IMMEDIATELY Robert D. Mitchell JVS Enterprises BMW of North America, Inc. Public Relations 201-307-3790 203-438-0501 Erik Wensberg ...
Robert D. Mitchell JVS Enterprises BMW of North America, Inc. Public Relations 201-307-3790 203-438-0501
Erik Wensberg Blair W.Hefty M Brand Manager 201-612-1864 BMW of North America, Inc. 201-307-4122
BMW M3 CAPTURES GTS-3 MANUFACTURER'S TITLE IN SEBRING; MILNER TAKES TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
M3s Claim Top Three Positions for second straight race; Auberlen Extends Points Lead
Sebring, Fla., Friday, Oct. 17, 1997: BMW clinched the GTS-3 manufacturer's title for the second consecutive year today, when Bill Auberlen and Marc Duez led a PTG BMW M3 sweep of the top three positions in the GTS-3 class of the NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Autofest at Sebring International Raceway. Tom Milner, owner of Prototype Technology Group, also captured the inaugural team championship. Auberlen stretched his lead in the driver's championship to 12 points over his teammate Javier Quiros (213-201), who moved into second, with one race remaining in the 11-race 1997 Exxon Supreme GT Series presented by Virgin Interactive, sanctioned by Professional SportsCar Racing Inc.. The BMW M3 domination of the podium today follows a 1-through-5 sweep at the Festival of Road Racing at Pikes Peak International Raceway on Sept. 28. Auberlen, who qualified on the pole for the fourth time this season, and Duez drove the No. 10 Yokohama M3 four-door to the sedan's third victory of the year, finishing a lap ahead of the No. 7 Red Bull/Fina/Yokohama M3 coupe of Marc Duez (who moved into No. 7 for the second stint) and Dieter Quester. Quiros and Butch Leitzinger were third in the No. 6 Yokohama M3 coupe. The No. 5 Conoco M3 four-door of Eduardo Pellerano and John Paul Jr., crashed heavily on lap 25, finishing 21st, when a rear upright failed, damaging the left rear caliper. Driver Paul was unable to brake in the track's hairpin and went straight into the tire barrier. He was uninjured.
Pete Halsmer and Tony Renna, in the independent Mattco Racing entry, the No. 77 Alco Capital Group M3, finished 26th after an early race incident with the No. 39 Porsche. The incident eliminated the Porsche, and points contender David Murry took over the driver's seat in the No. 00 Porsche, finishing sixth. Murry dropped to third in points, but is still in contention for the title, with 198 points. Auberlen set the fastest lap of the 1-hour-45-minute race. "Sebring is my favorite place in the world," said an elated Auberlen, who has won five times this season. "I'm really pleased to be going to Laguna next week with the points the way they are. Marc did a great job on the start and got me in position to win. PTG and BMW have given me everything I need to win, now it will be up to me next week to bring home the driver's championship." "We came and did what we wanted to do, which was to secure Bill's position for the championship," said Milner. "It wasn't a pretty race, we crashed one car, but 1-2-3 is not bad. Nice and easy is our strategy for next week. Bill has to run a smooth, consistent race at Laguna, and we hope to wrap up the driver's title there." "With the changes to the course and some mechanical challenges that we had this weekend," said Erik Wensberg, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc., "we had to overcome some obstacles, but the team and the drivers did a great job and got the title for BMW. We have worked hard all year for this title and had some adversity, but we couldn't be happier right now. We still have to go to Laguna Seca and secure the driver's title." The PTG M3s qualified first (Auberlen in No. 10), third (Duez in No. 7), fifth (Pellerano No. 5) and eighth (Leitzinger in No. 6). Pete Halsmer qualified fourth in the Mattco Racing No. 77. BMW ended the battle for the manufacturer's championship with an insurmountable lead over Porsche (249-215). Milner claimed the team championship by virtue of the PTG team's seven wins this season. Milner leads Michael Colucci's team by 61 points (243-182), also an insurmountable margin with one race left. Laguna Seca Raceway is the last stop on the Exxon Supreme GT Series, schedule, with round 12 scheduled for Saturday, October 26.
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