring, the practice sessions helped the team sort the car further ahead of qualifying for the shortest race on the circuit.
“Overall, qualifying went very well after how the day started,” De Phillippi says. “We are in the mix for a podium as we stand now and hopefully with some overnight changes, we can take the fight to the front two tomorrow in the race.”
Transitioning to the sprint course—especially in an unforgiving track like this street course in Long Beach—can be tough for new cars.
“Today was a really good day for the team,” says Tom Plucinsky, head of BMW NA’s Product and Technology Communications department. “The cars showed good pace, but most importantly, our two qualifying drivers [Yelloly and Farfus] only had about an hour of practice time between them today, prior to the qualifying session. It shows their talent. Having said that, all four spent hours and hours driving the track in the BMW Hybrid V8 in the virtual world prior to arriving here. Philipp said the simulator was very accurate for this track and he was very well prepared.”
Saturday should provide fantastic excitement, especially for BMW fans. Ahead of the 2 p.m. PST race, BMW CCA will be visiting the paddock for Meet & Greet sessions with RLL Racing and Turner Motorsport. Then, shortly after the IMSA race concludes, there is another round of Formula Drift fun!—Kyle van Hoften