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7th race in the American Le Mans Series on 2 September in Fort Worth, Texas (USA) Front-runner banks on winning - half-way leader BMW prepares for the oval Munich. An American specialty awaits league leader BMW at the start of the second half...

7th race in the American Le Mans Series on 2 September in Fort Worth, Texas (USA)

Front-runner banks on winning - half-way leader BMW prepares for the oval

Munich. An American specialty awaits league leader BMW at the start of the second half of the season in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS): an oval track featuring 24-degree banking. For the sports cars entering their seventh race on the evening of Saturday, 2 September, the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth has been enhanced by several extra turns. With the newly paved asphalt strip in the infield, it now measures 4.022 kilometres (2.5 miles). Following the oval's starting and finishing straight, the first two turns below the banked wall are taken at 5.5 degrees. A curvy excursion into the infield area begins and ends halfway along the opposite straight. The subsequent second half of the oval leads up to the banked turn.

"These diverse circuit characteristics demand a well-balanced car," says BMW Motorsport Team Manager Charly Lamm, "and for this season that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question with regard to the BMW V12 LMR." The car has upheld its strengths, namely the tremendous reliability of the chassis and engine. After winning every race, barring two second places, in 1999, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, this year has seen repeated set-up problems with the BMW V12 LMR. "It's not just that our 1999 model is competing against new cars," says BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger, "its strong attributes have also fallen victim to changes in the regulations." The stipulated aerodynamic modifications, above all, have upset the car's balance. Points leader Jorg Muller says: "It's difficult for us to make optimal use of the rear tyres because of the suspension tuning."

Following various test drives, the problem was recently also investigated at the R&D centre of tyre partners Michelin in Ladoux, France, both on the test bench and out on the track. BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen: "We are tackling the set-up problem by working on details. As for the engine, we have now offset the drawback of the mandatory smaller air restrictor by enhancing performance and reducing weight. We're not going to give up our fight for the title."

Strong drivers, reliable technology and clever tactics are behind BMW's leading position at the half-way stage of the ALMS. Muller is in front with 146 points, ahead of partner JJ Lehto (143), Audi driver Allan McNish (126) and Panoz pilot Jan Magnussen (124). The drivers of the second BMW V12 LMR, Bill Auberlen (USA/100) and Jean-Marc Gounon (F/92), are ninth and eleventh. In the classifications for teams, car constructors and engine constructors, BMW leads with 140 points, ahead of Audi's 137 and Panoz's 120.

In the GT class, meanwhile, Hans-J. Stuck is delighted with the progress of the new BMW M3 of the BMW Team PTG . "In time for the new M3's market launch in the USA, we are catching up with the strong competition posed by Porsche on the race track," he says. "Our strengths lie in the brakes and the handling." Stuck will be partnered in Texas by American driver Johannes van Overbeek.

Saturday's race will take place from 19:00-21:45 hrs (CET: Sunday 2:00-4:45 hrs). Eurosport will be reporting on Monday (4 September) from 20:00-21:00 hrs.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Jorg Muller , Bill Auberlen , Johannes van Overbeek , Jean-Marc Gounon , Charly Lamm , JJ Lehto