Munich/Donington. BMW Motorsport's new BMW M3 GTRs showed impressive pace in the European round of the American Le Mans Series at Donington Park in England (track length 4.020km), but both cars struck trouble and retired before the chequered ...
Munich/Donington. BMW Motorsport's new BMW M3 GTRs showed impressive pace in the European round of the American Le Mans Series at Donington Park in England (track length 4.020km), but both cars struck trouble and retired before the chequered flag.
The race started in fine style with Fredrik Ekblom (S) in the BMW M3 GTR which he shares with Dirk Müller (D) moving into an immediate lead and gradually edging away from the chasing pack. JJ Lehto (FIN) in the second car made rapid progress from the back of the grid, where he'd started after problems stopped the car qualifying. Ekblom reigned supreme at the head of the field, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap four, as Lehto moved quickly up to third place. Then the V8 engine of Ekblom's car suffered a misfire, which required several pit stops to repair.
Lehto was called in for a stop-go penalty for a yellow flag offence, but was soon back on-track and catching up, when he was pushed into a spin. Despite bodywork and splitter damage, Lehto closed on the leaders again, before handing the car over to his partner Jörg Müller (D). Müller continued Lehto's good work but a vibration from the front tyres prompted him to make the car's second scheduled stop early. When he tried to rejoin, a brief fire broke out. It was quickly extinguished, but more time was lost before Muller could rejoin. The car continued, but retired after completing 81 laps.
BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm: "I can't remember the last time at the end of the race none of our cars was running. Ekblom's car had a fuel feed problem. We changed components during its several pit stops. It seemed to be running okay, when a differential problem forced us to stop. The other car lost time due to incidents on the track. Once we picked up a rhythm, Jorg felt a vibration, which was why we called him in earlier. The fire which occurred at the re-start was most likely caused by a leaking injector. It looked spectacular, but was not a big problem. We could continue, but were then forced to stop by an engine oil leak. Today was bad, but we will work hard and will be back at Jarama, Spain."
Fredrik Ekblom: "It was great when we achieved pole position and when we were running up front. The car was very nicely balanced. The BMW M3 GTR has great potential. We'll come back stronger in Spain for sure."
JJ Lehto: "The first lap was okay, I did a lot of overtaking, but then we had our problems. Frank Biela hit me off. It cost us a lot of time. Despite the body damage, the handling was good enough after that for us to close in on the Porsches again."