Photo: IMSA

Rolex recap: BMW kicks off 100th racing anniversary in mixed fashion

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It was a mixed bag of promise and disappointment in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway for BMW as it kicked off its 100th birthday 0f BMW:

* The new No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM finished 11th overall (15 laps down), but fifth in the GTLM class and the first round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car championship.

* The No. 97 BMW M6 GT3 finished 20th overall and sixth in the GTD class, 35 laps off the pace. It was the debut of the new GT3.

* Mechanical issues caused the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 to struggle to a 37th place overall finish and 17th in the GTD class, 108 laps down.

* And then there was the No. 100 BMW M6 GTLM, which wrecked in turn one early Sunday morning due to a brake issue. Driver Lucas Luhr was uninjured, but the car was forced to retire. The No. 100 finished 47th overall and 11th in the GTLM class, 360 laps off the pace.

Here’s some comments from some of the more notable names associated with the BMW effort in the Rolex:

Jens Marquardt (BMW Motorsport Director): “Our goal was to finish the race in Daytona – and, if possible, bringing home some good results. Overall I’m happy with the race debuts of the BMW M6 GTLM and the BMW M6 GT3. We knew that the 24 Hours of Daytona would be a tough test right at the beginning of the season. And this is exactly what we experienced this weekend. Walking away from Daytona with P5 in the GTLM class and P6 in the GTD category is a good result and a nice reward for the whole squad.

“The start into our anniversary season on the occasion of the 100th birthday of BMW definitely was a positive one. With car number 100 we had to endure quite a scary moment. Fortunately Lucas Luhr escaped from this accident without a scratch. For the fans it was an extremely exciting and entertaining race.

“Many different cars fought for the lead, several manufacturers performed on a similar level. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship promises to be a real thriller in 2016. We saw that the basis of our all-new car is very promising. And I’m confident that we will score some really good results over the course of the season.”

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal, BMW Team RLL): “You never know how you truly add up until you get to the first race. The 100 car was having a really good race, so it was a shame that we had a problem that you don’t see very often. Unfortunately it took us out of the race. I think the performance of the M6 was quite good and the guys were doing a great job.

“The same goes for the 25. It is a new car and I think just finishing the race was kind of a victory in its own right. It is disappointing  naturally not to have won, but that was asking a lot of this car on its maiden voyage. The Corvette is a well proven car, the Porsche is the same thing and I think we saw that today. Given that the M6 is a brand new car, with brand new systems – everything – the fact that the 25 car made all 24 hours without a lot of problems says a lot.”

Bill Auberlen (Number 25 BMW M6 GTLM, 5th place):  “The No. 25 M6 ran almost perfectly for 24 hours. We missed a few kilometers per hour on straight line speed to our competitors, but that will be addressed. After a day like today we can certainly hold our heads high.”

Augusto Farfus (Number 25 BMW M6 GTLM, 5th place): “To finish a 24-hour race in a brand new car with no major technical problems is a great achievement in itself. Okay, we may lack top speed and this we need to pass other cars, but I know BMW will work on that as this is just the start of the project.”

Maxime Martin (Number 97 BMW M6 GT3, 6th place): “The M6 GT3 definitely has potential. To finish 6th in its very first race – a 24 hour race – is excellent. In time I know the M6 GT3 will be able to show all of that potential.”

Jesse Krohn (Number 97 BMW M6 GT3, 6th place): “Racing in Daytona has always been one of my dreams. I have always wanted to be here and now I have had the opportunity to come. The M6 GT3 is quite good. It has a lot of potential. It is the first outing for the car in race conditions, so it has been impressive the way we have been able to run with it.”

Lucas Luhr (Number 100 BMW M6 GTLM, DNF): “There was some kind of explosion at the front right that made the bonnet go up, so I couldn’t see where I was going. I believe it was a brake problem. I had two or three good hits. It’s a shame because we were running well and we were right there in the hunt. It is also a shame for all the guys with a new car that had such a good performance for the first time running and they don’t get rewarded.”

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Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).