While Audi was the star of Sebring this week, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team made its debut race as both BMW M3s were forced to retire before half-distance of the 57th annual 12 Hours of Sebring.
Teething problems for the new cars began early. Despite extensive pre-race preparations and a flawless morning warm-up session, electrical problems struck the No. 90 M3 on the grid and the car was forced to give up its sixth starting position. The team rolled the car to paddock to repair as the field took the green flag.
The No. 92 M3 started at 13th in the GT2 field. 37 minutes into the 12-hour contest, it improved position to sixth.
Following diagnosis to the No. 90 machine, just before the one hour mark both M3s were on the track with No 92 moving up to fifth and chasing after the fourth place car.
At the two-hour mark, the No. 92 M3 moved into second, one lap behind the leader!
After a total of 27 laps, Sebring struck a fatal blow and No. 90 M3 pitted with an oil leak. The leak was unable to be repaired and the car was retired from the race.
With some three hours of the race complete, the No. 92 M3 was back into second position. With 139 laps complete. Tge car broke something and was forced to retire.
"Sebring bettered us today, but it will definitely make us better," said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsports Manager. "Strategy, consistency and reliability are the keys to success here and it's hard for a new car to be perfectly reliable. We know all BMW fans share our disappointment and we thank everyone who came out to cheer us on and be part of our return to the ALMS. Sebring is a big race, but BMW did not return for only one race. We came back for the season and are looking forward to Round Two."
Round Two of the 2009 American Le Mans Series, The Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, is scheduled for April 3"5.