BMW is tied for the manufacturer’s point lead with a second place GT class finish thanks to No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT at the American Le Mans Series in downtown Long Beach. This is the second podium for Joey Hand and Dirk Müller. While early in the ALMS season this will solidifies their lead in the driver’s standings.
The defending GT driver co-champions started the race from the class pole with Hand at the wheel of the No. 56 BMW M3 GT. Hand led the race for the opening 16 laps until a prototype ran into him causing a puncture of the right rear tire. Hand pitted for fuel and four new tires, returning to the race in the seventh position. The races only caution period brought him back to the pits on lap 41 where Bobby Rahal made a bold strategic move to not change tires and jump the field in the pits to send the BMW Motorsport driver out in the lead. Müller lost the lead, but drove a strong stint to extend BMW Team RLL’s Long Beach podium streak to four years.
Teammates Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller, driving the No. 55 M3 GT, finished out of the points in11th. Müller, making his first start at Long Beach, was the victim of a first lap accident that forced him to the pits for lengthy repairs to replace the radiator. He returned 13 laps down to the leaders, but put his head down, setting some of the fastest laps of that part of the race. He handed off to Auberlen during the race’s only caution period and the Californian, who podiumed here in both 2009 and 2010, did not disappoint his home race fans as he circulated at a very fast pace until the checkered flag.
“A great day for Dunlop,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We double-stinted the tires at Sebring and that’s what got us the win. Here we asked for the same thing. There was no question that we had to leap frog the field after being hit and having a flat tire. We didn’t have enough to beat the No. 4 Corvette, but we held everyone else off. We'll take a well deserved second place.”
Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “We won the race at Sebring by double stinting tires and we placed here the same way. It says a lot to have that kind of confidence in a tire that not only has the performance, but it will also go the distance. I know I can’t win the Championship again this year, but I really, really want to do my best to help the team, BMW and Dirk repeat.”
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “That race was certainly was another mileage test for Dunlop. Bobby and Chris made the right call and it paid off. I knew I had to go a full stint on tires that had already gone 25 laps so I focused on their management – not what was behind me.”
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT –“The No. 55 M3 was a rocket ship today, but you need luck at Long Beach. Traffic got stacked up and Jörg got into it. The radiator was damaged, but after he went back out he was the fastest car on the track. It hurts to know how hard everybody worked and that we had a car that could win, but could not show it.”
Jörg Müller, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “It’s disappointing that I got trapped in an accident on the second lap. The Corvette braked very hard and I had nowhere to go. We had to change the radiator so we lost many laps. Afterwards the car was still fast. It’s a shame when you have the real potential to win the race and you don’t get any points.”
Round 3 of the 2012 American Le Mans Series will be held at Laguna Seca Raceway on Saturday, May 12.The six-hour race will take the green flag at 1:30 p.m. PDT and will be streamed live on ESPN3.com beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET. The race will be rebroadcast on ESPN2 television at 5:00 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 13. Live timing and scoring will be hosted on americanlemans.com