BMW V12s Finish 1-2, BMW Team PTG Second in Season Finale
LAS VEGAS (Nov. 7, 1999) -- BMW Motorsport, winner of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, collected its first one-two sweep of the year in the season finale of the American Le Mans Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The No. 42 BMW V12 LMR of Finn J.J. Lehto and Briton Steve Soper took the lead with 17 minutes to go in the two-hour 45-minute race, followed by the No. 43 BMW of German Joachim Winkelhock and Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif. It was the Munich-based team's fourth win of the six races entered in 1999. BMW Team PTG won the series GT-class team title, with a second-place finish by the No. 7 BMW M3, driven by Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., and Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky. BMW took second place in the GT manufacturer championship, Brian Cunningham was second in GT driver points and fellow rookie team-mate Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif., was third. "It turned out to be a great first year for the American Le Mans Series and a fantastic year for BMW. Even though we didn't win the championship in the prototype category, we were on the pole if not winning almost every race the car competed in. We're extremely happy that the program with BMW Motorsport came to the U.S. We're hopeful that the car and the team will come back next year," said Scott Doniger, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc. "For BMW Team PTG, this year showed what teamwork is all about. We hung in there in the face of incredible competition that we could see on the track in the new Porsche, and competition that we couldn't see in the way the rules came down for an ACO car versus a SPORTS CAR car. For us to win the team championship is absolutely right and fitting because the PTG team is unparallelled in GT racing." Hans Stuck of Austria qualified the No. 6 BMW M3 fourth on the GT grid with a time of one minute 19.742 seconds at 101.57 miles per hour. Peter Cunningham qualified the No. 7 M3 fifth in class and Mark Simo of Carlsbad, Calif., was ninth in the No. 10 M3. The No. 7 car almost didn't make the race when the crew was forced to replace the gearbox after the morning warm-up session. "We finished second in GT, but this is a win for us. Our whole team made this happen," said Peter Cunningham. "We had a scare this morning in warm-up, but everybody did a panic thrash, got the new gearbox together, got it in and got us out on the grid with less than five minutes to spare. From there, it was smooth sailing. We got our trouble out of the way, the M3 was great and our pit strategy was perfect." "It's great to finish second and second. It's a shame to take it away from a team-mate, but I was happy to do it," said Brian Cunningham. "I really have to hand it to the team because without their expertise this morning, we wouldn't have been out there." Stuck and co-driver van Overbeek were hampered by an early pit stop during a caution period that cost them a lap behind the pace car. With about 30 minutes to go in the race, van Overbeek had to pit for new tires, and the pair finished sixth in class. Simo and co-driver Boris Said of Carlsbad also encountered problems in the No. 10 M3 when they ran out of fuel with one lap to go. They finished fifth in class. "A team championship means that collectively the whole team, good luck or bad luck, does the best job it can," said Tom Milner, owner of BMW Team PTG. "I'm happy for the crew. Just like all the other years, we did the same job, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. But having second and third place in the driver championship with our two new drivers is a very credible thing. So wait 'til next year!"
CHAMPION TEST Joey Hand of Sacramento, Calif., who won the Star Mazda Series Best Western championship Nov. 6, will receive a test with BMW Team PTG this winter, as part of BMW's program to support young up-and-coming champions.