ALMS makes second European guest appearance in Jarama, Spain, on 20 May 2001 BMW prepares to do battle in Spain Munich. The heat is on: Team BMW Motorsport are heading for the next race in Jarama fired with determination. On May 20th, the ...
ALMS makes second European guest appearance in Jarama, Spain, on 20 May 2001
BMW prepares to do battle in Spain
Munich. The heat is on: Team BMW Motorsport are heading for the next race in Jarama fired with determination. On May 20th, the circuit outside Spain's capital Madrid will see the two BMW M3 GTRs of JJ Lehto (FIN)/Jorg Muller (D) and Fredrik Ekblom (S)/Dirk Muller (D) fighting for points at the second European guest appearance of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
The race, which lasts 2 hours 45 minutes, is the Team's fourth appearance overall this season and the third for the V8-powered M3 GTR. At the last race in Donington both of the new, beefy sports cars had problems with stability. "Our preparations have been chiefly concentrating on the difficulties we experienced in Donington," explains team manager Charly Lamm. "If we can get both cars across the finishing line in Jarama, we're in with a chance of winning."
The Spanish event, too, will mark the racing debut of another BMW. Since their appearance at Donington in mid-April, the Team have assembled the next BMW M3 GTR - Chassis 04 for Lehto/Muller, who were still driving the prototype in England. Ekblom/Muller were already piloting their new Chassis 03. "We've now reached the stage one would ideally want to be at for the start of the season," admits Lamm. The delay, so unfamiliar to him and BMW, was the result of the relatively late decision to go ahead with this project which was made at the end of September.
Jorg Muller took the new Chassis 04 out for its functional test on BMW's proving grounds in Ismaning, while his namesake Dirk Muller carried out the reliability tests on the same track. A week before their departure for Jarama, the Team spent three days testing both cars on the circuit belonging to the Michelin Technology Centre Ladoux in Clermont Ferrand. Lehto and Ekblom were in the driving seats.
Challenging circuit with sentimental value
Jorg Muller describes the 3.850-kilometre (2.392-mile) former Grand Prix circuit as "a track with lots of tight corners that really put the traction and brakes to the test. Our M3 GTR is strong on both of these. From that point of view," he believes, "Jarama ought to be right up our street." On the circuit's single, not very long straight he anticipates a top speed of no more than 240 kph (150 mph). Muller hasn't yet run a race on the Spanish track but is familiar with it from test drives in the BMW V12 LMR, the winning car of the 1999 Le Mans. "It's a great car! We did the first test drive in Jarama," he recalls, adding a little wistfully: "and in January I drove the last few yards in the V12 LMR before it was put in the museum."
The BMW Team well can well recall not only testing the sports car on the Jarama circuit but also their last race appearance here - one which ended in a one-two victory. That was in 1987 on their way to the Touring Car World Championship. Roberto Ravaglia and Emanuele Pirro in a BMW M3 drove to victory ahead of their team-mates Ivan Capelli and Roland Ratzenberger, who was killed in Formula 1 in 1994.
The race in Jarama forms part of the European Le Mans Series in which BMW won't otherwise be appearing. However, these races are attractive due to the regulations which allow points earned in Jarama to count in lieu of a poor finish in the ALMS.
The race takes place on Sunday, 20 May, from 1.00-3.45 pm local time.
Live commentaries on the Internet are available at www.americanlemans.com.
Race summary: Sunday, 27 May, 8.00-9.00 pm CET
Programmes featuring ALMS reports: Wednesday, 23 May, 6.30-7.00 pm (repeated Thursday, 24 May, 11.30 am-12 pm and Friday, 25 May, 10-10.30 am)