557 – Turner Motorsport becomes most prolific BMW entrant ever

It’s a long way from five guys sharing a hotel room – who’s got the bathtub tonight?!? – and getting to the track with a rickety trailer towed by an old Chevrolet dually, to 557 race starts and the team with the most races in BMW history. Will Turner and his venerable race team have run the gamut from one to the other.

Robby Foley – responsible for a significant number of those races and a good percentage of the victories – and Patrick Gallagher will carry the No. 557 on the GTD-class Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 this weekend in honor of the number of starts in BMWs. That number goes back to Turner’s earliest days in World Challenge and will eclipse the legendary Schnitzer team. Currently tied with Schnitzer at 555, the Michelin Pilot Challenge race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will mark the 556th start for the team, with the 557th coming in the Motul Course de Monterey IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Sunday.

“This one snuck up on us for sure,” said team principal and the team’s first driver, Will Turner. “Back in ’98, I remember when we built the cars to do our first pro start. I didn’t know if it was going to be a one-race wonder or if if I’d have the resources and or the drive to do another one. Back then when I started, no idea that it would come to what it’s become. It wasn’t my original plan to race professionally for 26 years; it was a hobby turned, ‘Why don’t I try this? See if I can make a go at it.’


Turner says he began running BMWs because he wanted a car with near 50-50 front-to-rear weight distribution, and wanted something front engine and rear-wheel drive. And although the M4 GT3 in the WeatherTech Championship carries a red-white-and-blue livery of sponsor Liqui-Moly, the colors most associated with the team are blue and yellow — a color combo Turner chose because he thought it popped the best on television and in photos. The rest is an ever-growing history.

“Prior to 1998, I had been club racing. When you’re club racing, you never really know if you’re talented, or you have a good car, or the person that beat you is talented, or has a better car. There’s a little bit of uncertainty when you’re going up through the ranks of amateur racing. I think once we entered the pro ranks in World Challenge, there was more of that competitiveness of the sport that kind of got me. Not only did I just want to race, but I actually wanted to do better, and I wanted to strive as a team and strive as a driver. I was building my cars, I was running my team and I was driving. All that competition, and when I got that little taste of the competitiveness, A, I wanted to a be a better driver; B, I wanted to build a better car; and C, I wanted to run a better team. That was the drive, all three of those things. Obviously a better car makes me look like a better driver. If I’m a better driver it makes me look like I built a better car. If we have a little bit of luck and success, it makes the team look good,” Turner explained.

Long retired from the driver seat, the list of drivers Turner has had in his cars is impressive. Bill Auberlen is among the legends, certainly, but that also includes Boris Said, Dane Cameron, Joey Hand, Justin Marks and Don Salama, who now runs strategy for the team. The legacy was a huge part of the appeal for Gallagher to join the team, along with partnering with longtime friend Foley.

Turner’s list of drivers runs deep, and the team’s current lineup has a pronounced level of reverence for legends like veteran Bill Auberlen, seen here on the Daytona podium in 2014 with team owner Will Turner and co-driver Paul Dalla Lana. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

“It’s cool to drive for a team that guys like Bill Auberlen and Dan Cameron and the wonderful Don Salama have driven for,” Gallagher declared. “They set the bar high. I think that from the outside looking in, Turner motorsport does everything at a very high level. But at the same time, they managed to keep it fun, they managed to keep it low key, not a ton of pressure. I think that’s why you see guys like that go from Turner motorsport and go drive for Penske or BMW, or why the guys that started here end up hanging around for a long time. I don’t think that’s an accident. For me to get to drive for those guys, drive for Will and everyone in the shop, is a dream come true, no ifs ands, or buts about it. I think Robby and I both want to be the next Dane Cameron or Bill Auberlen and all the guys that have have come through the program over the years.”

Foley and Gallagher are in their second year of partnership. Last season was a rare winless year for the team, but a trio of second-place finishes and a solid season overall had them fourth in the GTD championship. After three races in 2024, including a second-place finish at Long Beach, the pair are second in the championship. A victory doesn’t appear far off.

“Patrick has been doing a great job,” said Foley, who raced with Auberlen for years with success and is the defending Michelin Pilot Challenge GS champion for Turner with Vin Barletta. “I think a lot of racing at this high level is about minor details. It’s really hard to know what you don’t know until you experience it. We have a great dynamic within the team. There are no egos involved, and I’m just trying to kind of teach [Patrick] what I had to learn myself and try to make that learning curve as fast as possible. He’s obviously very talented; he’s won at every level that he’s competed at. It’s more just about showing him the nuance of how to how to win or do well in a GTD race and he’s obviously been been doing a great job. I’m loving the environment, and hopefully we can have some more successes here.”

“Will has built an ecosystem where, as a driver, you can come in and there’s not a lot of pressure on you,” adds Gallagher. “Everybody wants you to do good, but they don’t put so much pressure on you that you feel like if you miss one lap, they’re going to be disappointed. They believe in you. They’ve been around a long time and they know how to go racing and what it takes to win. So second year, I feel, has certainly been better.”

Turner Motorsport has gone from the days of building it’s own E36 3-series BMWs to race, to the days of homologated race cars. Turner certainly enjoyed the days of building race cars in his shop, especially as it ties in nicely with the parts sales side of the business. But he’s carried forward the winning tradition, coming a long way from the modest roots of the team.

“It was definitely a scene back then, but we had fun with it,” said Turner. “Every year we might have added a little more upgrades, starting with getting people at least hotel rooms with with only two or three to a room instead of everybody in one room — very humble beginnings. I financed the first year of Turner motorsport in 1998 with cash advances on credit cards – the ones that I saved from college, when you’d walk through the Student Union and they’d give you a free credit card just for signing your name. I collected a bunch of those, took cash advances on each one of those and it got us through the first season.”

He’s not leveraging his future to run his racing operation anymore, and this weekend Turner Motorsport seals its place in BMW motorsports lore.

Story originally appeared on Racer