Pit Strategy Pays Off for Bentley, Cunningham As They Lead 1-2 PTG BMW M3 Sweep at Lime Rock LAKEVILLE, Conn., May 25, 1998: Ross Bentley and Peter Cunningham reaped the benefits of a timely pit stop to move from third place to the GT3...
Pit Strategy Pays Off for Bentley, Cunningham As They Lead 1-2 PTG BMW M3 Sweep at Lime Rock
LAKEVILLE, Conn., May 25, 1998: Ross Bentley and Peter Cunningham reaped the benefits of a timely pit stop to move from third place to the GT3 victory and lead the PTG BMW M3 team's third consecutive 1-2 Professional Sports Car Racing finish in today's Round Three of the 1998 GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive at Lime Rock Park.
Bentley and Cunningham, driving the No. 1 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door, beat teammates Bill Auberlen and Mark Simo for the 18th GT3 win in the last 20 races for a BMW M3, and the team's fourth straight 1-2 finish in GT3 counting last weekend's USRRC-sanctioned event in Homestead, Fla.
Meanwhile, Boris Said and Marc Duez co-drove the No. 6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 coupe to victory in the GT2 class, the third such victory in a row by a BMW M3 that made it 21 wins in the last 23 attempts for a BMW M3 (all but three of those coming in SPORTS CAR-sanctioned events).
"This was an absolutely superb set of results on our home track," said Scott Doniger, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We had 300 BMW NA employees here today (from company headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) enjoying it all, and it's an awesome feeling to deliver the ultimate results. Porsche put up a great battle all weekend, but the PTG team just keeps outdoing itself. It was a great show."
Bentley, running third, pitted in the No. 1 BMW M3 during the only caution period just over one-third of the way through the 1-hour, 45-minute race and handed the car over to Cunningham with fresh tires and a full load of fuel.
Auberlen, who started second and took over the lead in the first turn from the GT3 pole-sitting Porsche of Cort Wagner, stayed in front until finally pitting under green with 35 minutes remaining. Auberlen handed the No. 10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door over to Simo, allowing Cunningham to move into the lead for good.
"The car ran absolutely great, and we got the pit strategy to work in our favor," said Bentley, who earned his first victory with the PTG BMW M3 team last weekend in a USRRC-sanctioned event in Homestead, Fla. "The yellow came out just at the right time for us and we got a great pit stop. Peter (Cunningham) got in and took it the rest of the way from there. I'd like to say it was luck, but that's not fair to the team because good things just seem to happen when the team keeps doing such an excellent job."
For Auberlen, SPORTS CAR's defending GT3 driver's champion, it was a strenuous 1-hour and 10 minutes behind the wheel.
"We worked really hard to stay in the lead as long as we could, perhaps hoping for another yellow, but it wasn't meant to be," he said. "My power steering stopped working very early along, so it was an incredible effort every single lap to keep the BMW up front. If we could have gotten another yellow, it might have worked out for us. But in the end, it was another team victory for BMW and that's all that matters."
Team owner Tom Milner, fittingly, was proud of the total team effort put forth by his PTG drivers and crew.
"The competition is starting to heat up on the racetrack as we head into the meat of the schedule, so a good many races, like today, are going to be won in the pits," Milner said. "We've got a very talented lineup of drivers who are pushing each other each and every week. But it's also uncanny how well the crew can make such an exercise of perfection out of its pit work."
PTG drivers have indeed proven to be on par with each other. When official SPORTS CAR points are tabulated for today's race in the coming weeks, it is expected to show Auberlen, Simo, Cunningham and Bentley tied for first place atop its GT3 driver's points standings.
The series resumes with back-to-back-to-back events at Mid-Ohio (USRRC-sanctioned, June 14), Road Atlanta (SPORTS CAR, June 21) and the downtown streets of Minneapolis (USRRC, June 28).
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