BMW V12 LMR has difficult Sebring beginning

Munich/Sebring. BMW works driver JJ Lehto (FIN) qualified the BMW V12 LMR he shares with German J”rg Mller in provisional fourth position after the first of two qualifying sessions for the seasons opener in Sebring, Florida. The 1999 ...

Munich/Sebring. BMW works driver JJ Lehto (FIN) qualified the BMW V12 LMR he shares with German J”rg Mller in provisional fourth position after the first of two qualifying sessions for the seasons opener in Sebring, Florida. The 1999 years winner of the famous 12- hour race lapped the 3.7 mile circuit in 1 minute 50,491 seconds in the No. 42 car. Frenchman Jean-Marc Gounon, who co-drives the No 43 car with American Bill Auberlen and Briton Steve Soper, suffered an accident on his very first lap in the first turn where he hit the wall. While the driver remained unhurt, the car is heavily damaged.

Hans-Joachim Stuck, who drives with Boris Said and Johannes van Overbeek in a brand-new BMW M3 of BMW Team PTG, was watching qualifying from beside the track. Boris Said qualified the No. 6 car in 2 minutes 12,255 seconds for provisional 12th position in GT class before the right door of the car fall apart, following damage from Tuesday.

BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm: Obviously we are in trouble due to the damage to car 43. But even before we were in a difficult situation, because we did not manage to get the balance of the cars right. They are not as good as they were last year and we do not understand why. The changes we made are only to follow the new regulations which now call for an air vent at the front wheel housings, an additional lip and smaller side plates on the rear wing and an extension of the rear diffuser to the maximum vehicle length. Also a smaller air-restrictor for our engine is required. We do not understand how this affects the balance so much."

JJ Lehto #42: Normally I really like qualifying here. The last two times - 1997 with the McLaren BMW and 1999 in the BMW V12 LMR - I had pole position. But I knew already this morning, that there was today nothing better to catch than 1 minute 50 seconds. Especially in slow corners the rear of the car is very loose."

J”rg Mller #42: We tried hard to improve the set-up of the car but are still not on the level we had last year. The car is difficult to drive, it is easy to spin with it. We will try some more ideas tomorrow. The task is not to give up."

Bill Auberlen #43: I feel sorry for Jean-Marc and for the team which worked every night since Monday. If I had seen such a damaged car a year ago I would have been sure that there would be no way of repairing it. After I have driven with this team for a year I know the word 'impossible' just does not exist for these guys."

Jean-Marc Gounon #43: I can't say how sorry I feel. I admired this team for years and now this happened at my first race with them. I was on fresh tires and followed JJ, driving in fourth gear, when I had a little oversteer in the first corner and then hit a bump on the exit. The car made a big snap and I crashed."

Steve Soper #43: Of course I hope the team will be able to fix the car. We still have a lot of work to do in order to get the balance of the cars right."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Hans-Joachim Stuck , Boris Said , Bill Auberlen , Johannes van Overbeek , Jean-Marc Gounon , Steve Soper , Charly Lamm , JJ Lehto