PTG BMW M3s Look to Nail Down Driver's, Manufacturer's Titles At Laguna Seca in SPORTS CAR's Season Finale MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 16, 1998: With the Professional Sports Car Racing (SPORTS CAR) GT3 driver's and manufacturer's titles at...
PTG BMW M3s Look to Nail Down Driver's, Manufacturer's Titles At Laguna Seca in SPORTS CAR's Season Finale
MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 16, 1998: With the Professional Sports Car Racing (SPORTS CAR) GT3 driver's and manufacturer's titles at stake, a pair of Prototype Technology Group (PTG) BMW M3s are set for the GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive season finale next Saturday (Oct. 24) during Visa Sports Car Championships weekend at historic Laguna Seca Raceway.
PTG's Bill Auberlen comes into the 2-hour, 30-minute race looking for his second consecutive series GT3 driver's championship with a trio of PTG teammates right behind him in the standings. Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., leads second-place Mark Simo, of Carlsbad, Calif., by a 160-156 margin, while Ross Bentley, of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, is third with 154 points, and Peter Cunningham, of West Bend, Wis., is fourth with 152.
BMW, meanwhile, has a 20-point lead (170-150) over second-place Porsche in the GT3 manufacturer's standings and needs only to take the green flag at the start of Saturday's 2½-hour race to clinch its third consecutive title.
"This is where it all came together for us last year," says PTG team owner Tom Milner, whose team also clinched its second consecutive GT3 team championship two races ago. "Regardless of how the race comes out, one of our drivers will win the championship. The only question is, who."
"PTG has certainly earned everything it's gotten this season," adds Scott Doniger, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We're proud of the way the team has carried the BMW banner over the last four years."
"With one race left, everyone on this team is highly motivated and intensely focused on slamming the door shut on our championship run with a win," says Auberlen, who is paired with Simo in the No. 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door while Bentley and Cunningham share the No. 6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 coupe.
Since PTG set an all-time GT3-class record with its eighth consecutive SPORTS CAR win at Mosport in August - its 12th-consecutive win overall counting races sanctioned by the rival United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) -the team has not won in its last three attempts. Its 3-4 finish at Watkins Glen in August clinched the first-ever USRRC GT3 driver's championship for Bentley, the manufacturer's championship for BMW, and the team title for PTG.
"It's been an eventful last three races," says Simo, who crashed heavily in the familiar No. 10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door at last weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. "Despite it all, the team's perseverence has put us where we are, and that's in position to win another batch of championships. We sure haven't forgotten how to win, and that's precisely how we want to finish the season."
Practice and qualifying are set for Friday (Oct. 23), with the race set to start at 3 p.m. ET Saturday (Oct. 24). Fox Sports Net (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET) and Speedvision (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET) will each provide a next-day, two-hour broadcast.
BMW CLINCHES ANOTHER TITLE IN SPEEDVISION CUP AT ROAD ATLANTA Terry Borcheller and Andy Pilgrim co-drove a Massari-Muller BMW M3 to third place in the Speedvision Cup series finale at Road Atlanta last weekend, clinching a tie for the Grand Sports class driver's championship and earning for BMW the class manufacturer's title. BMWs took three of the top four places in Sports, where they won the manufacturer's title for the second consecutive season and BMW drivers Michael Culver and Mike Fitzgerald finished 1-2 in the driver's championship. Mike Johnson and Andy Lally drove a BMW Z3 to third in Sports, their first podium finish.
BMW CAR CLUB OF AMERICA UPDATE The 1997-98 season culminated at Sebring, Fla., in August with the BMW Club O-Fest, where the Chevron-BMW piloted by Charlie Kolb and Randy Pobst led a 36-car field to the checkered flag. BMW of North America awarded the annual BMW Challenge Trophy to the most successful club racers running stock E36M3s and 318tis - Fred Landwehr (E36M3) and Mike Backus (318ti). And the Speedvision Cup M3 team of Massari-Muller Racing presented Driver of the Year (Manny Kruger, of Florida, E36M3), Rookie of the Year (Gino Lancelotti, of California, E30318is), and Most Improved Driver (Charles Stickley, of Pennsylvania, supercharged E36 M3 Lightweight) awards.
The 1998-99 season began with a pair of races at Road Atlanta in September. Chuck Stickley, in his Supercharged M3 Lightweight, ran away from the 32-car field in the sprint race. Anthony Cafik, in his E36 M3 Lightweight, took the one-hour enduro. Later in September, the BMW Club's White Mountain Chapter hosted a club race as part of its 1998 Ultimate Fall Festival at New Hampshire International Speedway. Stickley took command of the 35-lap race from start to finish. BMW tuner Will Turner took honors in J-Stock, one of the most popular classes. He was runner-up for rookie of the year honors in SCCA World Challenge T2 this season. Across the country, West Coast BMW Club Racers ran at Willow Springs in late September in the first joint Porsche Club of America/BMW CCA event. Paul Porteus, in a 325I, won the 18-lap BMW club race. Upcoming races in the series will be held at Sears Point and Mid-Ohio this month, at Buttonwillow and Firebird in November, and at Thunderhill in December.