Long Beach, Calif. – April 18, 2009… With a third-place GT2 class finish by the No. 92 M3 of Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team reached the ALMS podium for the second consecutive race. The duo completed 70 laps around the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit in the one-hour-and-forty-minute contest.
Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand scored their first points of the season, finishing eighth in the No. 90 M3 after losing four laps following a collision with a lapped competitor just past the one-hour mark.
The race began under a bright Southern California sun with a track temperature of 100.4 F, as Tommy Milner started the No. 92 M3 from third and Bill Auberlen behind the wheel of the No. 90 M3 in fourth.
At the 30-minute mark with 21 laps completed, Milner held onto the third position in a great battle with the fourth- and fifth-place competitor’s only seconds behind. Auberlen had fallen back to sixth, eight seconds behind his teammate.
Fifteen minutes later the GT2 leader fell out with a broken suspension and everyone moved up one position, Milner now 23 seconds from the new leader. Milner lost the second spot on lap 38 as the battle for the podium got even hotter.
With one hour gone, Auberlen pitted having completed 40 laps. Hand joined the race with a full tank of fuel and new Dunlop tires on the No. 90 M3. Milner pitted five laps later, handing the No. 92 M3 over to Dirk Müller in good shape.
With all the GT2 class pit stops complete and some 30 minutes left in the race, the two M3s were back in qualifying order with the No. 92 in third and the No. 90 in fourth.
On lap 52, bad luck struck the No. 90 M3 when Hand and a lapped competitor made contact. Damage to the front splitter and fender forced him to the pits. With only around 20 minutes remaining, Hand returned his bruised and bandaged M3 to the race in tenth place. He passed one competitor and achieved another spot through attrition. With five minutes left the only yellow flag of the race flew and the race ended the field behind the safety car.
On May 15 – 17 the American Le Mans Series travels to Miller Motorsports Park, in Tooele, Utah, for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix.
Tommy Milner, driver No. 92 M3 (third):
“Our second podium proves how strong this team is. The tires were consistent and the team called a great pit strategy. No one could beat us in the corners.”
Dirk Müller, driver No. 92 M3 (third):
“I am thrilled to be on the podium for a second time in a row. Tommy did a fantastic first stint and Dunlop gave us excellent tires. It was quite difficult with all the traffic and the lowering sun became an issue for me late in the race. We had an awesome pit stop. It was really, really, quick. The M3 had me driving to the limit and I was closing the gap to P2. Unfortunately, a slow LMP1 car held me off for five laps and I lost 12 to 14 seconds. We certainly had the potential for a better result.”
Bobby Rahal, Team Principal:
“We are certainly happy to be on the podium for a second time. It is the best evidence of progress. It looked like we could have finished even better, but on a tight track like this it is very easy to lose time to slower traffic, even slower prototype class cars.”
Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America, LLC Motorsports Manager:
“We captured a second consecutive podium, but again we were unfortunate with the No. 90 M3. This time however it wasn’t racing luck as Joey tangled with a lapped competitor and perhaps some insufficient flagging played a part. One target was to get both cars to the checkered flag so for that we can say mission accomplished. We continue to look at the glass half-full and we will see what happens at Miller.”
Photos courtesy of Autoblog