Alexander Sims will make the full-time switch to IMSA next season, where he will drive a BMW Team RLL-run M6 GTLM.
It will be the Spa 24 Hour winner’s first taste of racing in the US, where he will share the No. 25 car with veteran Bill Auberlen. The sister car will be driven by John Edwards and former DTM champion Martin Tomczyk, with Lucas Luhr and Porsche-bound Dirk Werner moving aside.
Sims will debut at the Daytona 24 Hours in the John Baldessari-designed art car, with DTM racers Bruno Spengler and Augusto Farfus Jr completing the line-up.
— BMWUSA Motorsport (@BMWUSARacing) December 9, 2016
Speaking exclusively to Racing.GT, Sims admitted that he expects 2017 to be a learning year having only previously driven at COTA and Sebring, but is excited to embark on a new chapter in his career.
“I’ve done two days of testing in America, so I haven’t got much experience. Everywhere except for Austin and Sebring will be brand new to me,” said the 27-year-old.
“I’m obviously going into it hoping to do the best we can, but equally being realistic that there may be some places that don’t click immediately if we don’t get to test beforehand. We’ll just take them as they come.
“I was at Sebring yesterday and that’s quite an interesting place, but to then imagine having P2 cars behind you overtaking, you trying to get past GT3s and I don’t know what pace the LMPCs will be relative to us… It’s quite a gaggle of different categories on narrow, unforgiving circuits, so I would imagine it’s pretty challenging and that in itself will pose some problems at times.
“But I’m seriously looking forward to it – obviously it will be very different to racing in Blancpain when there’s only GT3s on track, so it will be very interesting.”
BMW had a disappointing year with their new car in 2016, ending the year as the only manufacturer not to win a race. The Bavarian marque finished fifth in the Manufacturers championship, with a second place at Sebring for Werner, Auberlen and Spengler the best result.
However, whilst Sims has only limited experience of the GTLM-spec M6, he is optimistic that the Rahal team can find success with the car.
“It’s a little bit difficult for me personally to judge because I wasn’t there this year, so I don’t have a basis to judge my reference point from, but I believe that the feeling is fairly positive,” he said.
“I’m not fully up to speed on everything just yet, but looking ahead to next year, there’s a slightly different tyre available to us, so there’s reason for being reasonably optimistic. I can’t say we’re going to go and dominate, but hopefully we should be competitive.”
I’ll be driving in the full American IWSC Championship next year with the BMW RLL team. This is the Art Car that we’ll be in for Daytona 24 pic.twitter.com/2feyBPBnUW
— Alexander Sims (@AlexanderSims) December 9, 2016
BMW is set for a return to Le Mans and a full-season World Endurance Championship programme in 2018 with Ernest Knoors’ MTEK squad, however Sims expects to remain a part of the IMSA line-up for the next few years at least.
“Honestly I don’t know what the future holds beyond next year, but one would guess that they won’t want to keep chopping and changing,” he said.
“I’ll be fresh next year and there will be one driver in the other car fresh next year as well, so to then go and change them again for the following year, it starts to compromise things a bit. I can understand one year, take it as maybe a learning year and you then want to capitalise on year two I would have thought – but we’ll see.
“It’s nice in the team, the atmosphere is pretty friendly and we’re all in it together. If the other car does better than us then so be it, and vice versa.”
Sims added that the door has been left open for further appearances in Europe next year, including the Nürburgring 24 Hours, although a defence of the Spa 24 with Philipp Eng and Maxime Martin is still unconfirmed.
“I’ll be at the Nürburgring 24 hours, that’s a given, I think pretty much all BMW GT drivers will do that,” he said. “Then as to other appearances, I don’t think there’s any planned at the moment, but I certainly wouldn’t say ‘definitely not.’ [Spa] would be very nice to do, but honestly at the moment there are no definite plans.”