Nurburgring BMW holds championship lead

ALMS Nurburgring 1000 Kilometre Race Round 4, American Le Mans Series, 9 July 2000, Nurburgring (D) BMW V12 LMR drivers Muller and Lehto defend Championship lead Munich/Nurburgring. A small piece of metal in a tyre prevented the third victory...

ALMS Nurburgring 1000 Kilometre Race
Round 4, American Le Mans Series, 9 July 2000, Nurburgring (D)

BMW V12 LMR drivers Muller and Lehto defend Championship lead

Munich/Nurburgring. A small piece of metal in a tyre prevented the third victory in a row for BMW in the fourth round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at the Nurburgring. BMW works driver Jorg Muller (D) lost the lead 20 minutes before the chequered flag, after he had spun because of a slow puncture. After nearly six hours of treacherous racing on the rain soaked Eifel circuit, Muller and his partner JJ Lehto (FIN) came second behind the Panoz of David Brabham/Jan Magnussen and defended their championship lead. Muller is leading now with 100 points ahead of Lehto (98 points). In the championships for chassis- and engine manufacturers, and teams, BMW leads with 95 points followed by Panoz (85) and Audi (84). In the thrilling event the Audi of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro came third three laps behind.

The two BMW V12 LMRs started from fourth (Lehto) and fifth (Jean-Marc Gounon) positions in the legendary 1000-kilometre race. As rain set in the BMW drivers chose wet weather tyres, but soon regretted their choice as conditions quickly improved, temporarily forfeiting their second and third positions. From lap 70, of 185 laps, persistent rain left no choice except for rain tyres. While Lehto drove constantly in second position, Gounon had to pit for 20 minutes after an accident which damaged the rear of his car. Bill Auberlen then rejoined the race 13 laps behind.

Muller took over from Lehto after three hours and 20 minutes (111 laps). Thanks to excellent pit strategy the German took the lead on lap 150 and defended it strongly until the spin which allowed the number 1 Panoz to close on him. Auberlen meanwhile handed over to Gounon after 124 laps, 15 laps behind the leader. The Frenchman took tenth place.

BMW Motorsport team manager Charly Lamm: "This race was breathtaking until the very last lap. Without having the slow puncture in the end, Jorg would have taken the third victory in a row. But we should be happy to have finished second after such a difficult race."

Jorg Muller #42: "Mentally this was one of my hardest races ever. There were many big moments because of the bad visibility. One was even in danger of spinning on the straight. Shortly before the end I felt the grip becoming less. Until then I was able to control Magnussen behind me."

JJ Lehto #42: "With this amount of water on the track and the aquaplaning it was extremely difficult to keep the car on the track. I went off several times and even had two 360 degree spins."

Jean-Marc Gounon #43: "The car was really good, it is such a shame that I had the early accident. I drove very close behind JJ when he suddenly had to brake because of a slower car. In order not to hit JJ I tried to drive around and went off the track."

Bill Auberlen #43: "After the car was repaired our concern was simply to finish in the points, which paid off with collecting ten points. I drove very carefully . It was difficult to keep the car under control, also because of the accident we lost our new rear wing which brought us more downforce."

Hans-Joachim Stuck came sixth in the GT class with his partners Boris Said and Johannes van Overbeek, although they had a collision causing a long pit stop for the BMW M3 of BMW Team PTG, to change the steering rack. "I drove nearly four hours and enjoyed every lap," Stuck said beaming.

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Hans-Joachim Stuck , Boris Said , Jorg Muller , Bill Auberlen , Johannes van Overbeek , Jean-Marc Gounon , Charly Lamm , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto