Following an aggressive start to the 2010 American Le Mans Series at the 12 Hours of Sebring that netted the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team a second and third place finish, the April 17th
American Le Mans Series at Long Beach assumes increased significance with BMW firmly in the championship chase at this early stage.
With the St. Pete Grand Prix absent from the ALMS schedule in 2010, the Grand Prix of Long Beach becomes this season’s only street race. Last year, Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller finished third for the team’s second consecutive podium while a collision mid-race ultimately knocked Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand back to an eighth place finish.
The differences between Sebring and Long Beach could not be more vast with the ALMS moving from the longest race of the year (12 Hours) to the shortest (100 minutes), as well as moving from the venerable 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway to the temporary street circuit less then two miles in length. Another significant change is each M3 GT will carry an additional 25 kg (approx. 55 lbs) as the result of a post-Sebring competition adjustment by the sanctioning body.
“The ALMS at Long Beach can be likened to an American version of the Monaco Grand Prix,” said Martin Birkmann,BMW of North America Motorsport Manager. “Last year Long Beach was a spectacular race for us, punctuated by our second podium finish. The Long Beach street course suits our M3 well and our drivers even better, and this weekend’s race will help to build momentum in 2010. As always, we hope to be in contention for the podium once more at Long Beach.”
“We had a great race at Sebring, but Long Beach is about as different from Sebring as any race can be,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “A sprint race with narrow streets will make it very important for us to be on our game early, but we anticipate that our success at Sebring will afford us the opportunity to run up front.”
Joey Hand, Driver, No. 90 M3 GT: “Long Beach is my favorite track in the Series. On a classic race track there are big margins. If you overshoot there is the rumble strip, then the grass, then the sand. Long Beach has no margin for error. You run the side mirrors against the walls. If you hit the throttle six inches too soon you could hit the wall. The track is so much fun. Turn 2 has the fresh flowers planted along the inside. I always tell my guys to make sure they check the grille for stems.”
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 90 M3 GT: “I do very much like street circuits, especially Long Beach. We had our second consecutive podium last year with our new M3 racing machine. It is Joey’s favorite race, so the whole BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team and I will try and help to make it a nice one.”
Bill Auberlen, Driver, No. 92 M3 GT: “Long Beach is one of my favorite races in the world. Its home for my family and friends, and I look forward to racing there every year. This year, we’re returning with much more knowledge and a much better setup. We’re coming out of Sebring with a second and third place finish proving both M3s are a force to be reckoned with. We have a great car, but it’s also the most competitive year in sports-car GT history – there are so many manufacturers with so many amazing drivers. On Monday, I’m going to go to the track to walk it. I’ll put quite a few miles on it in my mind before anyone else gets there.”
Tommy Milner, Driver, No. 92 M3 GT: “Sebring was already a huge improvement from last year and I expect Long Beach to be much better as well. By no means were we slow last year, with Dirk and I finishing 3rd, but I’m confident going into the race our M3s will be even better than last year and hopefully as strong as they were compared to our competition at Sebring. ‘Fast right off the transporter’ will be crucial since there is very little track time at Long Beach.”
This Friday, two practice sessions totaling two-and-one-half-hours will precede a 20-minute qualifying session at 5:40 p.m. PT. The American Le Mans Series Long Beach Race will start at 4:40 p.m. PT on Saturday and be televised on SPEED channel beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET.