BMW RACING NEWS Defending Champion BMW M3s Return to Rolex 24 At Daytona PTG Names Auberlen, Quester, Duez, Said, Hill, Simo, Cunningham, Bentley, Petery and Delano to Drive M3s DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.; Jan. 23, 1998: The defending...
BMW RACING NEWS
Defending Champion BMW M3s Return to Rolex 24 At Daytona
PTG Names Auberlen, Quester, Duez, Said, Hill, Simo, Cunningham, Bentley, Petery and Delano to Drive M3s
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.; Jan. 23, 1998: The defending GTS-3 champion BMW M3s of Prototype Technology Group (PTG) are making an all-out effort to repeat as class titlists in next weekend's grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team is still highly charged from its remarkable 1997 season and is decidedly eager to start 1998 in the victory circle again.
In every sense of the word, 1997 was a banner year for both the BMW M3 and PTG, as they combined to win every title available in the class. The team opened the season with back-to-back wins in the punishing Daytona 24-hour and Sebring 12-hour events. As the year progressed, PTG brushed aside numerous formidable challenges from the Porsche camp to win eight of 11 Professional Sports Car Racing events.
At season's end, BMW had captured its second-consecutive manufacturer's championship, PTG had won the inaugural team championship and Bill Auberlen had taken the driver's title, scooping up an extraordinary six pole positions and five wins along the way.
However, that was then. This is now; and team owner Tom Milner is wise enough to know that sitting on one's considerable laurels won't do any good once the first green flag of the season falls. So PTG has spent the off-season on things such as even-better reliability, upgraded pit equipment and spare parts...lots of spare parts. Twenty-four-hour races eat parts, as Milner well knows. "It's always the thing you don't have that breaks. So we will have more spares, because when you have all the spare parts ready to go you won't need them."
The Rolex 24 At Daytona has special meaning to Milner. "Although this event is no longer sanctioned by Professional Sports Car and there are no points available towards PSR's '98 season, we look at Daytona as one of those unique events that stands on its own, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. It is a very prestigious event, and we will treat it that way." "To us the sanctioning of the race is almost irrelevant," adds Erik Wensberg, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We are defending champions of this event in our class and we have never won it two years in succession. That's our goal this year."
To make sure that the team is fully up to the challenge, Milner has brought together an impressive array of driving talent to handle PTG's three BMW M3s, of which two are sedans and one a coupe. Several drivers are returning from last year's lineup, including defending driver champion Auberlen, 29, of Redondo Beach, Calif.
The lineup will look like this: In the No. 6 Yokohama BMW M3, the lone coupe, are Mark Simo and Peter Cunningham, along with Austrian star Dieter Quester. Auberlen, Boris Said and Belgian Marc Duez are in the No. 10 Yokohama BMW M3 sedan. Piloting the No. 7 Yokohama M3 sedan is the diverse foursome of Ross Bentley, Andy Petery, Les Delano and Derek Hill, the 1997 Barber Dodge Series champion.
Hill, 22, of Santa Monica, Calif., Said, 35, of Carlsbad, Calif., and Duez, 40, of Monaco, drove for PTG in 1997, as did Quester, 58, of Vienna, Austria. Hill won four GTS-3 races in a PTG BMW M3, Said won three, Duez two, and Quester one.
The remainder of the drivers are new to the PTG team. Simo, 38, of Carlsbad, Calif., is an accomplished racer, co-owner of NO FEAR with his twin brother and co-owner of Irvan-Simo Racing, which fields a truck for Boris Said in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series.
Peter Cunningham, 35, of West Bend, Wis., is a two-time SCCA World Challenge champion, and holds titles in SCCA Pro Rallying, Ice Racing and Solo II.
Ross Bentley, 41, of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, is a CASC Formula Atlantic champion, and most recently drove in Sports Car's World Sports Car class.
The driving duo of Andras Petery and Les Delano, both of New York City, is one of the longest-running endurance racing acts. Petery is a Daytona 24-hour winner in the 2-liter class in a BMW 2002, and the pair has a surprising 85-percent top-five finishing record in endurance events here and abroad since they joined forces in the Seventies.
Much will be the same as before at Daytona on Jan. 31-Feb 1; but not everything. Oh, the 3.56-mile course will look about the same, a familiar combination of the superspeedway's high banking and the fast, sweeping infield road course. And the race still will go twice around the clock. But there will be changes.
For instance, last year the BMW M3s raced in the GTS-3 class. This year it's GT-3, as the event is sanctioned by the newly revitalized United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). It may also be PTG's only appearance in the USRRC, as the team is committed to represent BMW in Sports Car's 1998 GT Championship series, which begins with the traditional 12-hour grind at Sebring, Fla., on March 19-21. "However, we will take each USRRC event on a case-by-case basis," says Wensberg, "as our schedule will allow."
The Rolex 24 At Daytona begins at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31. -30-