BMW V12 Wins Laguna Seca, BMW M3s Have Tough Race
MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 10, 1999) -- The BMW V12 LMR collected first and third place in the prototype class of the American Le Mans Series race at Laguna Seca Raceway. But BMW Team PTG encountered a series of mechanical problems that precluded a fourth GT manufacturer championship for BMW. With a GT win at Laguna Seca, Porsche now has an unbeatable points lead. The No. 42 BMW of JJ Lehto and Steve Soper scored a 13.889-second win over the No. 2 Panoz, despite a late-race spin by Soper. Their team-mates Bill Auberlen and Joachim Winkelhock finished third in the No. 43 BMW. "Three consecutive championship runs is almost unachievable for most teams. The fact that we couldn't pull out a fourth one and will finish a close second to a brand-new car is testament to the dedication and professionalism of Prototype Technology Group. They should be commended for their run," said Scott Doniger, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc. "We congratulate the Porsche factory group for coming out with a brand-new car that's very good. We look forward to competing under an equal set of rules next year. We will undoubtedly give the Porsche teams around the world a run for their money." Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., co-driving the No. 10 BMW M3 with Johannes van Overbeek, qualified quickest of the team in one minute 29.371 seconds at a speed of 90.150 miles per hour on the 2.238-mile road course. He started fourth on the 15-car GT grid, just ahead of Hans Stuck of Austria, who started fifth in the No. 6 M3. Mark Simo of Carlsbad, Calif. qualified the No. 7 M3 ninth in class. Stuck was racing in third place when a throttle-cable bracket broke about 45 minutes into the two-hour 45-minute race. He repaired the car trackside, using a stone to hold the throttle open so he could return to pit lane. His co-driver Boris Said of Carlsbad took the wheel after a 15-minute pitstop for repairs. The No. 7 car retired a few minutes later with a broken control arm after Simo had contact with a GTS car, and finished 12th in class. Simo's co-driver, Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., moved to the No. 6 car at the 90-minute mark, in an attempt to gain more driver championship points. He finished 10th in class. "Brian's higher in the points than me, so they made the decision to get him points instead of me. That's fine, I'm a team player. It's a team effort and I'm a small part of the whole equation," Said said. "I'm disappointed I didn't get to drive more because it's a great track and the car was great. It was an unfortunate day, but that's racing. You've got to take the ups and the downs and you can't let it get to you. You just come back and fight hard, and that's what I'm going to do at the next race." Cunningham said the difference in height between Said and Stuck and himself was a challenge. "Everything felt good in the pits, but when I got out [on track], I realized I wasn't close enough to the throttle. I had to stretch my foot and I just fatigued my back. I wasn't made to fit in that car: I'm not six-two, I'm five- two," he said. The No. 10 M3 also had difficulty, stopping for a half-hour repair of a broken driveshaft joint. The car returned to the race with 30 minutes to go, allowing van Overbeek to log the required minutes to gain points. He finished seventh in the GT class. BMW Team PTG is now preparing for the final race of the 1999 American Le Mans Series, the Grand Prix of Las Vegas (Nev.) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Nov. 7.
Round 7, American Le Mans Series, 10 October 1999, Laguna Seca, California
BMW Le Mans Roadster is back in victory lane
Lehto/Soper won in Laguna Seca, Auberlen/Winkelhock came third
Munich/Monterey. BMW returns to the victory lane of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS): JJ Lehto and Steve Soper won the 2 hours and 45 minute race, the seventh ALMS round, at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. The Finn and the Englishman celebrated their second win under the sun of California in 1999, after having won in Sears Point. Their team mates Bill Auberlen (USA) and Joachim Winkelhock (D) joined them on the podium after finishing in third place on the 2.24 mile (3,6 kilometre) circuit.
After an impressive performance of two Panoz cars in qualifying, Lehto/Soper started from third place, Auberlen/Winkelhock from fourth position. In the heat of the race day- 33 degree Celsius air temperature, 44 degree on the track - the race strategy was about tire life. Lehto started on a softer compound which quickly lost grip and forced him to stop early, after 36 laps (of 121), in order to take harder rubber. Lehto then improved from fourth to second place before handing the car over to Soper. During this second and last pit stop (after 81 laps) Soper took the lead when the Panoz had to change tires after its double stint. Soper brought home the victory although he had a breathtaking spin some laps before the finish.
Auberlen pitted after 44 laps and handed the car, in leading position at this time, over to Winkelhock, who suffered a stop and go penalty during his stint. After 81 laps Auberlen climbed in the car again and brought home the prototype.
BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm: "This was the third ALMS race in sequence which was a real thriller. After we lost the last two races I am really happy to win again. First and third place are a very good team achievement."
JJ Lehto #42: "This is a really great victory, it means a lot to me, especially because the set up work was very hard this time. I am proud of Steve, even though he brought me close to a heart attack when he spun a couple of laps before the finish. I know he did not have an easy job driving on the used tires."
Steve Soper #42: "Driving on the old tires was like walking on a tightrope. But without saving time in the pits we would not have won."
Bill Auberlen #43: "We had an ultimate driving machine and benefitted from the excellent tire choice right from the beginning. Thanks to BMW and thanks to Michelin. It was a great race in a strong team. I am happy that I could be part of the game, and I very much want to congratulate JJ and Steve."
Joachim Winkelhock #43: "It is a pity. Without the stop and go penalty Bill and I would have came second and I still think it was not correct giving me a penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag."
In the GT class BMW works driver Hans-Joachim Stuck had bad luck: After he had improved from fifth to third position with his BMW M3, the throttle linkage broke. Stuck repaired on the track and brought the car to the pits, but the fight for a good position was over by then. Stuck and Boris Said finished seventh.