BMW won the American Le Mans Series GT class manufacturers’ championship with a third-in-class finish at Petit Le Mans for the #55 BMW Team RLL M3 of Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, and Augusto Farfus. It was the third ALMS title of the season for BMW; two weeks earlier at Laguna Seca, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller had clinched the drivers’ title and Team RLL had clinched the team championship. Car #55’s finish left Auberlen and Werner third in drivers’ points, behind Corvette racers Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen.
Until two laps before the end of the race it appeared that BMW would secure the tire championship for Dunlop, but Jörg Bergmeister in the Michelin-shod Flying Lizard Porsche passed Werner in #55 just a lap after the track went back to green. The Porsche had been on the BMW’s tail for much of the late running in the 1000-mile race. The GT class win went to the Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni, and Pierre Kaffer, increasing Ferrari's edge over BMW in Intercontinental Le Mans Cup competition going into the November finale in China.
The #56 M3 of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, and Andy Priaulx had been running near the front of the pack until an incident with a car stopped on the track forced it into the pits with a flat tire with about 45 minutes remaining in the final hour of the race. Müller felt that the car was loose after it returned to the track, and he brought it back in for what turned out to be a lengthy stop for repairs. It returned to the circuit to finish ninth in class, eight laps down from the leaders. (Text continues after photo)
Both BMWs had led early in the race, but the pace of the Ferrari, a series of punctures for the BMWs, and the incident involving car #56 dropped them out of the lead. Both ran near the front of the pack for much of the race.
Bill Auberlen said, “This race is so tough. For nine straight hours, it is a crazy tooth-and-nail battle. You see the top guys are all still battling for the lead, nine hours later. That gives you an idea of the American Le Mans Series as a whole – it's the most competitive series I've ever been in.
“In the beginning, it was going so our way! We had such a good car – it was so fast, we could run away. Werner gave me the car in the lead and I led two stints. Then the temperature started to drop and the car started to change. It became very pointy, very loose [oversteering]. So we went on different tires and the car came back up to speed again"
The Peugeot LMP1 prototype of Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz won the race. It had battled with the Audi of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, and Marcel Fässler until the Audi, trying to stay on the tail of the Peugeot, made contact with a GTC class Porsche at high speed. The incident took the Audi out and left the Peugeot with a lead that it would keep for the balance of the race.
This year’s Petit Le Mans race was run on a sunny but cool Saturday in front of a huge crowd of spectators. During the weekend the ALMS announced an eleven-race 2012 schedule, beginning again at Sebring in March and ending at Petit Le Mans, which will be run on October 20 next year. The series will return to live broadcast television coverage, with three races on ESPN2 and one on ABC. It will continue its live ESPN3.com web coverage of all races.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.orgBack to News