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BMW Team RLL announces 2020 IMSA driver lineup

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Bobby Rahal’s IMSA team will include some of the top international sports car drivers in his factory-backed BMWs during the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech season.

The four drivers were announced Wednesday with John Edwards of the United States and Jesse Krohn of Finland sharing the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE prepared by BMW Team RLL. The second BMW features Bruno Spengler of Canada and Conner De Phillippi from the United States in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE.

“Once again BMW has given us a really good core of drivers to compete with in 2020,” said Rahal, who also is a team partner in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. “I’m pleased with the continuity we have with John Edwards, Connor De Phillippi and Jesse Krohn returning. It is always a good thing to be able to build on the foundation you have created when possible. Bruno Spengler is a really good team player and will be a great addition.

“I have a lot of respect for him and everything he has done in the DTM. We are happy that Augusto Farfus, Colton Herta and Phillipp Eng, who helped us win the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona, will be returning to the line-up for that race and are also looking forward to welcoming Chaz Mostert back. We thank Tom Blomqvist for his commitment to the team this season and wish him luck in his endeavors.”

Jens Marquardt is the BMW Group Motorsports Director and spoke of the potent lineup that will compete in the 12-round schedule in IMSA WeatherTech Sports Cars.

“I am looking forward to the 2020 IMSA season and am confident that, with our four regular drivers, we have everything in place to make it a successful year,” Marquardt said. “We are entering our 12th year together with BMW Team RLL. We are also largely going with continuity when it comes to the drivers. John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi have a lot of experience of the IMSA series, and Jesse Krohn also did a good job in his second IMSA season in 2019. All three know the BMW M8 GTE, the series and the circuits in North America very well. Bruno Spengler has not only shown his class throughout his long DTM career, but also in his many GT outings on the endurance scene. I am sure that he will be a real asset to BMW Team RLL.

“At this point, I would particularly like to thank Tom Blomqvist for the great collaboration over the past five years. Whether in the DTM, WEC, Formula E or the IMSA series, like last season, Tom has coped well on any terrain. We wish him all the best for the future. The IMSA season traditionally starts with the ultimate highlight – the 24 Hours of Daytona. It will be nice to see last year’s four GTLM winners – Augusto, Connor, Colton and Philipp – back at the wheel of the BMW M8 GTE there.”

The two Americans include Edwards and De Phillippi.

“I’m really excited to be rejoining BMW Team RLL, especially as I keep Jesse as my teammate and also our engineer,” Edwards said. “This consistency will hopefully help us to further improve on the track as well. We had some good races last year, but all in all it was a bit up and down and didn’t result in a good championship position. The goal is to be more consistent in 2020.”

Krohn begins his third year in IMSA.

“As I will go into my third year in this series, the learning should be done,” he said. “For me it’s time to execute now. I know the team and we work really well together. I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t have a good season in 2020. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Another American will join the operation for the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, NTT IndyCar Series star Colton Herta. He will join De Phillippi and Spengler at Daytona. The fourth driver in the No. 25 at Daytona will be Phillipp Eng of Austria.

Edwards and Krohn will get two extra drivers at Daytona, including Augusto Farfus of Brazil and Chaz Mostert of Australia.

Farfus, De Phillippi, Herta and Eng are the same four drivers who took victory in the GTLM class after a dramatic, rain-dominated Daytona race in 2019.

 “I’m really excited to be rejoining BMW Team RLL, especially as I keep Jesse as my teammate and also our engineer,” De Phillippi said. “This consistency will hopefully help us to further improve on the track as well. We had some good races last year, but all in all it was a bit up and down and didn’t result in a good championship position. The goal is to be more consistent in 2020.”

Spengler is another driver ready to ready to roll with the team.

“It’s great to be part of BMW Team RLL now,” Spengler said. “I still know lots of the guys from the races that I contested for the team in Daytona and Sebring. Everyone has made me feel really welcome. I’m really looking forward to having a very experienced, strong GT driver as a team-mate at my side in Connor. I’m excited for the new challenge and can’t wait for the season to get started.”

These drivers will be in the cockpit of their respective BMWs during the “Roar Before the 24” test at Daytona International Speedway beginning January 2, 2020.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

 

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

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No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

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The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images