By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Each December, Porsche and BMW racers from all over the world gather at their respective manufacturer’s headquarters in Germany to celebrate the past season of competition, while the manufacturers take advantage of the opportunity to also detail plans for the next season.
This year, these special celebrations took place on consecutive evenings. This past Friday night was the BMW Motorsport Season Review in Munich, where the manufacturer’s driver lineup for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was unveiled among other global motorsports program announcements.
BMW Team RLL again will field a pair of BMW M8 GTE race cars in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, with American John Edwards and Finnish driver Jesse Krohn set to team up once again in the team’s No. 24 entry. Joining American Connor De Phillippi – a two-time GTLM race winner in 2018 in the No. 25 BMW – will be British racer Tom Blomqvist taking over for Alexander Sims, who is headed to the manufacturer’s new Formula E program in 2019.
In addition to the full-time driver lineup, BMW also confirmed that two-time Champ Car World Series champion Alex Zanardi will compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona alongside Edwards, Krohn and Australian Supercars veteran Chaz Mostert in the No. 24 entry. Blomqvist and De Phillippi will share the No. 25 with Philipp Eng and Colton Herta at the Rolex 24. Zanardi is returning to race in the U.S. for the first time since losing both legs in a Champ Car incident at Germany’s Eurospeedway Lausitz in 2001.
“Seeing Alex Zanardi in a BMW M8 GTE at Daytona is sure to be a very special experience,” said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt.
Also as part of the BMW Motorsport season review, the manufacturer presented its prestigious BMW Sports Trophy for the most successful privateer drivers and teams. This year, the Classic BMW team, which competed in the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, ended a four-year streak by the German Pixum Team Adrenalin Motorsport by taking home the 30,000-euro prize as the BMW Sports Trophy-winning team.
Classic BMW competed in selected Continental Tire Challenge events, scoring a runner-up result in the Grand Sport (GS) class at Sebring International Raceway. The team also won the Pirelli World Challenge TC class championship.
On Saturday, it was Porsche’s turn to celebrate at the annual Night of Champions in Weissach, Germany. During that celebration, the manufacturer confirmed a three-year extension of its WeatherTech Championship GTLM program with CORE autosport and the same full-time driver lineup as in 2018. Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet will continue to share the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, with Earl Bamber and 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Laurens Vanthoor again slated for the No. 912 entry.
The No. 911 squad will welcome back Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki for the four Michelin Endurance Cup races (Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Motul Petit Le Mans). Last year, the trio of Pilet, Tandy and Makowiecki won at both Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans.
The No. 912 team has a new endurance teammate in French driver Mathieu Jaminet, who raced at Daytona and Sebring in the GT Daytona (GTD) class with Wright Motorsports before closing out the year at Road Atlanta with Bamber and Vanthoor in GTLM. The North American Porsche GT team also will field two entries at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019, with Pilet, Tandy and Bamber slated for what will be car No. 93 and Jaminet, German driver Sven Müller and Norwegian pilot Dennis Olsen in the team’s No. 94 entry.
In the GTD class, Park Place Motorsports confirmed its return to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition in 2019 with team principal/driver Patrick Lindsey now set to share the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R with American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long. Park Place also announced that it will field a new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2019 and that the entire team will operate out of a new race shop in the Dallas area.
“I’m extremely excited for our team this year,” Lindsey said. “We’re growing as a team, and we have the full support of Porsche Motorsport North America to chase a championship. We’re pursuing a lot this year.
“We’re running two cars with the new 911 GT3 R in WeatherTech and the Cayman GT4 Clubsport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. We’re hoping to run Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA (by Yokohama) for the second year as well. I do believe that we’ve never been in a better position to make the leaps we will make this year and do them with great success. Maybe we won’t make them without setbacks or issues, but we will have success this year. Everyone on the team feels that.”
On top of confirming driver and team lineups, Porsche also announced that its new Cayman GT4 Clubsport race car, will make its world debut on January 3 at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona test. The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport will be the first production race car with body parts that are sustainably manufactured, with the front hood, doors and rear wing all made of natural fiber composite materials.
The new race car will make its competition debut in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge for the Michelin Pilot Challenge on Friday, Jan. 25. The car will compete in the GS class.