SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2000) -- BMW continued its streak of podium appearances in the American Le Mans Series, when J.J. Lehto and Jorg Muller drove the No. 42 BMW V12 LMR to a third-place finish in the Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring.
SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2000) -- BMW continued its streak of podium appearances in the American Le Mans Series, when J.J. Lehto and Jorg Muller drove the No. 42 BMW V12 LMR to a third-place finish in the Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring. The 1999 race-winning car started fifth and moved up to lead the race five times for a total of 45 laps. The No. 43 BMW, driven by Bill Auberlen, Jean-Marc Gounon and Steve Soper, started sixth and finished fourth. BMW Team PTG had a challenging race week after introducing its 2001 BMW M3 at Sebring, but gained valuable track data that indicates a bright future for the car. The new No. 6 M3, driven by Boris Said of Carlsbad, Calif., Hans Stuck of Austria and Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif., started eighth in the GT class and finished 14th. The team's updated No. 10 M3, driven by Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., and Darren Law of Phoenix, started fifth and finished 15th. Both cars experienced mechanical difficulties during the grueling 12-hour race on the 3.7-mile Sebring road course. After a strong early performance, the No. 10 M3 retired after five hours of the race when the engine failed. The No. 6 car was hampered by rear-axle problems, and ultimately retired after 7.5 hours. Tom Salkowsky, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc., acknowledged the strength of the rival Porsche teams. "You've got to give credit to the competitors in the group. The wind was blowing in their direction," he said. But despite a frustrating race, he was excited about the BMW M3's potential. "We still have some development work on the [No.] 6 car, but on the bright side of things, it really gave us an opportunity to run it for over seven hours on a course like Sebring that really beats up the team and the cars," he said. "Many teams take three, six months or a year to develop a car before they bring it to the race track. This is a car that we developed very quickly and it's out many, many months before the production M3." BMW Team PTG owner Tom Milner agreed: "This obviously wasn't one of our best Sebring races; we won this race in 1997 and 1998. I think this new car performed well. We still have some teething problems with it, which we have to sort out, but in general it was a good test for us." Peter Cunningham noted the major improvement in the No. 10 M3's performance. "The BMW Team PTG M3 has never performed better, never handled better or worked this consistently throughout a tank of gas," he said. "It's a tribute to the guys who put in a lot of effort to update this car and have it here. It's just a huge disappointment for our whole team to have this happen. But for sure, that's racing, and this is Sebring." Team-mate Stuck is also optimistic. "The last [driving] stint was a pretty interesting one," he said. "We had some not- expected changes with the chassis which, in my opinion, made the car a little bit better than it was all week long. We have learned a lot about the car, we made progress and now let's look forward for the next race." BMW Team PTG's next race will be the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Charlotte at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 1. The race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET. It will be telecast live on NBC from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET.