MATTCO RACING'S BMW M3, PTG'S FIRST "CUSTOMER" CAR, WINS SIX HOURS OF WATKINS GLEN
Mattco Racing's Halsmer And Morton Take Class Win; BMW Widens Lead In Manufacturer's Championship
Watkins Glen, N.Y.; Sunday, June 1, 1997: They knew it could happen, they also knew it would happen. What they didn't know was when. Well, it happened in today's First Union Six Hours of the Glen. The first "customer" BMW M3, built by Tom Milner's Prototype Technology Group in 1996, won the GTS-3 class and finished seventh overall in the fifth round of Professional SportsCar Racing's 1997 Exxon Supreme GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive.
The No. 77 Alco Capital Group BMW M3, driven by Pete Halsmer and John Morton, captured its first GTS-3 victory since Matthew Cohen formed Mattco Racing earlier this year. In only four races entered, the Mattco Racing M3 has claimed one pole position, one outside pole position, and one victory -- BMW's fourth of the season.
"That's not a bad record to have for a new team," said Cohen, 24, of New York City. "I always knew we had a great car, terrific drivers, and we were able to assemble an outstanding crew with matching racing credentials. It was just a matter of time before we would win a race. This is absolutely a wonderful experience."
The No. 7 Red Bull/Fina/Yokohama BMW M3, prepared by Prototype Technology Group and driven by Marc Duez, Boris Said III, and Dieter Quester, who turned 58 on Friday, was leading the class in the final hour of a race marred by 12 full-course caution periods for rain and crashes, then dropped to second before colliding with the PTG team's fiercest rival, the leading No. 39 Porsche 911 of David Murry and Jim Matthews. Said managed to limp across the finish line in third place, while the Porsche finished second, two seconds behind the No. 77 M3.
Finishing fourth was the No. 6 Yokohama BMW M3, driven by Derek Hill, Javier Quiros, and Bill Auberlen. Auberlen, seeking driver's points, took over after Said was eliminated in the No. 10 four door by a spinning World Sports Car after leading for the first 2-and-a-half hours.
BMW widened its lead in the GTS-3 manufacturer's championship to 10 points over Porsche (128-118), and Quiros and Auberlen retained third and fourth places, respectively, in the driver's standings. PTG continues to lead Michael Colucci's Porsche team (122-116) in the GTS-3 team championship.
"I'm really happy," said Halsmer, 53, of Bloomfield, Mich. "It's nice to be able to repay Matt and all of the people who have worked so hard to get this team off the ground. I told them to be patient and the results would come."
"What a day," added Morton, 55, of El Segundo, Calif., the two-time Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge champion, who picked up the third Watkins Glen win of his career, in his second drive for Mattco Racing. "I had a lot of close calls. I have to commend Pete. It was one of the really great clutch jobs I've ever seen. By clutch, I don't mean the pedal on the floor, I mean the way he pulled it out at the end."
"It was, as is any endurance race, a real character builder," said Erik Wensberg, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We had difficulty with all three PTG cars, but we soldiered on and we're happy with third and fourth. We're delighted that Matt Cohen and his new Mattco Racing team came through with their first victory. BMWs first, third and fourth is a great way to end the last endurance race of the season."
Auberlen earned the first GTS-3 pole for the new No. 10 four-door, shattering the existing qualifying record by 2.1 seconds. Halsmer qualified the No. 77 M3 third, Hill qualified the No. 6 M3 fourth, and Quester was forced to start last (14th in class and 43rd overall) after crashing during qualifying.
Next event on the 11-race SportsCar schedule is the Toshiba California Grand Prix at Sears Point Raceway on July 13.