The Long Beach Grand Prix will mark the first-ever appearance of a BMWNA M3 at one of motorsport’s premiere events and the team will look to take advantage of the lessons learned at St. Pete and continue to improve. While similar in nature, the Long Beach circuit features many faster corners that play to the M3’s strengths.
A key point of the track will be the 180 degree hairpin leading onto the long Shore Line Drive start finish straight; the M3s will be required to use every bit of their outstanding traction to be able to fend off competitive attacks going into turn one.
“Southern California’s car enthusiasts love BMW and especially the M3, and our team is prepared to give them a great show,” said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsports Manager. “We picked up our pace at St. Pete and a podium finish is an excellent result. We continue ironing out the reliability issues with the new M3 and are hopeful to finish with both cars in the points.”
Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller drove the No. 92 M3 to the team’s first podium finish at St. Pete in a strong performance that saw Müller race towards the front of the GT2 field in the final minutes of the race.
Müller said “I am very much looking forward to Long Beach. I have liked the track since my very first race there two years ago. Long Beach is a very technical circuit and I believe well-suited to the BMW M3.”
Echoing Müller’s sentiments, Milner added, “I’m really looking forward to Long Beach. Based on our pace at St. Petersburg, I think we’ll be equally competitive at this street circuit.”
Californians Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand hope to use their home court advantage to give the No. 90 M3 a strong start to the season, albeit a late one. Both are looking to Long Beach to turn their luck around.
“I was very comfortable in the M3 at St. Pete and know the agility of the car will translate well to the slightly wider Long Beach circuit where the cornering speeds are higher,” said Hand. “One of the keys is to be the best off the hairpin so we can hang down the long straight. Long Beach is the race I’d like to win more than anything.”
Auberlen added, “It has been a dream of mine to race a M3 at Long Beach and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. In only two races the program has shown signs that we can run at the front end of the grid. This M3 is the most advanced ever and once we come to terms with all of the technology we’ll be right there.”
This will be the first trip to the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit for the team, but like in St. Pete, not the first time for the experienced Rahal Letterman Racing crew members or team principal Bobby Rahal, a four-time runner-up at Long Beach in Indy Car competition.
“Long Beach is a special race for a number of reasons and one that has been a focal point for me and our team for many years,” said Rahal. “We are excited to bring the M3s here and are expecting to continue the improvements that we saw in St. Petersburg. Our drivers and our team know the circuit well and we are looking forward to a great weekend!”
Two test sessions begin the weekend on Thursday, with official practice scheduled for 9:00 to 9:40 a.m. Friday. A single 25-minute qualifying session is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. The one-hour-and-forty minute race is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. Saturday and will be televised from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 19 on ABC.[Source: BMW ]