Munich. Champion manufacturers BMW are 1,000 miles away from potentially winning the driver and team classifications in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series. That's the distance covered by the Petit Le Mans race, in which BMW will be...
Munich. Champion manufacturers BMW are 1,000 miles away from potentially winning the driver and team classifications in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series. That's the distance covered by the Petit Le Mans race, in which BMW will be fielding a total of four M3 GTRs this coming Saturday. "For us the final boils down to securing a match point," says BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm ahead of this challenging event on the Road Atlanta circuit outside the city that hosted the 1996 Olympics.
If conditions are dry, the race is expected to take about nine hours. After a maximum of ten hours, the eighth and final race of the 2001 ALMS will be officially over even if the 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres) have not been completed.
In the fourth staging of this endurance event, Austrian Karl Wendlinger will be supporting the two established driver duos of JJ Lehto (FIN)/Jörg Müller (D) and Fredrik Ekblom (S)/Dirk Müller (D) of Team BMW Motorsport. BMW Team PTG, backed by BMW North America, plans to send six drivers out onto the track: Hans-Joachim Stuck (D) and Niclas Jönsson (S), as well as Americans Bill Auberlen, Brian Cunningham, David Murry and Boris Said.
While BMW has already secured an unbeatable lead in the manufacturers' standings, there's a chance that rivals Porsche could win the team and driver classifications in the final race. These are the possible scenarios: if a Porsche fielded by Alex Job Racing is first to cross the finishing line, a Team BMW Motorsport car would have to gain no less than seventh place to secure victory in the team classification. BMW Team PTG is currently in third place. In the drivers' classification, sixth place would be enough for front-runner Jörg Müller to clinch the title, even if a driver in the best Porsche team wins the race. Under the same circumstances JJ Lehto, currently in second place just one point behind Jörg Müller, would need a fifth-placed finish to claim the title.
The 4.09-kilometre (2.54-mile) circuit in rural Georgia is a challenging and varied one. Team BMW Motorsport spent two days there last weekend preparing for the race. Jörg Müller takes us around the track: "After the start/finish straight there's a high-speed right-hander that rises at the exit. Turns Two, Three and Four take you over a hill, followed by a steep drop into the esses. Turn Five is a fast left-hander ahead of a straight that leads into Turn Six. Turn Seven is the slowest on the circuit and a crucial one because, as you exit it, you need plenty of traction to build up momentum for the long straight with the tricky hill. Then there's a tight chicane followed by a fast, steep downward double right-hander that leads onto the back straight."
One lap at Road Atlanta requires 22 gear changes of the BMW M3 GTR. Over the total race distance, that amounts to almost 8,000 shifts. Demands on the car's stability are enormous, and with a field of 47 contenders with significant speed differences thanks to four participating classes, this race is also a tremendous challenge in terms of concentration.
"On the technical front, this race will be an endurance test for the relatively new BMW M3 GTR," says BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen, who will be travelling on to Atlanta after the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis. "But as far as the Team is concerned, we're optimally equipped to expect good technical preparations and first-class tactics."
The new GT sports car by BMW - the M3 GTR powered by a V8 engine with around 450 bhp - made its debut in March in the 12 Hours at Sebring, Florida/USA, latterly gaining six consecutive victories.
Says Gerhard Berger: "The ALMS title means a great deal to us. The USA is the most important export market for BMW, and nowhere are sales of M cars higher than in North America." BMW's Motorsport Director adds: "We will also be presenting the road version of the BMW M3 GTR on the occasion of the ALMS final." The car will be on display in the paddocks during the race weekend. <pre>
Drivers' standings ahead of the final race, after deletable results have been taken into account: Drivers Manufacturers Points 1. Jörg Müller BMW 165 2. JJ Lehto BMW 164 3. Sascha Maassen Porsche 153 4. Lucas Luhr Porsche 152 5. Boris Said BMW 139 6. Dirk Müller BMW 137 Fredrik Ekblom BMW 137 8. Randy Pobst Porsche 128 Christian Menzel Porsche 128 Hans-Joachim Stuck BMW 128
The 1,000-mile race starts at 12.00 pm (8.00 pm CET) on Saturday, 6 October 2001 and lasts a maximum of ten hours.
Live information and radio coverage will be available at www.americanlemans.com.
Speedvision will broadcast the race live in the USA; Eurosport will show highlights on 14 October.