Muller not forgotten as Petit Le Mans nears

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 19, 2000) -- Jorg Muller could be forgiven if he felt a bit like the forgotten man in the American Le Mans Series, but the Monte Carlo, Monaco, resident is having no such thoughts. Despite the recent winning streak by the...

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 19, 2000) -- Jorg Muller could be forgiven if he felt a bit like the forgotten man in the American Le Mans Series, but the Monte Carlo, Monaco, resident is having no such thoughts.

Despite the recent winning streak by the arch-rival Audi R8 team, Muller carries the ALMS driver point lead into the Petit Le Mans, Presented by Audi, at Road Atlanta Motorsports Center on Saturday, Sept. 30. The event at the Braselton, Ga., road racing circuit will be Round Nine of the 12-race ALMS schedule this year.

In the early part of the 2000 season, Muller and co-driver JJ Lehto of Finland were the team to beat in their BMW V12 LMR Prototype. After finishing third in the season-opening 12 Hours at Sebring, Muller and Lehto drove to victory in consecutive ALMS races at Charlotte, N.C., and at the Silverstone Circuit in England. A runner-up finish followed at Nuburgring in Germany.

But then the Audi teams started winning and finishing well, and Audi driver Allan McNish began to close the gap in the driver standings. Heading into the Petit Le Mans, Audi teams have won four consecutive ALMS races, and Muller's once-mighty point lead has shrunk to only five points over McNish, with Lehto sandwiched between them, three points behind the leader. Audi teams and drivers have been in most racing headlines lately, but Muller is not conceding anything yet.

"Regarding the 2000 drivers' championship, I must say my chances are shrinking," said Muller. "Our BMW V12 LMR is an excellent car, which last year was nearly unbeatable (winning five of seven races). But last year was last year; we just don't have a new prototype. Furthermore, some changes in the aerodynamic regulations developed to be a disadvantage for the balance of our car.

"After all, fighting with a 1999 car against the new Audi is extremely tough, but we won't give up," he said.

The Petit Le Mans will cover 10 hours, or 1,000 racing miles, whichever comes first, and Muller feels the BMW team could offer a threat to the recent Audi dominance.

"A positive point for us will be the duration of the race," he said. "Ten hours or 1,000 miles mean a lot of room for tactics and increase the chances for mistakes, which will hopefully be made by others."

Muller also returns to Road Atlanta with a score to settle. He was leading last year's running of the Petit Le Mans until spinning a few minutes before the checkered flag was waved.

"The 1999 race was successful with a third place finish," he said. "Even though we should have won that race."

Provisional qualifying for the Petit Le Mans will be held on Thursday, Sept. 28, with final qualifying on Friday, Sept. 29. Friday's action at Road Atlanta will also include a 45-minute race for the Women's Global GT Series, the only professional racing series in North America for women.

The Petit Le Mans gets the green flag at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30. Ticket information is available by calling Road Atlanta at 1-800-849-RACE, or online at www.roadatlanta.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Allan McNish , Jorg Muller , JJ Lehto