The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team scored the team’s eighth podium in the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course today. Co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Tommy Milner raced the No.92 M3 GT race car to third, while teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Muller (No. 90) placed sixth.
The start of the race saw Hand, from fifth, and Milner, from seventh, mired in the middle of the ultra-competitive GT field. Milner was unable to advance as he waited patiently for tire pressures to accumulate. Hand quickly moved to fourth, but his progress leveled off.
Just before race clocked one hour, the complexion of the race changed for the BMWs. Seeing another car off-course and anticipating the race’s first caution period, the No. 92 crew immediately called Milner to the pits. Quick work put Bill Auberlen out with new Dunlops and a full tank of fuel, even before the yellow flag waved. As the rest of the field pitted under caution, including BMW teammates in the No. 90 M3 GT, Auberlen appeared at the head of the GT class.
At the half-way point with 57 laps complete, Auberlen held the lead, with Müller, who had replaced Hand during the No. 90’s stop, in fourth. Moving forward, the GT battle became even more dynamic, but unfortunately not in BMW’s favor. On Lap 66, Muller had an offcourse excursion and was called to pit three laps later for a vehicle inspection and driver change. Hand re-entered on Lap 69 near the tail of the GT class battle and began sawing away at the competitors in front. Meanwhile, Auberlen had a brief off-course in the No. 92 and was also called into the pits.
Fortunately, immediately after Auberlen’s precautionary stop the second full-course caution period occurred and both M3 GTs stayed out, putting Auberlen in first and Hand in second for the re-start. Upon the re-start, a competitor muscled through and assumed the lead. On Lap 88, Hand suffered a collision with a competitor and fell to sixth, but was able to continue relatively unscathed. Auberlen fell to third place on Lap 93, and maintained it to the finish. Hand briefly advanced to fifth with ten minutes remaining but was unable to hold the spot and finished in sixth place.
What they had to say:
Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsports Manager:
“After our qualifying result, this podium finish is a nice improvement. This weekend we didn’t have the pace to challenge our competitors and we congratulate them. This podium finish for BMW is exclusively attributable to excellent pit strategy and hard work by the crew of the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, and now we just need to find that top step on the GT podium.”
Bobby Rahal, Team Principal:
“The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team certainly showed its tenacity on a day where it would have been easy to pack it in and go to the next race. It is results like this one that help win championships and we are right there with three races to go.”
[Source: BMW ]