BMW FIA-GT Qualifying Press Release (BMW Motorsport)
17 October, 1997
Round 10, FIA GT-Championship October 17 1997, Sebring, Florida (USA)
Reward for hard work - BMW pair Lehto/Soper on pole
Sebring/Munich. Four days of testing and detail improvements on the McLaren BMW paid off in qualifying: the BMW works driver pair JJ Lehto (FIN) and Steve Soper (GB) will be starting from pole in the tenth round of the FIA GT-Championship in Sebring, making it the third pole achieved by Lehto this season. "It's all or nothing for us here", said the Finn. The present championship situation: Lehto/Soper have a lead of seven points ahead of Bernd Schneider (Mercedes) - they would be World Champions with a victory in Sebring or in the last round at Laguna Seca. Roberto Ravaglia (I)/Peter Kox (NL) will be starting from the sixth position in the second Team BMW Motorsport works car, for the three hour race.
Lehto: "Each test kilometre here was priceless. This airfield race track is not comparable to any European course." Lehto was also quickest during the tests and put in his fastest qualifying lap in the afternoon session, lapping in 1:55.929 minutes, which was an improvement over the morning session despite the higher temperatures. Soper drove in both sessions in the half hour shared by the GT1 and GT2 cars. "I am now also satisfied with the set-up and the Michelin tyres - but above all with JJ's achievement. I am rather less happy with the traffic on the track." 40 cars will be starting on the six kilometre long course, which is surrounded by concrete walls which do not forgive driver errors and bumps which require 100 percent driver concentration.
Ravaglia, who qualified the second McLaren BMW in 1:57.398 commented: "I made an error during the first session - I started my attack too soon and failed to get the tyres up to an ideal operating temperature." He agrees however with Kox: "We are optimally prepared for the race."
Quickest in Gulf Team Davidoff were Geoff Lees/Anders Olofsson in ninth place. The pair successfully tested a new and larger airbox for the BMW V12 in the McLaren BMW.
Results: 1. Lehto/Soper (McLaren BMW/1:55.929), 2. Bernd Schneider/Alexander Wurz (Mercedes/1:56.423), 3. Yannick Dalmas/Bob Wollek (Porsche/1:56.460), 4. Alessandro Nannini/Marcel Tiemann (Mercedes/1:56.748), 5. Klaus Ludwig/Greg Moore (Mercedes/1:56.930), 6. Kox/Ravaglia (McLaren BMW/1:57.398), 7. Hans-Joachim Stuck/Thierry Boutsen (Porsche/1:57.711)
Race on saturday: 15:00-18:00 (- Mid Europe Summer Time 21:00-24:00)
BMW Press in Sebring: Tel. (001) 941 655 6550, Fax (001) 941 655 6551