Sebring – March 19, 2011… BMW Team RLL successfully made it through the first half of the 12-hour race in Sebring (US): Both its BMW M3 GT cars ran within the top-3 of the GT category at the season opener of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) after six hours. Andy Priaulx (GB) was at the wheel of the second-placed no. 56 BMW M3 GT, when halftime was reached at the “Sebring International Raceway”. The second BMW M3 GT, driven by Dirk Werner (DE), followed closely behind in third.

The opening phase of the race did not run as planned for car number 56. Over the course of the first stint, Dirk Müller (DE) was involved in two incidents, which saw him dropping back to the back of the field. However, Müller clawed his way back, which was continued by Joey Hand (US) from lap 45. Following a pit stop on lap 80, the American took over the lead for the first time, after his team-mates in the no. 55 BMW M3 GT had already led the race earlier in the race. On lap 95, Hand handed over the car to triple world touring car champion Priaulx, who was running in second after six hours. The gap to the leading Ferrari was just fractions of a second.

In the no. 55 car, first-stint driver Werner managed to consolidate third place over the first laps. The BMW Team RLL pit crew proved its quality during a pit stop under yellow, giving Bill Auberlen (US) the necessary advantage to rejoin the race as leader. While he had to give up the lead a little later again, he regained first place on lap 58. On lap 80, Augusto Farfus (BR) was on duty for the first time in his maiden race on US soil and also led after another full-course yellow. Following another driver changeover to Werner, the no. 55 car holds third in the GT category.

Bobby Rahal (Team Principal):
“The race is unfolding quite positively for us. However, it’s still a very long way to go. The longer the race goes, the more difficult it will get. But the pace of our BMW M3 GT cars is good. If we don’t suffer any problems, we should be very competitive until the end.”

Augusto Farfus (Car number 55):
“It’s a great feeling to lead this race. However, it’s just halftime and a long way down the road. The lead is changing nearly at every pit stop, so you just cannot make any predictions for the outcome of this race. Our car is great, and I really enjoy racing here. With every extra hour, the reliability becomes more important. But I’m very positive that we are very strong in this respect, too.”

Joey Hand (Car number 56): “I have never felt so good in a GT car than during this race. The balance of the BMW M3 GT is just fantastic. The guys from BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL did a great job. Our Dunlop tyres work very well, too, so we can push all the time. The traffic is unbelievable, it’s very, very tough out there. You have to be careful and keep away from any trouble. I worked my way back up from outside the top-ten to the very top. This was good fun.”

[Source: BMW]