SPORTSCAR: BMW at Road Atlanta

BMW M3 FINISHES FIFTH AT ROAD ATLANTA; M3 FOUR-DOOR DEBUT MARRED BY FIRST LAP ACCIDENT PTG Team Maintains Lead In Team Championship Braselton, Ga.; Sunday, April 20, 1997: The No. 7 Red Bull/Fina/Yokohama BMW M3, driven by Marc Duez and...


PTG Team Maintains Lead In Team Championship

Braselton, Ga.; Sunday, April 20, 1997: The No. 7 Red Bull/Fina/Yokohama BMW M3, driven by Marc Duez and Dieter Quester, survived a first-lap incident involving five cars, including its team car, the new No. 10 Yokohama BMW M3 four-door sedan, to place fifth in the GTS-3 division of today's NAPA Auto Parts Grand Prix of Road Atlanta Presented by Royal Purple Motor Oil.

The No. 10 four-door M3, piloted by Derek Hill (with Bill Auberlen scheduled to co-drive), sustained serious suspension damage and failed to finish the 2-hour contest for GTS-1, 2 and 3 cars, round three of the Exxon Supreme GT Presented by Virgin Interactive Series, sanctioned by Professional SportsCar Racing (SportsCar).

Tom Milner's PTG team maintained its lead in the SportsCar Team Championship, however, by four points (78-74) over the Michael Colucci and Richard Raimist teams, which are tied for second.

The two other BMW M3s entered in the event on Road Atlanta's 2.52-mile circuit also didn't finish, following a broken driveshaft in the No. 6 Yokohama BMW M3 (driven by John Paul Jr. and Auberlen) while leading, and damage to the right front suspension on the No. 77 Alco Capital Group BMW M3, the independent entry of Pete Halsmer and Matthew Cohen, after being hit by another GTS-3 car in a race that seemed to be more a demolition derby than a sports-car race.

"Obviously, we spent the bulk of the week sorting out the new four-door," said Erik Wensberg, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, Inc. "We made a lot of progress, but we have a bit to go. In adding the extra weight to the car (SportsCar required the M3s to add 110 lbs. for this race and the remainder of the season), it looks like it has set us back. We probably broke a driveshaft because of it in the No. 6 M3. And racing accidents happen and two of our cars got caught up in a big one at the start of this race, which is unfortunate."

"I was on the outside with Marc (Duez in No. 7)," lamented Derek Hill, "and we were running at a fairly conservative pace to try and avoid something like this. The No. 00 GTS-1 Porsche took out the No. 62 GTS-3 Porsche and they in turn hit me in the side pretty hard, enough to knock me off the track and bend the suspension."

"I am very lucky to escape," added Duez, "but this Porsche hit me in the rear and it blew my rear tire and I had to pit. I lost one lap. The car was very good mechanically; it's really a shame."

"Whoever was driving (the No. 15 GTS-3 Mustang) just rammed into the side of me," said Halsmer, running in second place on the seventh lap following the first of three full-course-caution periods. "He decided to jump the start and drove up beside me coming down the hill and we went through the last turn side by side and he just ran into the side of me and drove me off the track."

The four BMW M3s qualified second (No. 77), third (No. 7), fifth (No.10), and sixth (No. 6). As a consequence of today's results, unofficially, drivers Bill Auberlen, Tom Hessert and Javier Quiros have dropped to second place, 11 points out of the driver's championship lead (74-63), and BMW fell back to second behind Porsche in the manufacturer's championship (80-78) after the David Murry/Jim Matthews Porsche 911 won the GTS-3 race, completing 67 laps.

"Two points is not very much," commented Wensberg. "We knew all along that we'd be battling Porsche for the title. It only takes one poor performance in this incredibly competitive series to lose the lead. That's why we we'll never stop improving the M3s and will never quit our pursuit of these titles."

The next race on the Exxon Supreme GT schedule is Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., on Monday, May 26.

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Mike Fitzgerald and Anthony Lazzaro led a 1-2 finish for BMW in the Sports class of Saturday's 3-hour (April 19) Speedvision Cup for Stock SportsCars race at Road Atlanta. Fitzgerald and Lazzaro, driving a BMW 328is, finished one lap ahead of the second-place 328is, driven by Jeff McMillin and Derek Hill. Unofficially, McMillin now leads the Sports driver's championship by 10 points (67-57) over Fitzgerald and Lazzaro, who are tied for second, and McMillin Motorsports leads the Sports team championship by 11 points (67-56) over the BMW team of Mike Doolin. BMW holds a 20-point lead over Honda in the Sports manufacturer's battle (75-55) and BMW and Mazda remain tied for Car of the Year honors at 75 points each.


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Series IMSA Others
Drivers Derek Hill , David Murry , Bill Auberlen , Pete Halsmer , Anthony Lazzaro , Jeff McMillin , Jim Matthews , Dieter Quester , Tom Hessert , John Paul , Marc Duez , Javier Quiros