Although a third consecutive GT victory at Road America was not to be, BMW Team RLL ended today’s American Le Mans Series Road Race Showcase with a double podium finish.
In what was a very exciting race both M3 GTs took their turn leading the four hour contest. At the end, the No. 55 of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner finished second for the duos third consecutive podium finish. The No. 56 of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller came home third to extend their lead at the top of the GT driver points. BMW Team RLL maintains its lead in the team points and BMW stays at the front of the Manufacturers standings.
The race was slowed and ultimately determined by four caution periods that brought both good luck and a bit of bad luck to all four BMW team RLL drivers. At the green flag Hand, from the pole, led the 15-car GT field into turn one, holding the lead until lap 23 when he fell to third after being held up by a slower class car. Auberlen pitted during the first yellow on lap seven to begin a different fuel strategy for the No. 55 M3 GT. Hand pitted under green on lap 28 and a fast pit stop gained him one position. Auberlen handed off to Werner on lap 36 during the second caution period dropping the car to the rear of the field.
As the race reached the half-way point the battle at the front of the GT field intensified with Hand holding second place. All the lead pack of cars, including the No. 56 machine pitted on lap 58. As the cars exited the pit lane, Muller had regained the lead of the pack thanks to excellent work by the BMW Team RLL pit crew. After being slowed by another caution period, the third hour of the race saw the No. 55 M3 GT dive for the pits for its final pit stop and the No. 56 M3 GT circulating in second.
Five minutes later the races final yellow flag slowed the field and put the No. 55 machine in the cat bird seat. As the balance of the field pitted Werner stayed out and went to the front. MÏuller pitted on lap 81 and returned to the race in fifth. Werner was passed for the lead with 30 minutes remaining, ultimately finishing second. With two strong passes in the final laps of the race Muller moved up two spots to finish third and return the No. 56 M3 GT to the podium.
“We come to win every race,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We tried hard and looked really good, but got unlucky in traffic a few times. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had excellent pit stops- best all year I believe. We beat everyone in the pits. The 55 car gambled and it went their way. Bill and Dirk did a great job. The 56 car got caught up in some traffic with the Lizards and Corvette, but we kept hunting. We like to win, but we will take a second and third finish. We beat our chief competitors and added to the gap with Corvette in Team, Driver and Manufacturer points. Our BMWs are fast and reliable. We have a street fight on our hands next in Baltimore. Let’s see what happens.”
Round Seven of the American Le Mans Series will be held on September 3 at the Baltimore Grand Prix.