BMW Team PTG at Sears Point race report

SONOMA, Calif. (July 23, 2000) -- BMW Team PTG won its fifth-consecutive sports-car GT class victory in Sunday's American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at the 2.52-mile Sears Point Raceway. But the win was disallowed following...

SONOMA, Calif. (July 23, 2000) -- BMW Team PTG won its fifth-consecutive sports-car GT class victory in Sunday's American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at the 2.52-mile Sears Point Raceway. But the win was disallowed following a post-race technical inspection, when the car's fuel tank was found to be larger than the size allowed. Team owner Tom Milner said Professional Sports Car Racing officials told him the class-winning No. 7 BMW M3 was disqualified. Boris Said of Carlsbad, Calif., started the No. 7 M3 second on the GT grid and held the position for more than half of the two- hour 45-minute race. Hans Stuck of Austria drove the second stint, took the lead at the two-hour mark and crossed the finish line about 20 seconds ahead of the second-place Porsche. Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., started sixth in the No. 6 M3 and moved to third in the first half-hour. Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif., then took over in seventh place just past one hour and finished fourth. Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., and Nic Jonsson of Aliso Viejo, Calif., started the No. 10 M3 third, but retired after 30 minutes with a mechanical problem. In the prototype class, BMW Motorsport drivers JJ Lehto of Finland and J”rg Mller of Germany finished third in the No. 42 BMW V12 LMR and their teammates Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Jean-Marc Gounon of France were fourth in the No. 43 BMW. "This was a brand-new car which we had just finished and we had not checked the capacity of the fuel tank," Milner said of the new No. 7 BMW M3. "We had the capacity checked at the gas pumps and it came up to about three-quarters of a gallon below. Apparently, this form of measurement wasn't accurate enough, and after taking expansion and other things into account, our fuel capacity was a half-gallon too large. "It didn't have any effect on our performance or the outcome of the race -- we pumped out 2.5 gallons after the race," he continued. "But regardless of those facts, our fuel tank capacity was above the maximum allowed. We all feel bad about this and it was an oversight on our part. We did every measurement that was available to us to make sure the tank was legal and just missed it by a half-gallon." Tom Salkowsky, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc., echoed Milner's sentiments. "These are some of the issues you face when you develop a new car, especially when you bring it to the track and haven't turned a wheel yet," he said. "It's very disappointing after the team worked diligently to prepare the car for the race. However, all the other measurements were up to par on the car and it's the only car we've experienced any issues with. Obviously, there's a half-gallon in the piping of the car that we have go back and correct." Despite the post-race disappointment, Stuck noted the new car's impressive performance. "There are rules we have to obey and our tank capacity did not comply with the rules. It did not affect the race, because we had still enough to win with an extra two litres [of fuel]. It's very sad for the team because they tried their utmost," he said. "But our improvements have paid off, like the engine, and Yokohama [tires] played a big role. We maintained our speed longer than Porsche did on the Michelin tires. I put pressure on the Porsche driver, so he cooked his tires and then the snake bit him." Both BMW teams will compete in the next American Le Mans Series race, the globemegawheels.com Grand Prix at Mosport, at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., on Aug. 6.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Nic Jönsson