The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team takes the green flag for the 2010 season of the American Le Mans Series at the 58th annual 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20th. The team has entered two BMW M3s, each competition-hardened from their inaugural year of racing.
The classic endurance race starts the nine-race ALMS championship that will see new competitors in the increasingly competitive GT2 class. After a dose of teething problems at the opening round in 2009, the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team found strength in the second half of the season. The team ultimately finished with one win, five more podiums, two poles, and three fast race laps.
“We’ve essentially been preparing for this race for one year,” said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsport Manager. “Gremlins struck last year at Sebring, but following a successful 12 hour simulation here in January and two excellent days at the recent Winter Test, I believe we are ready. Last year, the target was to take one checkered flag; this year the target is two.”
“After such a strong finish to the 2009 season, the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team has been eagerly anticipating getting back to competition in 2010 with the 12 Hours of Sebring,” said Bobby Rahal, team principal. “Our preparation has been excellent, the cars are strong, the drivers are ready to go, and the entire organization is looking to start the season in style in one of the world’s great endurance races.”
The new driver combinations of Bill Auberlen and Tommy Milner in the No. 92 M3 and Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the No. 90 machine proved to be a excellent change with both M3s near the top of the time sheets in the ultra-competitive GT2 class at the Winter Test.
Joey Hand, Driver, No. 90 M3 – “In our second year as a team, everything is moving faster. It’s easier to communicate and that allows more time to dial in the handling and speed of the car. The team made excellent gains in the off season. I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been and I’m excited because I know my teammate and I will be contenders from the start of the season.”
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 90 M3 – “I am very excited to race my first event with my new teammate and the No. 90 crew. The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing guys did not lean back over the winter and we are all extremely motivated.”
Bill Auberlen, Driver, No. 92 M3 – “The ideas that make our BMW M3 better are developing even faster than last year. We have worked on reliability and successfully completed a 12 hour test. We have some staff with F1 background on our team and it is stellar to watch an idea form in their minds, and then see it almost immediately put into the race car. As an example, they have made substantial improvements with our traction control. Just when you think it can’t get any better, they do something completely different and revolutionary. But what do you expect… that’s BMW!”
Tommy Milner, Driver, No. 92 M3 – “After a year of racing and testing our BMW M3, the team’s mindset is completely evolved from what it was in 2009. We arrive at Sebring this year with an M3 that I’m confident can compete for the win. We know it’s reliable after testing here for 12 hours in January. The car seems quicker already, thanks to a lot of work done by the team to refine the M3 in all areas.”
BMW Motorsport drivers Dirk Werner and Andy Priaulx will join the team for Sebring. Werner, of Kissenbruck, Germany, tested with Hand and Müller at the Winter Test and will join them for the race. Priaulx, of Guernsey, raced with the team at the Petit Le Mans and will join Auberlen and Milner for Sebring.
In its 2010 season, BMW of North America celebrates the 35th anniversary of the company’s March 1975 incorporation, as well as its first major sports car racing victory, an overall win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, also in March of 1975.
Following four days of testing, qualifying will be held on Friday at 2:55 p.m. The 58th annual 12 Hours of Sebring will start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 20th. The race will be televised live on SPEED channel.