Dirk Müller and Joey Hand piloted BMW Team RLL’s #56 M3 to a fourth place finish in the GT class at the American Le Mans Series’ second annual race on the streets of Baltimore. Their teammates Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller finished eighth. The GT class win went to Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler in their Falken Tire Porsche, the winning car at Baltimore last year.
Jörg Müller, who started car #55 second on the grid, got caught up in a turn one incident that led to a 20-minute caution period. The car’s hood was damaged, but Müller was able to continue, taking the lead soon after the track went back to green. But he received a controversial one minute stop-and-hold penalty for squeezing a GTC class Porsche off the course at the entrance to the chicane on the start-finish straight. Before he came in to serve his penalty he brushed one of the stacks of tires set up at the chicane and damaged the M3’s left front fender. No work was allowed during the stop, so he had to return a lap later for repairs. Auberlen took over at that point (about forty minutes into the race), but #55 was no longer a contender.
Car #56 took up the charge, with Hand, contesting his last ALMS race of the season because of conflicts with his DTM ride, running the first stint. The car started at the back of the pack as the team had elected to change tires after qualifying. Hand had moved up to fourth when he gave the car to Dirk Müller. From that point until the end of the two-hour race Müller ran among the front runners, but he never led. Henzler dominated in the Falken Tire Porsche, leading the balance of the race and finishing first in GT and fourth overall. Oliver Gavin finished second in the Corvette that he shared with Tommy Milner, and Johannes van Overbeek finished third in the Extreme Speed Ferrari that he shared with Scott Sharp.
Car #56 was last year’s car #55, resurrected after the 2012 car #56 was seriously damaged when it was taken out by Gavin late in the race at Road America.
Team principal Bobby Rahal said, “It's very disappointing for Jörg and Bill. Jörg didn't touch the car that crashed. Frankly it was close and someone is looking for any kind of infraction. We paid the price. It's just a shame because we were leading the race pretty handily and ahead of the car that ended up winning the race. The No. 56 car had a good strong race. It's clear that the Ferrari is faster than us on the long straights, so we couldn't pass it there. It is the same with the Corvettes. We try and make it up in the corners, but there are just not enough of them. We scored points, but we were certainly hurt in the championship.”
The chicane that brought so much grief to car #55 was not there on Friday morning. A front straight chicane had been run in 2011 to slow the cars at a point when the road crossed a train track. But racers said that they preferred to run without it, so the 2012 circuit was set up with no chicane. However, a bump in the road at the railroad track launched several cars, leading to reinstallation of the chicane on Friday afternoon.
The overall win in Baltimore went to the P2 Level 5 prototype of Christophe Bouchut and team owner Scott Tucker. It was the team’s first-ever overall win. Tucker’s second car, which he shared with Luis Diaz and Ricardo Gonzales, finished second overall. The P1 prototypes that typically take the overall wins had difficulties. The best finishing P1 car was the thirteenth-place Dyson Lola-Mazda driven by Eric Lux and Michael Marsal, who also races for Turner Motorsport in the Grand-Am CTSCC series.
ALMS competition resumes with a four-hour enduro at Virginia International Raceway in two weeks. After Baltimore, BMW remained second to Chevrolet in manufacturers’ points, and Dirk Müller remained third in GT drivers’ points.—Brian S. MorganBack to News