By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
Colton Herta has been signed to a test and reserve role for BMW Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
The 17-year-old Californian pilots the No. 98 Mazda/Dallara IL-15 with Andretti Steinbrenner Racing in Indy Lights. Now entering his second season, Herta is coming off a rookie campaign that saw him capture two wins, seven podiums and a series-high seven poles en route to third in the championship.
In addition, he was also signed to the BMW Motorsport Junior program which boasts such alumni as Eddie Cheever, Tommy Milner, Graham Rahal, Jonathan Summerton and Trent Hindman. Summerton won his class at Sebring for BMW Team RLL.
Herta drove the 2018 BMW M8 at Sebring ahead of the 66th Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17th.
“Having never driven a GT car before, it was a day of firsts for me,” said Herta in a team release.
“I really enjoyed the experience and felt that I fit right in. While I was expecting to sense the weight difference from the open wheel cars I currently race but what did take some laps to really understand was the braking. You sit in a different relationship to the tires so your sense of the force is much different. I had thought that a GT car’s grip would be less in the high speed corners, but there was a surprising amount of downforce.
“On a scale of one to 10, I’d say I’m at a seven. With two or three more sessions I believe I’d be ready to push.”
BMW North American Motorsport Manager Victor Leleu was complimentary of Herta.
“BMW of North America welcomes another young American to the BMW Junior program and we are excited to be able to allow Colton to participate with BMW Team RLL,” said Leleu. “His very first laps in the M8 GTE showed the potential BMW knew was there.”
The team also used the test to scope out the recent adjustments IMSA has made to balance of performance (BoP) that were made following the Rolex 24. Turbocharger boost pressure was increased over 5,000 RPM and reduced beneath that number. The car also lost 10kg of weight.