Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service
BMW Team RLL driver John Edwards can’t put his finger on why, but WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been a special place over the years for the co-driver of the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE machine.
In two of the last three years, including last year’s America’s Tire 250, Edwards has stood atop the victory podium at the end of hard-fought IMSAWeatherTech SportsCar Championship events. And while he hasn’t competed in the series in some time, Edwards also has three IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race victories on the picturesque, 2.238-mile road course near Monterey, California.
It’s been very good to me and not just in my professional career, but also in junior formula coming up,” Edwards said. “I locked up the Star Mazda championship (in 2008) and the Atlantic Championship (in 2009) there in back-to-back years. My first podium with BMW Team RLL was also there (in 2013).
“We finished third in that race and then came back and had two wins out of the last three years. So, it’s definitely a place that’s treated me well. I can’t say why. I can’t say that there’s anything that I know that’s different about it, but it’s definitely got some good memories for me.”
Edwards is the common denominator in the victories, as his two WeatherTech Championship GTLM wins came with different co-drivers, Lucas Luhr in 2015 and Martin Tomczyk last year. Two of his three Continental Tire Challenge wins there came with Matt Bell as his co-driver, with the other one coming alongside Trent Hindman.
In Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race, he’ll have yet another different co-driver in Finnish racer Jesse Krohn. Edwards has enjoyed the partnership.
Jesse’s been great, and I actually have known Jesse for a number of years,” Edwards said. “When I went over for one of the races at the Nurburgring to get my license years ago, Jesse was driving the whole season in an M235i. I got to do that race with him to get the experience at the Nurburgring and at that stage, he wasn’t sure whether he was going to have a future with BMW or a future at all, and we had talked about that.
“I was actually thrilled when he got signed and was always very impressed with him as a driver. So when I found out he was going to be my co-driver, I had full confidence that he’d get the job done and he has. He’s definitely performed well in races. I mean, we haven’t had the results, but as teammates, it’s been a good year.”
The highlight of the year for the entire team came in the most recent race, when BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 machine shared by Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi took the first victory anywhere in the world in the new-for-2018 BMW M8 GTE race car. Edwards and Krohn came home third for the team’s first double podium.
That victory coupled with Edwards’ personal history at WeatherTech Raceway could add up to even more success this weekend.
“I think in general over the last few races, we can see that we’ve been more consistently competitive,” Edwards said. “Whereas in the beginning of the year, we were sort of up and down quite a bit. If you look back at the (previous generation) M6 (race car) as well, the first year was a big learning year. Even when we thought we had stuff figured out, we didn’t really come into our own with that car until, particularly, the last half of the second season.
“I think we’ve already started to do that with the M8. It’s encouraging to see the car’s first win, and more than that, to see us consistently being competitive. I think it gives us all a boost getting ready for going back to where we had our last win in the 24 car and getting ready for Petit and especially for 2019. It’s something we’d love to check off, and check off a win in the 24 car as well. But more importantly, we are working hard to be in the fight for the championship in 2019.”