Munich/Las Vegas. BMW rounded off the year in the best possible fashion by finishing first and second in the final round of the American Le Mans Series. JJ Lehto (FIN) and Steve Soper (GB) won the eighth and final round, with the second open-top...
Munich/Las Vegas. BMW rounded off the year in the best possible fashion by finishing first and second in the final round of the American Le Mans Series. JJ Lehto (FIN) and Steve Soper (GB) won the eighth and final round, with the second open-top BMW V12 LMR of Bill Auberlen (USA) and Joachim Winkelhock (D) finishing 0.27 seconds behind them. The race lasted for two hours and 45 minutes, 129 laps of the 2.25 mile (3.6 kilometre) circuit in the Nevada desert.
Lehto started from fifth, Winkelhock sixth, but it was the German that made the more spectacular start, promoting himself to third by the first corner. Winkelhock refueled after 48 laps, staying on the same set of tires but close to the end of his double stint he was overtaken by Lehto, who had already taken on fresh tires after 45 laps. On the 83rd lap, Winkelhock handed over to Auberlen, who received two fresh tires on the right side and Lehto handed to Soper, who followed the same strategy on lap 86. The two BMW cars were ideally placed to take advantage of any difficulties that affected the leading Panoz, and took the lead when the Panoz made an unscheduled pit stop.
Las Vegas saw the first 1-2 finish for the BMW V12 LMR, topping an extremely successful season. The new car won its first race at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and won the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. This was then followed by ALMS wins at Sears Point, Laguna Seca and Las Vegas. It is the first time since 1969 that the same car has won the famous long distance Sebring and Le Mans races in the same year.
Hans-Joachim Stuck, BMW works driver in the GT class, at the wheel of a BMW M3 coupe, started fourth in the class and finished fourth together with Johannes van Overbeek, helping BMW Team PTG to win the team's championship.
BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm: "This was a great season. Racing with a new sports car in the ALMS meant a big challenge for us, like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. I guess that we learned to swim. The BMW V12 LMRs have proved reliable, with both cars finishing every race since Le Mans.
JJ Lehto #42: "I can't say how happy I am. I feel we have got the happy end we deserved - we had a great car, prepared by a strong team."
Steve Soper #42: "To win you have to be there at the end. Setting up the car for this circuit with a narrow infield and a fast part of an ovaI was really hard work. I am very pleased that we were able to be competitive to the end."
Joachim Winkelhock #43: "By moving up to the banking I had a perfect start and the Michelin tires were brilliant. Eventually lapping a slower GT car I picked up some dirt and JJ overtook me."
Bill Auberlen #43: "Joachim did a great job. We could even have won if we would not have had the bad luck of having pitted just a couple of minutes before a whole track yellow came out."
Hans-Joachim Stuck #6 (BMW M3, BMW Team PTG): "For me this was a good end to a very enjoyable season. With our BMW, which was the car to beat over the last years, we have been able to put the new GT Porsche under pressure."