PROTOTYPE TECHNOLOGY GROUP BMW M3 TEAM - SATURDAY, OCT. 24, 1998 Visa Sports Car Championships, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, Calif. PTG BMW M3s WIN MANUFACTURER'S TITLE FOR BMW, DRIVER'S TITLE FOR SIMO A pair of Prototype Technology Group...
PROTOTYPE TECHNOLOGY GROUP BMW M3 TEAM - SATURDAY, OCT. 24, 1998 Visa Sports Car Championships, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, Calif.
PTG BMW M3s WIN MANUFACTURER'S TITLE FOR BMW, DRIVER'S TITLE FOR SIMO A pair of Prototype Technology Group BMW M3s finished second and fifth, respectively, on a wet and wild day at the Visa Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, Calif., clinching for BMW its third consecutive Professional Sports Car Racing (SPORTS CAR) GT3 manufacturer's championship and for Mark Simo his first GT3 driver's championship. The No. 6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 coupe of Simo and Peter Cunningham finished a lap behind the class-winning Alex Job Racing Porsche. The runner-up finish, coupled with the fifth-place finish by the No. 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door shared by Cunningham and 1997 GT3 champion Bill Auberlen, gave Simo a two-point (177-175) margin of victory in the driver's standings after today's SPORTS CAR season finale. BMW, which won five of the eight races on the SPORTS CAR season, finished with a 191-175 edge in the GT3 manufacturer's standings.
It was an unlikely championship for Simo, who entered the race trailing teammate Auberlen by four points in the driver's standings and was paired with Auberlen in the No. 1 BMW M3 all weekend. But a last-minute change in strategy had Simo step into the No. 6 car started by Cunningham midway through the race, and Cunningham then replace Auberlen in the No. 1 BMW M3. But the strategy backfired when Cunningham rear-ended a slower car and damaged the No. 1 PTG BMW M3's radiator, losing several laps in the pits.
Adding the PTG team's second consecutive SPORTS CAR GT3 team title that it clinched two races ago, PTG BMW M3s made a clean sweep of the SPORTS CAR GT3 titles the past two years, as well as this year's driver's (won by Ross Bentley), manufacturer's, and team titles in the rival United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC).
Auberlen did manage to have a happy ending to his day. After finishing his opening stint in the No. 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door, he took over from Didier de Radigues in the No. 2 Riley & Scott BMW V8 World Sports Car of Team Rafanelli and drove to the overall win, his first and the team's first.
BILL AUBERLEN, No. 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 Four-Door - "The BMW M3 was perfect, as always, but it was an unfortunate turn of events that cost me the driver's championship. That's the way it goes. On the other hand, I'm absolutely thrilled after jumping into the BMW WSC car and win the race overall."
MARK SIMO, No. 6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 Coupe. - "Funny how things happen. It really wasn't my weekend, but I leave here with the driver's championship. Luck of the draw, I guess, with our last-minute change in strategy. As close as we (PTG) drivers were in the points coming into this race, it could have been any one of us. But it turned out to be me. This is a team championship, as far as I'm concerned. It's been a learning experience for me all year, with a little bit of magic at the end."
PETER CUNNINGHAM, No. 6 & 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3s - "I feel bad for Bill, but happy for Mark. The No. 6 car was working perfectly in the first stint. Then I got into the No. 1 car and just ran right into the back of the (No. 51 Chevrolet) Cannibal and damaged the radiator. I was on the radio at the time and simply trying to stay out of trouble. But things happen."
SCOTT DONIGER, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. - "We're very proud to have won our third consecutive manufacturer's championship, and proud of the team for bringing Mark Simo his first driver's championship. It's been an outstanding season by an exceptional group of individuals. Our hats go off to Tom (Milner) and the PTG team for going above and beyond the call of duty in a season that became much more competitive than anyone expected."
TOM MILNER, PTG Team Owner -"I'm happy to see Bill (Auberlen) get his overall win, which perhaps takes some of the sting out of not winning his second straight GT3 driver's championship. But we're also very proud of Mark Simo and the progress he's made this season. He started with very little experience but proved to be a very adept student. And, of course, we're very happy to have brought BMW its third straight manufacturer's title. We certainly haven't looked our best in the last three races, but it hasn't been for a lack of trying. But in the big picture of things, we finished on top, and everyone deserves credit for that."