AUBERLEN, HAND JOIN BMW, RAHAL LETTERMAN For its return to the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2009, BMW of North America signed Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand as its first two drivers for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team's new BMW M3....
AUBERLEN, HAND JOIN BMW, RAHAL LETTERMAN
For its return to the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2009, BMW of North America signed Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand as its first two drivers for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team's new BMW M3. In choosing Auberlen and Hand, BMW of North America has picked two of the most successful BMW drivers in the world and two of the most familiar names to M3 racing fans in North America.
The two-car entry is set to debut at the 57th Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
"BMW of North America is very pleased to have Bill and Joey on the team," said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsport Manager. "Their experience with setup, GT racing and their raw speed will support the competitiveness of BMW's GT2 campaign in the American Le Mans Series I have known both of them for many years, and besides being fast, they're both a lot of fun to work with. I am looking forward to seeing them pedal our newest BMW M3 racer."
The 40-year-old Auberlen first drove for BMW of North America in 1996 when he joined the previous M3 racing program, then in its second year of competition. The Redondo Beach, Calif., resident is the team's most successful driver, winning championships in both 1997 and 2004.
He also has driven for BMW at both the prototype and GT level in the American Le Mans Series. He scored his first Series victory in 2001 in a BMW M3 GTR at Petit Le Mans with Hans Stuck and Boris Said. Additionally, Auberlen will have the distinction of having raced every generation of BMW M3 campaigned by BMW of North America.
Hand, 29, joined the previous M3 racing program in 2004 and raced through the 2006 season. Coming from a background in open wheel racing, the Sacramento, Calif., pilot quickly adapted to the M3 and endurance racing. He drove to five wins and 13 podium finishes for BMW of North America in three seasons, many of those races partnered with Auberlen.
"If you are going to start a new BMW team in the United States, it is nearly impossible to find a pair of drivers with more success or more experience with BMWs than Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand," said Rahal Letterman Racing's Bobby Rahal. "Bill is one of the most successful American sedan drivers of the decade and Joey has more than displayed his ability to run right with him, so we expect this driver pairing to be a strong one for the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team."
The two partnered for three podium finishes in 2006 as part of BMW Team PTG with a runner-up finish at Road America.
"My emotions are really high. I feel like I am going back home to my family. To be a part of racing at the level that BMW brings is a dream for any driver," Auberlen said. "I am really looking forward to being teamed up again with Joey. It'll be exciting to be on a team headed by a legend and racing icon like Bobby Rahal. I am really looking forward to 2009."
"I'm very excited to be back in the BMW family and to be driving a BMW M3 again. I built quite a fan base within the BMW community and I can't wait to put on a show for them again," added Hand. "I am looking forward to working with a top-notch team such as Rahal Letterman Racing. Bobby helped me earlier in my career so we have a good relationship. I can't wait to get started!"
Since the program's announcement in February 2008, the racing version of the BMW M3 has been developed and tested by BMW Motorsport in Europe. This month begins the official handoff to BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team with two more tests in the U.S.
Four test days are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., and Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., on November 24-25. The tests will see BMW Motorsport drivers Jorg Muller, Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus behind the wheel of the test car.
Birkmann continues, "Key BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team personnel have been involved in the European testing, but now the two November tests will see them take a larger role. BMW of North America is confident that when our complete team and new M3s arrive at the track early next year we will have built a solid foundation for success."