As the 24 Hours of Daytona (2024) approached, I found myself amid an electrifying atmosphere, surrounded by the roar of engines and the palpable excitement of racing fans. Little did I know, BMW of North America had an extraordinary experience planned for me that would redefine my understanding of high-speed motorsport. This experience involved none other than John Edwards, a former BMW Works Driver and a celebrated winner of the Daytona 24, as evidenced by his impressive steel/gold Rolex watch – a token of his triumph.
Racing In The Rolex Heritage Exhibition
John was invited to take part in the Rolex Heritage Exhibition, a prestigious showcase of former Rolex 24 cars held before the main IMSA Rolex 24 event. This year, however, the exhibition held a special significance for John. BMW USA and BMW Motorsport extended an invitation for him to drive one final lap around Daytona in the BMW Z4 GTLM, marking a ceremonious conclusion to his career in motorsport, which he had retired from the previous year.
Edwards’ affiliation with BMW is storied and distinguished, spanning over a decade. Although he achieved significant success in the M8 GTE, winning Daytona, he always held a special fondness for the Z4 GTLM – a machine he described to me as the most enjoyable BMW to drive.
What Did I Get Myself Into?
The night before the Rolex Heritage, the BMW USA PR team approached me with a proposition that would soon become the ride of my life. Despite my familiarity with the car, having taken brief laps in the past, the idea of joining an exhibition race was entirely new terrain for me. I was initially hesitant, but quickly I realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a chance to share the cockpit with a legendary driver and an all-around remarkable nice guy.
So what do I do in this case? As a rookie, I prepared myself for the early morning event, foregoing breakfast and focusing on hydration, suiting up for what was promised to be an amazing experience. Secured in the passenger seat with a harness and helmet, John promised a quick drive to the front of the pack over just five laps, starting from the back to fully experience the intensity of bumper-to-bumper racing.
The thrill of speed, the mastery of overtaking maneuvers, and the precision of braking and cornering were unparalleled. However, the process of warming up the tires in the chilly morning conditions, and the constant heavy braking, introduced me to aspects of racing I had not fully appreciated before.
As the laps progressed, the sheer adrenaline and excitement overshadowed my initial reluctance. By the fourth lap, despite counting down to the finish, the experience had left me in awe. Reflecting on the drive during our interview, I shared with John the immense respect I had gained for drivers who endure such conditions for hours on end, especially under the cover of night or the unpredictability of rain.
The video accompanying this article aims to capture a fraction of the exhilarating experience aboard the BMW Z4 GTLM with a Daytona 24 winner. It was an honor and a privilege to share this moment with John Edwards. To BMW, I extend my deepest gratitude for this unforgettable experience. Danke, BMW, for a ride that will be etched in my memory forever.
[Photos: Sam Cobb]