Turner looking for a return to victory in IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship

By | December 20, 2023

Last season was an interesting year for Turner Motorsport. On the one hand, the team remained winless in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the first time in more than a decade. Although new teammates Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher reached the GTD podium three times in the No. 96 BMW M4 GT3, including second-place finishes at Sebring and Petit Le Mans, it was never the top step. On the other hand, Foley and Vince Barletta won the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS championship for the team, and Francis Selldorf claimed the inaugural VP Racing SportsCar Challenge title in the GSX class.

These latest victories, along with podium finishes in the WeatherTech Championship – including one from Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull – helped propel Turner Motorsport to the BMW M Sport Trophy, awarded to the best private team racing BMWs worldwide.

“After 20 years, at least 20 years, of running BMWs and competing in 355 races with BMW, we went to the M Sport Trophy banquet every year and hoped that we would be the number one team,” said team owner Wil Turner .

“And every time we were never the number one team, so it was really an honor and a surprise to finally take the top spot in that. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the Sport Trophy presentation, so I had to hear about it via FaceTime and the like from the people who were there. But it’s great. It’s great for the team and the drivers. So congratulations to the entire Turner motorsports team for making this possible.”

In the WeatherTech Championship, Turner split old partners Foley and Auberlen, pairing Gallagher and Foley in the full-time No. 96 GTD car, while the second car, the No. 97, split its time between GTD PRO for most of the time. endurance racing and GTD. Gallagher and Foley have known each other for a long time, going back to their MX-5 Cup days, and the duo showed promise with the three second-place finishes.

“I would say we had a good year with ups and downs,” Foley said late in the season. “Some really good moments, P2 at Sebring, which is obviously one away from a big win, in one of the biggest races in the world. I think we’ve had a strong car all year. We’ve had some unfortunate races, we’ve made some mistakes.”

Now the team is looking to 2024. Michal Dinan, Foley and Gallagher’s endurance sports partner in 2023, moves to LMP2. In his place is 17-year-old Jake Walker, with Jens Klingmann for Daytona.

“I’ve been watching Jake for about a year now,” Turner said. “During the Indy SRO race he got into a BMW GT3 for the first time and was immediately competitive. We need this 17 year old in our car. He has a bright future.”

Turner split his driver pairings in 2023, with the No. 97 entry also splitting its time between GTD PRO and GTD. Jake Galstad/Motorsports Images

Walker got into Turner’s BMW during the recent IMSA homologation test at Daytona International Speedway. It was a positive test for the team, and for BMW in general, which seemed much more focused on speed on the speedway than in the last two iterations of the Rolex 24. Foley says 2024 is shaping up to be a positive season for the team.

“We’re going into our third year with this car, so we have some confidence,” Foley said.

“We have some ideas this winter to help us move forward. And we’re just trying to refine our program a little bit, like everyone else does. Patrick is going for a second year. He has a lot of talent. He’s had his rookie season, so now he knows what he doesn’t know. We’re ready for round two. And yes, we have Jake Walker with us for the endurance races, which is exciting. He already has some experience with this car, he has done well and is doing very well so far. He is a young boy, but he has a lot of talent, so we are going to try to shape him and teach him all the things he doesn’t know. There’s a lot of news coming in for him at IMSA, in a high-level championship, but so far so good. We are looking forward to a good year.”

Gallagher reiterated Foley’s hopes for a solid season in their second year as a duo and his second year with the team: “I’m super excited to be back with Robby and Turner Motorsport. Jake is doing great so far and we have a strong line-up and a strong team. Car seems fine so far. You have no idea what anyone else has, but you’re super excited to be back. It’s nice to have two full seasons with one team – from 2018 to 2021 that wasn’t the case for me. So my things were already in the trailer, which was nice.”

Turner Motorsport is looking at some big changes, with just one car and for the first time no BMW legend Bill Auberlen. The team is also the only BMW participant in GTD, with Paul Miller Racing switching to GTD PRO. Turner sees that as a good turn.

“I think it will actually be beneficial, because now [we and PMR] do not compete with each other,” he says. “Although we are certainly friendly competitors. Now that we’re in a different class, maybe we can use some of the things we’re keeping from each other to help each other and be faster. So I think it’s positive.”

Still, it won’t be easy. Twenty-five cars are expected to line up for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in a GT field totaling 38 GT3 cars, with eighteen more scheduled for the full season. It’s one of the most stacked GTD fields the class has ever seen. But Turner Motorsport has a long history of winning and came so close in 2023. Furthermore, Will Turner would probably like another chance to personally receive the M Sport Trophy.

The story originally appeared on Racer

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