BMW Team RLL finished its fourth season of American Le Mans Series competition with third and fourth place GT class finishes at the 15th annual 1000-mile Petit Le Mans. The team’s seventh podium finish of the year, that included victories at Sebring and Road America, gave BMW third place in the GT class Manufacturer’s Championship. BMW Team RLL finished second in the Team Championship.
Bill Auberlen, Jörg Müller and Jonathan Summerton co-drove the No. 55 BMW M3 GT to a third place finish in today’s race completing 374 laps of the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit. The result was the fourth podium finish of the season for the No. 55 machine. Auberlen and Müller shared the win at Road America.
The No. 56 machine was shared by Dirk Müller, Uwe Alzen and Summerton. The trio finished fourth, completing 373 laps to make it three podium finishes for the No. 56 M3 GT this season, including the victory at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring.
All three of the season-long drivers finished in the top half of the GT Driver Championship. Dirk Müller, last season’s co-champion with Joey Hand, finished fourth. Auberlen and Jörg Müller share the sixth position.
The race began with qualifying drivers Jörg Müller, in the No. 55 M3 GT, and Dirk Müller, in the No. 56 M3 GT, starting from the second and seventh positions respectively. The day quickly went sideways – literally – for the No. 56 car when it was hit by a prototype car on lap 12 and, after sliding through the gravel trap in turn 10, was forced to the pits to change a broken right front brake caliper. The repair took three laps and the No. 56 car crew, led by Bobby Rahal, began the long fight back from the rear of the field.
As the race passed the half-way point, the No. 55 M3 GT was in fifth and the No. 56 machine in 10th. The No. 55 machine, with Jonathan Summerton behind the wheel at the time, had completed 200 laps or 508 miles – one lap behind the GT class leader. In the No. 56 M3 GT Dirk Müller was scored in the 10th spot with 198 laps completed, three laps behind the class leader.
Continuing its strong performance, the No. 55 car, with Bill Auberlen now behind the wheel, inherited the GT class lead on lap 296, and would continue to race in the top-three spots for the remainder of the contest. Auberlen would make his final stop for new Dunlop tires only eight laps from the checkered flag to bring the No. 55 M3 GT home third.
Uwe Alzen ran a strong double-stint as the race entered darkness to continue to move the No. 56 car forward. He would eventually hand off to Dirk Müller who would bring the car across the finish line in fourth.
“It was a tough day for us,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We lost a brake line early in the race on the 56 car and dropped three laps. A couple of times the yellow came out and could have given us a chance to catch up again and everyone else got all the good luck. We kept being caught in the wrong spot. The 55 guys did a good job today. They went from being a lap down to leading the race. We ran right with the Corvette and Ferrari and if you get that close to the win, it is disappointing not to be able to close the deal.”
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “We had some troubles early this weekend, but RLL always keeps their focus forward and they got the best result that we could. Third is a great result. Thanks to everyone for making my 17th season racing for BMW such a fast one. I hope my 18th is even faster.”
Jörg Müller, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “I didn’t expect today’s result because at the beginning of the race we were struggling with lots of little problems. The team did a brilliant job to get us back on to the lead lap. This has been a great year. Definitely my pole at Mid-Ohio, our win at Road America and today’s podium are highlights.”
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “We wanted to fight back for another championship, but we had tough luck this year. A really a big thank you to everyone. Today could have ended badly, but we came back to finish fourth. Third and fourth is a great way to finish the season.”
Uwe Alzen, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “This is a very tough race. We had trouble in the beginning with the brake caliper. That cost us three laps, but we finished fourth. Road Atlanta is a great circuit. The people and the atmosphere are great.”
Jonathan Summerton, driver No. 55/56 M3 GT – “With the win at Sebring to start the season and a podium to finish up makes this a great season for me. It was definitely very exciting to drive both cars in the same race. It was a unique experience and something I will always remember.”
ABC will broadcast a review and highlight show of the race at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 21.