PTG BMW M3s Finish 3-4 at Rain-Soaked Sebring To Stay On Track for SPORTS CAR Championships SEBRING, Fla., Sept. 19, 1998: The Prototype Technology Group BMW M3s survived a rain-marred three-hour NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Classic...
PTG BMW M3s Finish 3-4 at Rain-Soaked Sebring To Stay On Track for SPORTS CAR Championships
SEBRING, Fla., Sept. 19, 1998: The Prototype Technology Group BMW M3s survived a rain-marred three-hour NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Classic with a third- and fourth-place finish to remain on track in their quest to capture Professional Sports Car Racing's driver's, manufacturer's and team titles.
Bill Auberlen and Mark Simo co-piloted the No. 10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door to third place in GT3 behind a pair of Alex Job Racing Porsches, which ended PTG's SPORTS CAR-record winning streak at eight races. Ross Bentley and Peter Cunningham were one place back in the No. 6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 coupe. "It was a matter of pit strategy," said PTG team owner Tom Milner of today's rain-soaked Round Six of the eight-race GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive, of which just 10 of 33 laps were run under green-flag conditions. "The decisions we make aren't always just to win the race, but to win points championships. With everybody gunning for us, we had to make some safe calls and, unfortunately, we came up on the short end today."
Nonetheless, Auberlen, Simo, Bentley and Cunningham occupy the top four spots in the driver's standings, BMW leads Porsche by 24 points in the manufacturer's race, and PTG has a 45-point lead in the team standings. Only two events - Road Atlanta (Oct. 10) and Laguna Seca (Oct. 25) - remain.
"The weather gods didn't smile on BMW today," said Scott Doniger, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We just couldn't have planned for the lengthy yellow- and red-flag periods, and in our attempt to secure driver's points advantages, we fell victim to circumstance."
Rain began falling just eight minutes into the race. Standing water that quickly began developing throughout the 3.75-mile Sebring International Raceway road course caused the race to be red-flagged for 64 minutes. Another lengthy yellow for an accident and more rain in the final hour left just 16 minutes of green to the finish.
"We were having a fantastic race until one wrong thing happened after another. It goes that way, sometimes," said Auberlen, the defending series GT3 driver's champion. "We were in position to catch the Porsches near the end, but the overall race leader (the No. 4 Panoz that went on to win the race) was sitting between us and the Porsches under yellow, and it never pitted. So the Porsches got waved on by and, on the restart, they had almost a full-lap lead. That was too much to try and make up in 16 minutes. It'll be a few weeks before we can come back and redeem ourselves, but I'll tell you, I can't wait for the Petit Le Mans (at Road Atlanta)."
"We really had a great car today, and we did what we came here to do, which is to race," said Cunningham. "Unfortunately, the rain and a little bit of racing luck just caught us out. Hey, we had a podium finish, and we'll be looking to get back on the winning track at Atlanta. Hats off to the Porsches. They've been getting stronger all season, and they did a great job today."
In the GT2 class, the No. 54 privateer BMW M3 coupe of Massari-Bell racing, co-driven by Andy Pilgrim and Scott Neuman, finished second.
SPORTS CAR GT3 POINTS LEADERS Drivers Manufacturers Team Bill Auberlen 143 BMW 149 PTG 149 Mark Simo 139 Porsche 125 Alex Job Racing 104 Ross Bentley 133 Peter Cunningham133 Cort Wagner 123
BMW WINS SPORTS CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP IN SATURDAY'S SPEEDVISION CUP RACE Terry Borcheller and Andy Pilgrim drove their BMW M3 to the overall win and led a 1-2 BMW M3 finish in Friday's 2-hour, 45-minute Speedvision Cup race at Sebring International Raceway. Meanwhile, Mike Fitzgerald and Peter Cunningham co-drove to the Sports class victory in their BMW 328is to lead a 1-2-3 BMW finish and clinching the Sports class manufacturer's championship for BMW with one race left on the schedule. Borcheller also joined Lee Ezell in the BMW M3 that finished second in Grand Sports. Anthony Massari and Charlie Postins co-drove the second-place BMW 328 in the Sports class, while Michael Culver and Eric Tresslar co-drove the third-place-finishing BMW 328is. Pilgrim and Borcheller are tied atop the Grand Sports class driver's points lead and BMW leads the Grand Sports manufacturer's championship with only next month's event at Road Atlanta remaining. They've won three of the five events so far. In Sports, Culver holds a 15-point lead over second-place Fitzgerald atop the driver's points standings. BMW won each of the five Sports class races thus far.