BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller won the GT class by just over two seconds in a dramatic four-hour American Le Mans Series race at Road America. Their teammates Dirk Müller and Jonathon Summerton in M3 #56 finished tenth, but they were running second until their car, with Müller at the controls, was hit in the waning laps of the race.
At the beginning of the race the two Flying Lizard Porsches, #45 driven by Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, and #44 driven by Marco Holzer and Seth Neiman, led the race with the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner close behind. Both BMWs pitted early and out of sequence; then #56 took the lead as the BMWs stayed out when the other GT front runners pitted under yellow.
Just after the one-hour mark the #3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen took the lead after all of the GT front runners had to pit together under another yellow. Dirk Müller regained the lead about ten minutes later.
Summerton, who will be in #56 at VIR and Petit LeMans, as Joey Hand has conflicts with his DTM ride, got into the car during yet another caution period when the race was just past the halfway point. Auberlen got back into #55 during the same caution period and stayed there for the rest of the race. Dirk Müller would eventually return to #56.
BMW’s biggest break came with less than 40 minutes left in the race, when both cars pitted for the last time just before another caution period. The other GT front runners had to pit during the caution, enabling the BMWs to take the lead. Auberlen held on from that point to take the win ahead of the Bergmeister/Long Porsche and the Extreme Speed Ferrari of Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek.
Team principal Bobby Rahal said “I am really thrilled for Bill and Jörg. In the last couple of years Bill has often been in the situation to win some races and got some bad luck. I am really very happy for Bill and really proud of the team. In Friday’s practice we were two seconds off the pace. Our engineers Jay O'Connell, Bruno Couprie, and Chris Yancher really went to work and made the right changes. I think we are still at a bit of a deficit against the Porsche particularly and the Corvettes, but today we had a really good strategy. When Bill had to go fast he did and he went really fast - kudos to him for doing a great job. I feel bad for Dirk and Jonathan as they were in a position to finish one-two and were hit by both Corvettes. They severely damaged the #56 car. Frankly I am not sure it’s repairable. On that side of the equation I am very, very disappointed. But in the end we are one big team. Everybody worked really hard and we were able to bring it home.”
The battle for the overall victory was even closer than the battlie in GT; Chris Smith took the win with a .083-second margin over Lucas Luhr. Smith and co-driver Chris Dyson had started their Lola-Mazda prototype from the back of the pack after a transmission problem in qualifying, while Luhr’s co-driver Klaus Graf took their HPD-Honda prototype into an early lead. A four-lap stop to repair a water leak set the HPD prototype back, but the car eventually got back onto the lead lap. This set up a last-lap shootout for the win between Luhr and Smith. Luhr got by in the final turn, but Smith won the drag race up the hill to claim the win.
Going into the next race in Baltimore on September 1 BMW is second in GT manufacturers' points and Team RLL is second in team points. Dirk Müller has dropped to third in drivers' points, while Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller have moved up to fifth.—Brian S. MorganBack to News