Munich. The end of its second season in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) marks the retirement of one of the most successful open-topped sports cars of recent decades. Triumphs before capacity crowds, action-packed races and happy endings - the career of the two BMW V12 LMRs has been a spectacular one. BMW has celebrated seven victories with this car, including a first in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Also on the record after 18 racing engagements are five second and eight third places. Only twice did the BMW drivers just miss the podium -- despite the fact that in 2000 BMW has been fielding a modified version of last year's model against the new cars of a powerful competition.
"Our decision," states BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen, "takes effect immediately." BMW could take in another race in Adelaide, Australia on New Year's Eve: "It's bound to be a spectacular event even though the titles are already accounted for. However, December will be dedicated to the preparations for the coming season. The schedule, for developing a competitive car is short as it is, following our decision at the end of October, to compete with the BMW M3 in the ALMS GT category."
Highlights of the BMW V12 LMR's career
1999 was its bumper year: BMW won its debut event with the new sports car -- the Sebring 12 Hours in Florida, USA. The triumphant team numbered Tom Kristensen (DK), JJ Lehto (FIN) and Jorg Muller (D). In June, Yannick Dalmas (F), Pierluigi Martini (I) and Joachim Winkelhock (D) won the Le Mans 24 Hours against arguably the most powerful rivals in the history of this event. With co-driver Steve Soper (GB), Lehto went on to claim three further victories in the ALMS.
BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger says: "An old racing rule says that a good looking car is also a fast one. This is indeed the case with the BMW V12 LMR. Its successful design founded an entirely new generation of open-top sports cars and it was fast, reliable, fuel efficient, driveable and aerodynamically effective from the very beginning. It was developed by outstanding technicians, fielded by an excellent team and driven by very good drivers." The car was developed jointly with Formula 1 partners WilliamsF1, and Charly Lamm was the man in charge of all engagements on the part of the team of mechanics and technicians from BMW Motorsport in Munich and Schnitzer Motorsport of Freilassing.
The second year brings further triumphs
The 2000 season proved difficult from the start. All the more remarkable in that light were the two victories which Lehto/Muller claimed in Charlotte and Silverstone. Jorg Muller led the drivers' rankings until the ninth race of the season in Road Atlanta.
BMW had concentrated all their resources on the Formula 1 debut and the 1999 cars redeployed for the ALMS. Various changes in the regulations, above all in the aerodynamic sector, could only have been counterbalanced by the development of an entirely new sports car. The BMW V12 LMR were disadvantaged in driveability and handling compared to 1999. The set-up work proved to be extremely difficult.
But the cars managed to uphold one key strength: their reliability. Only twice was a BMW V12 LMR forced to retire due to a technical fault -- Lehto in the 1999 Le Mans while in the lead ahead of his ultimately victorious team-mates, and Jean-Marc Gounon (F) at Silverstone in 2000.
Notes Charly Lamm: "Our team agrees that the BMW V12 LMR is the greatest car we've ever raced. On New Year's Eve we'll no doubt be thinking of Australia rather wistfully, but deep down we'll be glad to be back home in Bavaria with our families after our lengthy American visits." <pre> All rankings of the BMW V12 LMR: 20/03/99 Sebring Kristensen/Lehto/Muller 1 Dalmas/Martini/Winkelhock - 13/06/1999 Le Mans Dalmas/Martini/Winkelhock 1 Kristensen/Lehto/Muller - 25/07/99 Sears Point Lehto/Soper 1 Auberlen/Winkelhock 5 01/08/99 Portland Lehto/Soper 2 Auberlen/Winkelhock 4 18/09/99 Road Atlanta Auberlen/Soper/Winkelhock 2 Lehto/Muller 3 10/10/99 Laguna Seca Lehto/Soper 1 Auberlen/Winkelhock 3 07/11/99 Las Vegas Lehto/Soper 1 Auberlen/Winkelhock 2 18/03/00 Sebring Lehto/Muller 3 Auberlen/Gounon/Soper 4 02/04/00 Charlotte Lehto/Muller 1 Auberlen/Gounon 4 13/05/00 Silverstone Lehto/Muller 1 Auberlen/Gounon - 09/07/00 Nurburgring Lehto/Muller 2 Auberlen/Gounon 10 23/07/00 Sears Point Lehto/Muller 3 Auberlen/Gounon 4 06/08/00 Mosport Lehto/Muller 2 Auberlen/Gounon 3 03/09/00 Fort Worth Lehto/Muller 4 Auberlen/Gounon 5 10/09/00 Portland Lehto/Muller 3 Auberlen/Gounon 18 01/10/00 Road Atlanta Lehto/Muller 5 Auberlen/Gounon - 15/10/00 Laguna Seca Lehto/Muller 3 Auberlen/Gounon 4 29/10/00 Las Vegas Auberlen/Gounon 3 Lehto/Muller 26