BMW M Motorsport has confirmed the full-season driver lineup for its two-car Team RLL-run GTP class effort in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, while also unveiling the BMW M Hybrid V8 race livery.
Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Augusto Farfus and Phillip Eng have been named full-time drivers, with NTT IndyCar Series star Colton Herta to be among the additional drivers for car’s race debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
The BMW M Hybrid V8 made its public debut in racing colors Thursday evening during a launch event at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.
Guests at the event included BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel, Head of BMW M Motorsport Andreas Roos, IMSA President John Doonan and Team RLL co-owners Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Patrick Lanigan.
De Phillippi and Yelloly will pilot the No. 24 BMW, with Eng and Farfus in the No. 25 car for the full WeatherTech Championship season in 2023.
“Since the GTP project was announced, it has been a dream of mine to be part of the program,” said De Phillippi, who turned the car’s first laps at Varano in July. “I know we are all eager to deliver championship results for BMW at the top level of IMSA competition.”
Yelloly added: “After my first [IMSA] outings at Daytona and Sebring, it is fantastic to now contest the full season in North America – and in this awesome car. For me, it is a return to my roots with high-downforce race cars. I am really looking forward to it.”
Eng, meanwhile, said it was an “honor” to have been given the opportunity for a full-season drive.
The German manufacturer tested nearly a dozen in Europe prior to deciding on the four pilots that will spearhead driving duties next year.
“I will never forget my first laps in the BMW M Hybrid V8,” said Eng. “It is a thoroughbred race car with a huge amount of performance and power. It reminds me of the Class 1 cars in the DTM. It will be great fun to drive it at the IMSA racetracks.”
BMW legend Farfus, meanwhile, will also step up from Michelin Endurance Cup-only duties in recent seasons to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition next year.
“To represent BMW M Motorsport again at the top level, and to be involved in the start of this new era of motorsport, is a unique opportunity and a great honor for me,” said Farfus.
“This exciting project is one of the highlights of my career. The opposition is very strong and we will learn a lot in our first year. However, I think we have everything in place to achieve good results from the start. We are definitely working hard to make that possible.”
Sebring Marked Start of US Testing Program
The Dallara-chassied prototype kicked off its US-based testing program earlier this week at Sebring International Raceway and is confirmed to take part in the two IMSA-sanctioned tests at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Daytona International Raceway in October and December, respectively.
BMW has also scheduled additional private and group outings in North America in the build-up to the Rolex 24.
The transition to testing Stateside comes after multiple outings in Italy and Spain, including tests at Motorland Aragon and Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.
“We have worked very hard in recent months to get the BMW M Hybrid V8 ready for racing in a short time,” said Roos. “[It’s a] beautiful race car.
“It is now our job to make it fast. We are working towards achieving this goal day by day and are confident that we will be ready in January when we really get down to business for the first time at Daytona.”
BMW M Team RLL Principal Bobby Rahal added: “We understand the scope of the challenge in front of us and look forward to meeting it head on. As has been the case before, the level of cooperation and teamwork has been tremendous.
“Being in on the ground floor certainly gives our personnel good insight into the car from the beginning.
“I’ve learned long ago that you temper your expectations. Yes, you have hopes and you know you will be ultimately successful, but, as with any new car program, there are unforeseen circumstances that can work in your favor or work against you. For RLL, it’s a matter of being prepared for either.”