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Puerto Rico: BMW Team PTG preview

BMW Team PTG to fight for Speed GT championships in San Juan. WINCHESTER, Va. (Oct. 23, 2003) - When BMW Team PTG entered the 2003 SCCA Pro Racing Speed GT Championship Series, its goals were simple: to win the Speed GT Manufacturer's ...

BMW Team PTG to fight for Speed GT championships in San Juan.

WINCHESTER, Va. (Oct. 23, 2003) - When BMW Team PTG entered the 2003 SCCA Pro Racing Speed GT Championship Series, its goals were simple: to win the Speed GT Manufacturer's Championship for BMW and the Driver's Championship for a BMW Team PTG driver.

Team PTG owner Tom Milner certainly didn't expect that achieving these goals would be easy. And indeed the path to the final race of the 10-race Speed GT Series has been more than a challenge for this team that has captured 14 championships since it began campaigning BMW M3s in sports-car competition in 1995.

After nine tough sprint races, this weekend's 10th and final round of the 2003 Speed GT Series at the newly-constructed Isle Grand Prix Circuit in San Juan will finally decide if BMW and BMW Team PTG driver Bill Auberlen will win the Speed GT Manufacturer's and Driver's Championships.

As a result of a number of strong finishes by Team PTG, BMW has led the Speed GT Manufacturer's Championship since May's Round 4 contest at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. But with only a seventh-best Team PTG M3 finish by Justin Marks in the Oct. 17 Round 9 race at Road Atlanta (Braselton, Ga.), BMW now stands only one point over Audi.

Auberlen, who moved into the Driver's Championship points lead in the fifth round at Infineon Raceway (Sonoma, Calif.) on July 27, lost it at Road Atlanta after a mechanical retirement resulted in his season's worst finish, a 25th. Just12 points out of first place, Auberlen needs a strong finish this Sunday to give him a chance to claim his first Speed GT Driver's crown.

"It is going to be a street fight," said Auberlen of the 1.6-mile, 10-turn San Juan temporary circuit. "No one has driven it before, but it looks like many other airport, street-type courses - short and tight with lots of turning, braking and accelerating. All three of those things play into the attributes of the M3, so we will look to take every advantage we can."

Arguably one of the best sports-car drivers in the world, Auberlen clinched the Speed Touring Driver's Championship at the eighth round of 10 at Laguna Seca (Calif.), driving a BMW 325i for Turner Motorsports. His fourth-place Touring-class finish at Road Atlanta helped BMW claim its second Speed Touring Manufacturer's Championship.

Auberlen's quest for the 2003 Speed GT title was made even more difficult because of the additional scrutiny the team's successes have invited, resulting in REWARDS weight being regularly added to the M3s.

In spite of these setbacks, he managed to record three wins, three top-fives and two top-10s in the Speed GT class before last week's disappointment, and also scored four pole positions and four fastest race laps.

Auberlen's BMW Team PTG teammates Hans Stuck, Boris Said and Justin Marks have also combined for five podium and 13 top-10 finishes. Stuck added a fast race lap at Laguna Seca.

"It's amazing to me how hard we have had to fight all season in the Speed GT class," said Team PTG owner Tom Milner. "You'd think we were racing endurance races every weekend. It has not been an easy first season for us in Speed GT. It's a testament to all the talent and determination that we have here in Team PTG. Not only do we have world-class drivers behind the wheel of our M3s, our crew are world-class as well. They've never faltered. They are the reason that, despite so many challenges thrown at us this season, we are able to still contend for two championships in the final race."

"I do like these temporary types of circuits as they are always difficult to drive and always are a challenge," said Stuck of the San Juan circuit. "We will have to adapt quickly. There is not much time, but Team PTG can rely on its experience and the abilities of the M3."

"I am looking forward to Puerto Rico," remarked Said. "The track layout looks a lot like Cleveland (airport course where Trans-Am competes) and I won the last Trans-Am race there. If it turns out to be similar with a premium on hard braking and handling, the M3 will have an advantage. Personally, this has been a very unlucky season for me and I want to end the year on a good note."

"BMW Team PTG has a lot to accomplish this weekend after our unfortunate race at Road Atlanta," said Marks. "I enjoy going to new tracks, as no driver has the advantage of past experience. It has been a fantastic season with BMW and I am looking forward to adding a great finish to a great year."

"The goals since BMW Team PTG entered the Speed GT series this year have been to win the Driver's Championship and the Manufacturer's Championship for BMW," said Hernando Carvajal, M Brand Manager, BMW of North America, LLC. "Tom Milner and his PTG team are close to reaching these goals, but the outcome is unsure. It's going to be a tough battle for BMW Team PTG this weekend in Puerto Rico, but we at BMW have the utmost confidence in Milner and his team that they will put all their effort and focus into accomplishing these goals. We expect nothing less. It's not going to be an easy task. This has been a great first season in this series for PTG, but the only race that counts is this last one."

Three practice sessions begin on Friday, Oct. 24, with qualifying Saturday, Oct. 25, at 2:15 p.m. The 50-minute, standing-start race to decide the Speed GT Championships starts at 10:45 a.m. Sunday.

The race is scheduled to air on Speed Channel on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 5:00 p.m. ET.

-bmw-

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Boris Said , Bill Auberlen , Justin Marks
Teams Turner Motorsport