9 April 2001 3rd race of the American Le Mans Series at Donington (GB) 14 April 2001 BMW fields two BMW M3 GTRs for the first time Munich. BMW is preparing to enter two of its new BMW M3 GTR models in the inaugural European race of the...
9 April 2001
3rd race of the American Le Mans Series at Donington (GB)
14 April 2001
BMW fields two BMW M3 GTRs for the first time
Munich. BMW is preparing to enter two of its new BMW M3 GTR models in the inaugural European race of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) hosted at England's Donington Park this weekend. After the successful debut of JJ Lehto (FIN) and Jorg Muller (D) at the Sebring 12 Hours, in which they took third place, another V8-powered GTR has been built for their team-mates Fredrik Ekblom (S) and Dirk Muller (D).
"It was another feat of strength," BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm freely admits. Following a development phase of less than six months, Chassis 01, the prototype, had been completed just in time for practice in Sebring - and survived the round-the-clock marathon. "It was a very intense experience," continues Lamm, "based on just one working session which was extreme even by our standards. Afterwards there was inevitably a lot deal of follow-up work."
Insights gleaned from this debut race already filtered into the construction of the second car. In all, four BMW M3 GTRs are to be built: the other two will be driven by the American BMW Team PTG in the second half of the season. The two races in Donington (14 April) and Jarama, Spain (20 May) belong to the European Le Mans Series but count as part of the eight-race ALMS insofar as they extend the choice of deletable results: for their best placing in the events in England and Spain, drivers are permitted to delete any lower result achieved in America.
More test miles needed for stability checks
Team BMW Motorsport spent a day testing on the A1-Ring in Austria in preparation for the third race in the GT class of the endurance series (at the season opener in Texas, BMW Motorsport was represented only by Lehto/Muller on an M3 from the previous year). The drivers were Jorg Muller and Dirk Muller, the incumbent ALMS GT champion.
"Performance and driveability of the V8 engine are good," stated BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen, "but overall the car is still very new to us. We need to clock up a few more test miles to be properly prepared for racing in terms of stability as well."
Picturesque setting at Donington Park
"I'm really looking forward to Donington," says Lehto. The last time the Finn and the BMW Team raced on this picturesquely sited race track was in 1997 during the FIA GT Championship. The circuit is owned by Tom Wheatcroft, who also has a private museum housing his collection of racing cars, which is well worth seeing. The track length is 2.5 miles / 4.023 kilometres. Lehto gives a brief survey: "After the start, the Redgate Corner right-hander is a good spot to overtake. Then you get to the Craner Curves - a spectacular sequence on a steep downhill. You really have to climb onto the brakes ahead of the Old Hairpin, at the lowest point of the track." Coppice Corner is on a rise and leads into the circuit's longest straight. A chicane and two hairpins complete the course.
"With the inaugural entry of two BMW M3 GTRs, we'll be going all-out to catch up with the rivals," says BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger. "I hope that we've reached a position in this championship of being able to close the gap to our GT class competitors Porsche and to launch a challenge very soon."
The race on Saturday, 14 April, will take place between 12.10 and 2.55 pm UK time (CET 1.10-3.55 pm).
Live commentaries on the Internet are available at www.americanlemans.com.
Eurosport TV channel: Race summary: Sunday, 22 April, 8.45-9.45 pm CET
Programmes featuring ALMS reports: Wednesday, 25 April, 7.30-8.00 pm (repeated Thursday, 26 April, 10.30-11 am and 2.30-3.00 pm and Friday, 27 April, 1.00-1.30 pm)
Sky Sports will provide live coverage of the event.
NBC Sports will televise the event on a same-day basis at 4 pm (Eastern).