SEBRING, Fla. (March 1, 2000) -- After five years of sports-car racing success with the BMW M3, BMW Team PTG will introduce a racing version of the all-new 2001 BMW M3 coupe at the Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring on March 18. The new M3 race car is based on the production model that was unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show on Feb. 29.
Tom Milner's Prototype Technology Group, BMW's development team, returns to the American Le Mans Series in 2000 to campaign this new race car and will compete in the GT class of the 12-race series, which includes eight U.S. races and events in Australia, Canada, England and Germany. The 2000 ALMS season opens in Sebring.
BMW of North America, Inc., and PTG face the challenge this year of developing a quick and reliable race car from a brand-new production chassis with new suspension geometry and an entirely new body design. The 2001 BMW M3 coupe will debut this fall in BMW showrooms, but the new racing version will make its first appearance on the race track in Sebring. By cleverly retaining some already proven components and enhancing them with new features, BMW and PTG hope to counter the late-season changes Porsche initiated last year.
"Although developing a race car based on an all-new production version is a formidable task," says Milner, "we have learned a lot in the past five years about the stresses these race cars endure. Therefore, we can't say that everything on the new M3 is unproven. We're not as concerned that the car won't handle well or won't go well, but there is always a concern about the reliability of new components. This year we have new parts and pieces to work with and a serious threat from Porsche. We will do our best to meet that challenge."
The main difference in the new race car is improved aerodynamics. Sleeker than its predecessor, it follows the lines of the new M3. In addition to the roll cage and other safety equipment, the racing M3 has wider fenders, larger tires, bigger brakes and a more powerful 3.2-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine than the production vehicle. The race car skims the ground with just two inches of clearance, considerably less than the street version.
The historic endurance race on the 3.7-mile Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway road course will provide a fitting challenge for the new car.
"We all know how punishing the 12 Hours at Sebring can be on any car, its drivers and the team," says Thomas Salkowsky, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc. "We are probably going to have to climb the largest mountain we've faced so far. It will be particularly challenging for the M3 because of the new race-car introduction and the fact that our competitors are stronger. However, we are confident that we've learned from our successes and setbacks and look to be competitive in 2000."
The new No. 6 BMW M3 will be driven by the trio of Hans Stuck of Austria, Boris Said of Carlsbad, Calif., and Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif. BMW Team PTG will also field the No. 10 M3, driven by Stuck and Said in 1999. Its drivers will be Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., and Darren Law of Phoenix. Both M3s will carry the colors of team sponsors Yokohama, Flextronics International and Level One.
BMW will also celebrate a 25th anniversary in Sebring. In 1975, the BMW CSL, driven by Hans Stuck, Brian Redman, Allan Moffat and Sam Posey, won the Sebring event from the pole. BMW also won the GT3 (now GT) class in 1998 with the BMW M3 and drivers Bill Auberlen and Boris Said. Last year, BMW took the prototype pole and victory with the BMW V12 LMR. It was driven by J.J. Lehto, Tom Kristensen and Jorg Muller.
The Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 18. The race will be telecast live on Speedvision from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web live broadcast, timing and scoring, on-demand interviews, video highlights, news and updates will be available on the American Le Mans Series website (www.americanlemans.com).
TEAM HONORS: BMW Team PTG was one of three teams that received a BMW Pokal Sport Trophy for its performance in 1999 competition. Team owner Tom Milner accepted the award from BMW Motorsport directors Dr. Mario Theissen and Gerhard Berger at a banquet in Kitzbuhel, Austria, on Jan. 20. BMW Team PTG drivers Brian Cunningham, Peter Cunningham, Boris Said and Johannes van Overbeek were also honored.