Driver's, Manufacturer's Championships At Stake For Bentley, BMW at USRRC Season Finale WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Aug. 14, 1998: A clean sweep of driver's, manufacturer's and team championships is at stake for the Prototype Technology...
Driver's, Manufacturer's Championships At Stake For Bentley, BMW at USRRC Season Finale
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Aug. 14, 1998: A clean sweep of driver's, manufacturer's and team championships is at stake for the Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 team as the curtain falls on the first United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) season in 30 years with next weekend's (Aug. 21-23) First Union Six Hours of The Glen.
"We're in position to make it a clean sweep for the season, but we have to earn it by surviving an all-out sprint for six hours," says Tom Milner, owner of Winchester, Va.-based PTG, which already has clinched the USRRC's GT3 team title with victories in each of the four previous USRRC events. "Our focus is on winning the GT3 manufacturer's championship for BMW, and the GT3 driver's championship."
PTG, with GT3 wins at Daytona, Homestead, Mid-Ohio and Minneapolis, holds an insurmountable 29-point lead (70-41) in the team championship over G&W Motorsports. BMW, meanwhile, can clinch the manufacturer's title by simply taking the green flag at the start of the race with one of its vaunted Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-doors. It currently holds a 16-point lead (70-54) over Porsche. First place in both the team and manufacturer's title chases is worth 20 points at The Glen.
Still very much up in the air, however, is the GT3 driver's championship. PTG's Ross Bentley, of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, holds a slim 116-111 lead over second-place Porsche driver Danny Marshall. PTG drivers Boris Said (99), Mark Simo (86), Bill Auberlen (74) and Marc Duez (70) hold the third- through sixth-place positions in the standings.
"The team has worked incredibly hard all season to put us in this position for the USRRC season finale," says Scott Doniger, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "You certainly don't go out and win all of your races by mere coincidence. The drivers, the crew, everyone involved has done the best job possible to help us fend off some formidable competition this year. And the payoff, if all continues according to plan at The Glen, is a perfect season. That's something we would be able to look back on and be very proud of."
Bentley, who drove a Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door to USRRC GT3 wins at Homestead and Minneapolis, is in the driver's seat in the points chase with two drivers who can possibly overtake him in the standings - Marshall, who's only four points behind, and PTG teammate Simo, who is 30 points back. The winning driver at Watkins Glen earns 35 points, with another two points going to the driver who qualifies on the pole.
PTG's Said is out of the picture in the race for the title as he will be competing in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event this weekend, instead. PTG's Auberlen, the reigning GT3 driver's champion in the rival Professional Sports Car Racing series, missed two USRRC events this season while racing in Europe and, with a pole and a victory this weekend, can finish second in the driver's standings, at best.
"I'd like to take all the credit for leading the driver's championship going into the final race," says Bentley. "At the beginning of the season, if someone told me I would be fighting for the driver's championship by season's end, I wouldn't have believed it. I came on board as more or less a support driver. But the way things worked out, as hard as this team has worked, as reliably as my BMW M3 has performed each race, here I am in position to win my first professional championship. And what a fitting place to try and do it. Watkins Glen has a great history and is a true driver's track."
The 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course at The Glen has seen its share of golden moments in BMW history over the years. Those include the late Peter Gregg's win in a 3.5 CSL in 1976, and an impressive win in the 1986 Watkins Glen Six-Hour by a March BMW IMSA GTP driven by John Watson, David Hobbs, Davy Jones and John Andretti.
Still, Milner and his cast of PTG drivers and crew have what they call "unfinished business" to take care of at The Glen as they try to grab the first GT3 championships in USRRC history (the previous generation of USRRC racing in the 1960s involved only Can-Am and "GT-like" cars all running in one class).
"It's the only track that the PTG BMW M3s have raced on and haven't won on, yet," Milner said. "We hope to get that monkey off our back come race day." Race time for the First Union Six Hours of The Glen, the fifth and final round of the USRRC schedule, is 11 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 23.
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