Mixed fortunes for BMW at Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 30, 2000) -- BMW drew a full range of racing experience during the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans at the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta road course. The manufacturer led both the prototype and GT classes in the American Le Mans...

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 30, 2000) -- BMW drew a full range of racing experience during the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans at the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta road course. The manufacturer led both the prototype and GT classes in the American Le Mans Series classic, but victory was elusive. A late-race spin by Jorg Muller of Germany in the No. 42 BMW V12 LMR prototype dropped him and JJ Lehto of Finland to a fifth-place finish after running first or second for most of the race. Their teammates Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Jean-Marc Gounon of France went out of the race after 90 minutes. Auberlen was driving the No. 43 BMW when the car lost its downforce behind two other cars and flipped. His only injury was a bruised elbow. The No. 7 Flextronics/Level One/Yokohama BMW M3 fielded by BMW Team PTG finished ninth in the GT class after leading for more than an hour early in the nine-hour race. The No. 10 M3 retired after 13 minutes with an engine failure. "We were hoping to continue some of the momentum that we took from podium finishes at three of the last four races," said Tom Salkowsky, motorsport manager for BMW of North America, Inc. "I give full credit to the team, who worked very hard to prepare for this race. But it just wasn't our weekend, just one obstacle after the next. It was a very difficult weekend." Boris Said of Carlsbad, Calif., started the No. 7 BMW M3 third in GT and dropped one position before Hans Stuck of Austria took over after one hour. Stuck took the GT class lead after 90 minutes and increased his lead to 12 seconds. He pitted for fuel and a driver change to Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif., at the two-hour 30-minute mark, but a caution period started as he was leaving the pits, causing him to lose a lap to the field. Said took the wheel again after four hours and regained one lap during a pit stop 30 minutes later. He was within striking distance of second place when a universal joint broke on the car. The crew did a fast repair and Said returned to the race at the five- hour 30-minute mark, ninth in class and 24 laps down from the GT leader. Stuck and van Overbeek drove the final two stints, but van Overbeek was forced to retire with an oil-line failure 30 minutes before the race finish. "My last stint was okay," said Stuck. "I didn't take any chances because we were out of contention and I didn't want to be in the way of the faster cars. I was cruising, everything was fine and I had fast lap times." "It wasn't BMW Team PTG's day," said van Overbeek. "We were running really well, a lap behind but a close third when our first mechanical problem happened. The crew did a great job getting the car back together. Then what started as a driveshaft failure ripped the oil line out and there wasn't enough time to fix it. We'll get 'em at Laguna." The No. 10 M3's engine problem developed while Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., was driving. His co-drivers Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., and Nic Jonsson of Aliso Viejo, Calif., did not drive. "Everything was going well in the No. 10 M3," Peter Cunningham said. "We got passed early on by a couple of guys in a hurry behind me. I wasn't happy about it, but I couldn't do much on the back straightaway. Once that sorted out, we got back into a rhythm and we were already catching back up to them. Then all of a sudden, the motor just let go without warning in the esses." Both BMW teams will compete next in the GlobalCenter Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., on Oct. 15.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Nic Jönsson