Work, sport and play: BMW at the finale of the American Le Mans Series in Las Vegas
Munich, October 29, 1999 ... BMW is sending two V12 Le Mans Roadsters into the desert on November 7, for the finale of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) which will be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada. In this final race over two hours and 45 minutes, the BMW V12 LMR prototypes will once again be driven by JJ Lehto (FIN) and Steve Soper (GB), and by Bill Auberlen (USA) and Joachim Winkelhock (Ger).
After recording four wins from a total of six starts, the BMW open-top sports cars will race at the gamblers' paradise to end the season. It began in March with a victory at the twelve-hour race in Sebring and reached a climax in June with a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This was then followed by ALMS wins at Sears Point and Laguna Seca.
Only a theoretical title hope for BMW despite successes
Coming into this final race of the season, BMW still has a theoretical chance of overall victory both in the constructors' and in the team championships, even though the team has only raced in five of the seven races that have been staged. "Even if we take a double win", says BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm, "the ten points which we need can only be made up if the Panoz cars do not finish in the first four."
In the driver's championship, as far as the BMW drivers are concerned it is a case of 'rien ne va plus'. The table leader is Elliott Forbes-Robinson (Riley & Scott Ford) with 127 points, followed closely by Panoz drivers David Brabham and Eric Bernard, each on 124 points. Lehto is the best-placed BMW works driver in seventh place with 98 points, in front of Soper (96) and Auberlen (74); Winkelhock is 17th with 56 points.
"Our success rate per mile covered is fantastic" emphasises Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger, "particularly in the case of JJ: He has started five races in the ALMS, has won three times and also has a second and a third, nobody else comes close to having that kind of record. Although we missed two races, JJ could now be at the top of the table. But he was not awarded the 32 points that he should have received for his win in Sebring due to a technical formality in his nomination."
Winkelhock and Auberlen have also stood together on the podium in second and third place. Despite having different passports, they are both basically Swabians, since Auberlen's parents, Brigitte and Gerd, come from Stuttgart. Aerodynamically it's an all or nothing bet -- on Le Mans
The appearance of the BMW V12 LMR has changed somewhat since its brilliant launch at Le Mans. Motorsport Director, Dr. Mario Theissen, told us why: "We concentrated fully on Le Mans in the development work, which as you know is a high speed track at which low drag is particularly significant in terms of the car's top speed and fuel consumption. To gain more down force on the tighter tracks in the USA we have had to make a few compromises. These include the conspicuous wind deflectors at the front, a different rear wing and open wheel arches with a lamellar structure for ventilation."
Sharp bends, a slippery surface and a long straight
Auberlen is the only one of the four BMW sports car drivers who has had racing experience in Las Vegas. He has taken two victories on the 3.6 kilometre track with BMW in the GT class and knows what the circuit demands, "Good traction in slow bends and lots of power everywhere else. The key area is a tight left-hand bend in front of the long straight, that's where you've got to gather momentum." Auberlen continues, "Our experience from Laguna Seca should help us in our choice of tires, where the Michelins proved that they can deal both with slippery surfaces and with the heat -- and we can expect both of those in Vegas."
BMW Team PTG still leads the GT team championship
BMW Team PTG has an eight-point lead over its Porsche rivals in the GT class team championship. The team, under the management of Tom Milner, engages three BMW M3 Coup‚s in this competition, one of which is driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck. His M3 colleagues, Johannes van Overbeek and Brian Cunningham, still have a chance to win the drivers' championship because they are only 16 and 18 points behind the leader Cort Wagner (Porsche) respectively. As Stuck says: "We will have to really go for it what else does one do in Las Vegas!"
Broadcast Information: Sunday, Nov. 7, noon to 2:45 p.m. PT (3 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. ET) CNBC telecast, Sunday, Nov. 7, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- live. Eurosport will also broadcast live.