TOWCESTER, England (May 14, 2000) -- BMW strengthened its lead in American Le Mans Series manufacturer, team and driver standings on Saturday, when JJ Lehto of Finland and Jorg Muller of Germany won the Silverstone 500 USA Challenge at...
TOWCESTER, England (May 14, 2000) -- BMW strengthened its lead in American Le Mans Series manufacturer, team and driver standings on Saturday, when JJ Lehto of Finland and Jorg Muller of Germany won the Silverstone 500 USA Challenge at Silverstone Circuit. The race was the first in the European Le Mans Series, which also counts points for the American Le Mans Series.
Lehto and Muller notched their second-consecutive prototype victory in the No. 42 BMW V12 LMR with timely pit stops and a strong on-track performance. Their margin of victory was 33.493 seconds over the second-place No. 1 Panoz. BMW teammates Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Jean-Marc Gounon of France retired with a mechanical problem in the No. 43 BMW after 56 of 98 laps of the 500-km race.
"It was a great race for BMW because the 42 car won with Jorg Muller and JJ Lehto. It was reliability and consistency that allowed the car to last through the end and win by quite a good margin, while everyone else had problems," said Richard Brekus, manager, motorsports for BMW of North America, Inc.
BMW Team PTG had a strong race in the GT class, where the No. 10 BMW M3 -- in its first race -- held the class lead for 30 minutes of the three-hour race on the challenging 3.194-mile road course.
"On the M3 side, we led for the middle part of the race, and that was fantastic," Brekus said. "We're definitely suffering a power disadvantage to the Porsche right now, which we're working on. But the number 10 car was brand-new for this race -- had never turned a wheel before it showed up here -- and ran flawlessly through the entire race until a tire went down. There's a lot of good hope for the future."
BMW Team PTG started seventh and 10th on the GT grid. Boris Said of Carlsbad, Calif., qualified the No. 6 BMW M3 seventh in one minute, 55.151 seconds (99.85 mph). Nic Jonsson of Aliso Viejo, Calif., was 10th in the new No. 10 M3 (1:55.822, 99.27 mph).
Said started the No. 6 M3 and raced as high as second in class before handing off to Johannes van Overbeek of Danville, Calif., after 70 minutes. Van Overbeek drove for 70 minutes, holding eighth place. Hans Stuck of Austria took the final 40- minute stint. He moved up to finish sixth behind the winning No. 51 Dick Barbour Racing Porsche.
"We actually had a really good race," Said noted. "We're not going to beat the Porsches in straight-line speed and this was a really fast track. But handling-wise, it's a new car and we've made a lot of progress. We had one little mistake, not pitting under the yellow, so we had to pit under green. But we learned a lot about the car this weekend, and I think it will be ready to win by Sears Point [July 23]."
Peter Cunningham of West Bend, Wis., started the No. 10 car and moved up to third in GT before handing the car to Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., after one hour, 45 minutes. He moved into first place an hour later and held the lead until he pitted after two hours, 15 minutes. Jonsson took the wheel in seventh place and moved up to fifth before retiring from the race with about 10 minutes to go, when a tire went down.
"I had no communications with the pits, so it made it really difficult to know where I was, how fast to run and how to pace myself," Brian Cunningham said. "That was the most difficult thing about the whole run. I just tried to catch what was ahead of me or try to hang on to it and run consistent lap times. We're down a little bit on power, but the car's build quality is fantastic, the car handles great and every race we're making it faster."
Both BMW teams will compete in the next European/American Le Mans Series race, slated for July 9 at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany.