WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. (February 19, 2001) -- BMW Team PTG returns for its seventh season in GT competition in the 2001 American LeMans Series with two 2001 BMW M3s and a stellar lineup of returning drivers: Hans Stuck, Boris Said, Bill Auberlen ...
WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. (February 19, 2001) -- BMW Team PTG returns for its seventh season in GT competition in the 2001 American LeMans Series with two 2001 BMW M3s and a stellar lineup of returning drivers: Hans Stuck, Boris Said, Bill Auberlen and Niclas Jonsson.
Also competing in the GT class, for the first time, is BMW Motorsport, with drivers J.J. Lehto of Finland, Jorg Muller and Dirk Muller, both of Germany, and Fredrik Ekblom of Sweden. BMW Motorsport completed the successful BMW V12 LMR program in the ALMS series last season.
Stuck, 50, of Austria; Said, 39, of Carlsbad, Calif.; Auberlen, 32, of Redondo Beach, Calif. and Jonsson, 34, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., bring unmatched M3 racing experience to the PTG effort and a wealth of individual skills. Most importantly, each has driven at least one season in the PTG M3s. (Stuck-2, Said-5, Auberlen-3, Jonsson-1).
"Any way you look at the 2001 season, Team PTG will be tough to beat," said Tom Milner, president of Prototype Technology Group, based in Winchester, Va. "All our key people have been with the program since the start, the M3s are proven and we've never had better drivers."
BMW of North America has set two major goals for the year: to continue to advance BMW technology through motorsports and add significantly to the M3's outstanding list of accomplishments.
"We are in a strong position with Team PTG, not only with our exceptional driver lineup, but with all of the knowledge gained in the last six seasons. In addition, BMW Motorsport will be joining our fight. It is great to see J.J. Lehto, Jorg Muller, Fredrik Ekblom and last year's GT driver's champion, Dirk Muller join the M3 effort," said Tom Salkowsky, Motorsports Manager for BMW of North America, LLC. "Not only is it exciting that Bill Auberlen is back, but we are thrilled that Hans and Boris are driving together again, as well as Nic - back for his first full season."
"Motorsport plays a part in establishing the foundation of the M Brand, but it also transcends the entire BMW lineup. Not only does motorsports emphasize our core values of technology and engineering expertise, but also that we compete at the highest levels."
Veteran Stuck is considered to be among the world's top sports-car drivers. He has won championships in IMSA Supercar (1993), ADAC-Supercup (1987), Sportscar Endurance Championship (1985) and the Procar-Series (1979). He co drove a BMW 3.5 CSL to victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975, bringing BMW its first major win in North America. He has three victories since joining BMW Team PTG in 1999.
Said has won 10 races for Team PTG since 1996, including the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1997 and 1998. An accomplished racer on a variety of circuits, he's a three-time SCCA Showroom Stock national champion and has won races in the SCCA Trans-Am and Firestone Firehawk Series, as well as the ADAC German GT Cup. In 1998 he won one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, claimed the pole in his first Busch Series race and qualified fifth in his first Winston Cup race.
Driving together for the past two seasons, Stuck and Said have forged one of the great racing partnerships. The two were voted the top-rated GT class duo of 2000 by the readers of Le Mans Series and Sportscar Racer magazine. Stuck and Said have partnered in three wins for PTG, including last season's maiden victory for the all-new 2001 M3 at Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., in October.
"I'm excited", said Said, "I'm looking forward to another season with my 'brother' Hans. I've been with Team PTG from almost the beginning of the program and this is the best prepared we've been."
"I would rate him among the top three teammates I've had -- Derek Bell, Thierry Boutsen and Boris Said -- absolutely," said Stuck. "We intend to reap the harvest this year and take home the fruits of two years' labor."
Auberlen is back with Team PTG after two years with BMW Motorsport's V12 LMR program, where he scored three podium finishes in 1999 and two last year.
A former Peruvian Formula Three driver's champion and IMSA GTS-2 standout before joining Team PTG in 1996, he scored 10 pole positions and won 12 races in 1997 and 1998, taking the IMSA GTS-3 (now GT) driver's championship in 1997.
"I came out of a GT M3, I won championships with Team PTG in a GT M3, I went up to the LMR car and now I'm coming back to something I know very well," said Auberlen. "Plus, I never really completely left because I've continued to test for Tom Milner, so I've stayed current. It's so good to come back to a team where you're immediately right up to speed."
Jonsson joined Team PTG in 2000. In his very first race, he set the fastest driving stint time of the six team drivers and continued to pace the team for the rest of the year, setting the team's fastest race lap in one third of the year's races.
Born in Sweden, Jonsson is a two-time Scandinavian Formula Three champion (1990-91), the 1992 Scandinavian Touring Car champion, and has competed in European Cup for Formula Three, the Formula Asia Championship, Indy Lights and the Indy Racing League.
"I'm glad to be back with PTG. I'm looking forward to running up front and winning races," said Jonsson. "We have a very competitive lineup, with great tires from Yokohama and a very well-built M3 from PTG."
The latest generation 2001 PTG BMW M3 made its debut last season at Sebring (Fla.) in March and both cars will again feature the distinctive red, white and black livery of Yokohama Tire Corporation in 2001, as Yokohama renews its sponsorship for a seventh straight year.
BMW Team PTG has been BMW's primary U.S. motorsports development team for the BMW M3 since 1995.
The 2001 season begins with the Leather Center Grand Prix of Texas at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth on March 4 followed two weeks later by the 49th annual running of the Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring on March 17.