DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Monday, January 29, 2024) — The Paul Miller Racing team impressed in their GTD Pro debut, notching third place at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
However, the podium finish was bittersweet as the No. 1 iHeartRadio team saw the chance for victory go up in smoke in the closing hours of the race.
The 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicked off with the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a race which saw the Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 squad of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen, and Sheldon van der Linde lead 197 laps en route to an impressive P3 in the team’s first outing since making the step up to GTD Pro.
The 2023 GTD championship-winning team looked like a potential candidate for victory through the night and into the start of Sunday, leading a bulk of their laps in the second half of the race.
However, a cracked brake rotor with just under two hours to go altered the course of the team’s day from ‘fighting for the win’ to ‘making it to the checkered’.
The necessary fix dropped the team down from the lead lap, and caused further issues with the right front wheel and brake system, forcing van der Linde to drive the remaining stints with no ABS system, and even double stinting the right front tire to avoid further damage to that corner of the car.
However, the BMW Works Driver was able to hang on and safely brought the No. 1 home in the third position.
“These kinds of days are gutting,” Paul Miller Racing team owner, Paul Miller said.
“We really thought up until those last couple hours that we had a shot at winning this race. But, sadly it just wasn’t in the cards for us this year.
“If you had told us a week ago, a month ago, that we would finish third in the Rolex in our GTD Pro debut, I think everyone would have been thrilled. But, to have it happen like this when the potential for victory is so close, it just hurts.
“That being said, I’m so proud of this entire crew, the team, and the drivers. It took everyone taking a step up to battle with the big teams in GTD Pro, and I’m glad we came out swinging.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to action in March for the annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Paul Miller Racing, Bryan Sellers, and Madison Snow are reigning GTD winners of the event—one of the five wins they notched en route to the 2023 GTD title.
“Ultimately, it was not the day everybody wanted. When you come into Daytona, you come in with one reason only, no matter what, and that’s to try and win. But that’s also a double-edged sword because you have to look at this from a very high perspective to really understand it.
“Just because we didn’t accomplish that goal doesn’t mean we didn’t do a lot of great things. We led a lot of laps. We led a lot of segments in the race. And we executed pretty well. But, ultimately, it just wasn’t our day. You also have to look at your competitors and say, ‘yeah, they did a good job.’
“That doesn’t devalue what we accomplished, but it’s tough because you want so badly to win this race, and it’s so long and so grueling and to have it end the way it did is hard. But, for our first debut weekend in GTD Pro, I think we did a really good job.
“We came in wondering if we’d even get a podium this season, so to start the season with a podium speaks volumes about this team. I’m just super happy with the job everyone did—the crew and the drivers. I think we had a really good week. I can only speak from my perspective, but I thoroughly enjoyed the four guys we had in the car.
“I’ve done a lot of these races, and this lineup was probably one of my favorites. At the end of the day, you’ve gotta be thankful. We had fun, we still got to race, and now we reload, reset, and go to Sebring ready to fight again.”
“When you actually look at the bigger picture, we had a great finish and an amazing race. We knew GTD Pro was going to be tough, but we ended up on the podium in our very first race in Pro – that’s a major accomplishment that we achieved. The only downside is that we knew we could have done better, and if just one or two things had fallen our way, we would have had that chance. It does build optimism for the rest of the season, but it’s a little tough right now knowing that you got third when you were so close to walking away from here with a Rolex.”
“This was my first start in the IMSA WeatherTech Series, and to do it at the Rolex 24, I couldn’t have been more privileged to do it with a better team than Paul Miller Racing and BMW Motorsport. I’m super thankful for the opportunity and to drive in an event like this with this team.
“It’s a bit bittersweet right now because we ran the whole race with a great car and we knew we had a chance to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up winning–we finished third. And that feels a little like a punch in the gut compared to where we could have been.
“But, I think we can be super proud of the team’s first GTD Pro start. We ended up with a podium in our very first start! I think it’s a great way to kick off the season and, while it’s not exactly what we wanted, I think we can take the momentum from today and carry it into a trip to the top step this year.”
Sheldon van der Linde
“I gave it everything I had, the Ferrari was just a bit too quick. I think at some points, they were playing with us, I would get close, and then the next lap they would pull away again.
“But, to be in that position, in P2, and to have the car in decent condition after so long—credit to my teammates for keeping it clean until the end—we had the last two hours to really attack.
“But, unfortunately, we had a little issue on the braking, so we had to make an unscheduled stop and that put our plans of winning this race on hold. Then we had an ABS failure, so I drove the last two hours without ABS, and that is not easy in these cars.
“But, I learned a lot. It was super fun to be with this team for the first time and hopefully, I’ll be back with them to try and get that Rolex again. This is the closest I’ve ever come, so hopefully next year, we can try it again.”