The #25 BMW Team RLL M6 GTLM driven by Bill Auberlen, Alexander Sims, and Kuno Wittmer finished sixth in the GTLM class in the 65th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The #25 car was the sole surviving BMW in the race; the second Team RLL car, the #24 M6 GTLM driven by John Edwards, Martin Tomczyk, and Nicky Catsburg exited after an encounter with the tire wall, and the GTD class #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 driven by Justin Marks, Jens Klingmann, and Jesse Krohn was retired with rear suspension damage.
Catsburg qualified #24 eighth in class while Sims, running at Sebring for the first time, qualified the #25 car ninth. Sims’ time was just .721 seconds off the pace of the pole-sitting #67 Ford GT. The BMWs ran near the back of the class much of the time, although Auberlen did get #25 up to second during pit rotations early in the race. About twenty minutes before the halfway point Catsburg found that the #24 car would not turn. He went into the tire wall in turn one, ending his race. Catsburg emerged unscathed.
The #96 Turner M6, which had been running in the top ten in GTD, went into the garage with rear suspension damage with just under four hours remaining in the race. It returned to the track for a few laps, but was soon retired. The GTD class win went to Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, and Mario Farnbacher in the #33 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The #25 car continued, running seventh in class and a lap down for much of the second half of the race. But Auberlen stayed out when other GTLM cars pitted under a late yellow and got back on the lead lap. Then he moved up to sixth in the last half hour after the #911 Porsche, which had been running in second, fell back after an unplanned pit stop for a cut tire. Auberlen brought the #25 car home in sixth. The class win went to Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller in the #3 Corvette.
BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt said, “We are leaving Sebring very disappointed. A look at the lap time analysis clearly shows that the BoP adjustments after Daytona were by far not enough to classify the BMW M6 GTLM on par with the competition again. Most importantly I feel sorry for the team and our drivers who worked very hard in preparation for and during the race – and weren’t rewarded for this. Thank you to the entire team for their efforts in the past two races. I hope that the BoP will be further adjusted for the remainder of the season, in order to put us in a position again to deliver exciting and hardfought races with the BMW M6 GTLM.”
The overall race win went to the Wayne Taylor Racing #10 Cadillac DPi driven by Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, and Alex Lynn. It was the second consecutive win for the team; the #10 Cadillac had taken the overall win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as well.
The series runs again at Long Beach on April 7 and 8.—Brian S. Morgan