SONOMA, Calif., (July 22, 2001) - BMW gave a command performance in today's two-hour-and-forty-five-minute X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway by sweeping the first four positions. The quartet of BMW Team PTG...
SONOMA, Calif., (July 22, 2001) - BMW gave a command performance in today's two-hour-and-forty-five-minute X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway by sweeping the first four positions.
The quartet of BMW Team PTG and BMW Motorsport M3 GTRs were at the front of the GT class all day, with the No. 42 BMW Motorsport M3 GTR of JJ Lehto and Jörg Müller placing first -- completing 96 laps of the 2.52-mile circuit.
In second was the No. 6 BMW Team PTG M3 GTR of Hans Stuck and Boris Said. Third was the No. 43 BMW Motorsport M3 GTR of Dirk Müller and Fredrik Ekblom, and the No. 10 BMW Team PTG M3 GTR of Bill Auberlen and Niclas Jönsson was fourth. From his second starting position, Bill Auberlen, in the No. 10 M3 GTR, jumped into the class lead as the green flag waved -- setting a new GT race record on lap four (1:34.614). He had stretched out a nine-second advantage over the No. 43 BMW Motorsport M3 GTR of Dirk Müller before a caution period slowed the field and brought out the first round of pit stops.
"The start was fun -- it was back to the old days -- right to the front," said Auberlen. "We paced for our fuel window, but the yellow meant an earlier stop for us."
The No. 42 BMW Motorsport M3 GTR of JJ Lehto ran third while Boris Said kept the No. 6 M3 GTR at the tail end of the M3 GTR train.
For the next two hours, the two BMW Motorsport GTRs swapped the lead until Stuck took second at the 2:15 mark. Niclas Jönsson pitted the No. 10 Team PTG M3 GTR 15 minutes from the end to replace a cut tire. He exited the pits in fifth and quickly recovered fourth.
On the last corner of the last lap the third-place No. 43 of Ekblom drove inside of second-place Stuck and collided with the No. 6 PTG M3 GTR.
After the race Ekblom's second-place finish was reversed by a 35-second penalty assessed by ALMS officials for "avoidable contact."
"I'm proud to drive the new BMW M3 GTR and I'm happy about the results we had," said Stuck. "This shows that Boris Said and Hans Stuck are a very strong combination. The best part was that after the incident with Fredrik Ekblom, he apologized, so everything is okay. We'll take the gift of the points."
"It is easier to analyze the last lap incident after the race," said Tom Salkowsky, motorsport manager of BMW of North America, LLC. "In the heat of the moment drivers must make very quick decisions. As Fredrik said on the podium, he is sorry for the decision he made. I am glad it did not cost BMW a position and that we finished 1-2-3-4 is a remarkable achievement.
"But the real story of the race is our M3 GTR," continued Salkowsky. "Is the BMW M3 GTR a revolution? A few may view it as that, but when you only look at a single point on a long timeline, you miss seeing the natural evolution of our M3 racing program. The M3 GTR is simply the next step of a great race car in the storied history of BMW."
The M3 GTR is the foundation of a renewed M3 racing effort for BMW as both BMW Team PTG and BMW Motorsport will vie for the American Le Mans Series GT class championship in 2001.
BMW Team PTG and BMW Motorsport now set their sights on the August 5 Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway in Oregon and the first race of a very busy three-race month.