PTG BMW M3s Kick Off American Le Mans Series Looking for Third Sebring 12-Hour Win in a Row
Three-time Sebring winner Hans Stuck joins last year's GT champs
SEBRING, Fla., March 12, 1999: Tom Milner's Prototype Technology Group (PTG) BMW M3 team looks to begin another championship run when two of sports car racing's most hallowed traditions - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 12 Hours of Sebring - come together at historic Sebring International Raceway next weekend (March 17-20). This 47th renewal of the Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring, America's oldest road race, marks the inaugural season opener for the all-new American Le Mans Series, a spinoff of the legendary endurance marathon held each summer in France. "There's a lot of excitement and anticipation in the air," says Milner, whose PTG BMW M3 team has swept GT3-class driver's, manufacturer's (for BMW) and team titles the past two Professional Sports Car Racing (SPORTS CAR) seasons, as well as last year on the revived United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) circuit. "We're in on the ground floor of a brand new series that's designed to elevate sports car racing into the national limelight. I can't think of a better time to get back on the winning track." A pair of Yokohama/Flextronics International/Level One-sponsored PTG BMW M3 four-doors will be out to get the team's third consecutive 12-hour win on the venerable 3.7-mile Sebring road course and will compete in the newly renamed GT (formerly GT3) class. Three of the top road racers of all time - Hans Stuck, of Austria, a part-time South Florida resident and three-time 12 Hours of Sebring winner (1975, 1986, 1988), Boris Said, of Carlsbad, Calif., one of last year's GT3-winning drivers, and Peter Cunningham, of West Bend, Wis. - will pilot the No. 10 PTG BMW M3 four-door. In the other team car - the No. 7 PTG BMW M3 four-door - Mark Simo, of Carlsbad, Calif., last year's SPORTS CAR GT3 driver's champion and a second-place finisher in the 12-hour race here, will be joined by team newcomers Brian Cunningham, of Danville, Ky., and Johannes Van Overbeek, of San Francisco. "I'd say our No. 10 car features an all-star driver lineup if there ever was one," says Scott Doniger, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "Stuck has won this race three times (tying him with Mario Andretti and Phil Hill, among others, for the all-time career mark here). Boris helped lead the charge for us here last year. And few people in America have mastered the art of winning endurance races the way Peter has. "We've worked hard getting ready for this race. We did some testing at Road Atlanta last month, and we learned some things in the wind tunnel last week that will hopefully put us on the right track for this inaugural American Le Mans Series. It's certainly going to be a dogfight." Getting back on the winning track is of prime importance for the PTG team, which comes to Sebring sporting the colorful, new paint scheme of BMW of North America. Each of the three cars PTG will race this season will have its own accents. "It's not that we've done anything any differently than when we were winning all those races," Said says, referring to the team's current five-race winless streak. "Luck plays a major role in racing, as does preparation, experience and skill. We just stopped rolling our numbers for a while there. But we're looking to get hot again starting right here at Sebring." "The rules finally caught up with us," adds Simo. "We paid the price for winning by having extra weight added to our cars, as well as a rev limit (8,250 rpms), two-inch-narrower rear tires, and being limited to a five-speed gearbox. As the competition has gotten faster and more reliable, our M3s have had been tasked with staying up front under all these handicaps. But all it's done is made us work harder, and smarter, and I think we're primed to start winning again." BMW's winning heritage at Sebring is certainly nothing new. And Stuck, the latest full-time addition to the PTG lineup and a BMW factory driver the past several years, can attest to that. Not long after the company began racing in 1972, Stuck was part of one of BMW's most legendary victories. In the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring, he and Brian Redman, Sam Posey and Allan Moffat co-drove a BMW 3.0 CSL from the pole to a three-lap victory. "That one stands out in my mind," says Stuck. "The 3.0 CSL was an incredible race car, like the current BMW M3. I got my first taste of GT racing in a long time when I joined PTG at Daytona. It reminded me just how fun these cars are to race. They are easy to drive and I am looking forward to what will hopefully be an enjoyable - and winning - season with PTG."