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IMSA Daytona 24 Hours

BMW boss Rahal says finishing Daytona was "almost like a win"

BMW team boss Bobby Rahal has described getting the two new M Hybrid V8 LMDh prototypes to the finish on debut in last weekend’s Daytona 24 Hours as “almost like a win”.

#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Colton Herta

Rahal called the opening race of the 2023 IMSA SportsCar Championship “a good start for us” despite the two BMW M Team RLL entries in the GTP class suffering significant delays on the way to sixth and ninth positions.

“I have to say that the testing was not easy, but after the Roar [pre-event test and qualifying weekend] I got confident, as there was reliability there as well as performance,” said the three-time CART champion.

“A lot can happen in 24 hours [and] it’s a shame we had the issues with the #25 car early.

“It ran really strong for the rest of the race.”

Maurizio Leschiutta, project manager on the M Hybrid V8 at BMW M Motorsport, added that he was “very happy” with the Daytona performance given the short timeline on a programme only signed off in June 2021.

“We had a very ambitious programme because we started from a clean sheet of paper 18 months ago,” Leschiutta told Autosport.

“We were coming to our first race, which was a 24-hour event.

“We had our challenges during testing, so this was our first 24-hour test - we can be very happy.

“We know now what our weaknesses are and will be working on them before the Sebring 12 Hours [the next round of the IMSA series in March].”

#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Sheldon van der Linde, Colton Herta

#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Sheldon van der Linde, Colton Herta

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

The #25 BMW driven by Nick Yelloly, Connor De Phillippi, Sheldon van der Linde and Colton Herta hit problems inside the opening hour of the race and lost two and half hours to repairs back in its garage.

Leschiutta explained that the entire spec hybrid system — the Williams Advanced Engineering battery, the Bosch MGU and the Xtrac gearbox — were replaced during the stop.

“We changed the entire hybrid system because it wouldn’t have been efficient to do a piece-by-piece analysis,” he explained.

“We just had to get the car back on track as soon as possible.”

There was a further delay for this car on Sunday morning when an engine alarm went off, which left it 131 laps down on the winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the finish.

The #24 car, which Herta drove together with Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Marco Wittmann, lost time with more minor hybrid problems.

It needed a hard reset and then a change of brakes at the cost of 25 minutes, which was linked to problems with the brake-by-wire controls to the rear axle.

That left it 15 laps behind the race winner in sixth position.

#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Colton Herta

#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Colton Herta

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Leschiutta pointed out that the #24 was running only a lap off the lead at the 18-hour mark before its problems.

He said he was encouraged by the pace of the BMW LMDh, which brought up the rear of the nine-car GTP pack in qualifying.

“If you do a quick analysis you will find that Cadillac and Porsche were comparable and the #25 was nearly on that mark, missing a little something but not far off,” he said.

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He conceded that the higher-finishing BMW was further off the pace.

“It is our first race in America in the prototype class with Rahal, and it is a very complex prototype,” said Leschiutta.

“Given the time constraints on the project, I am very happy with the car and its speed.”

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