Defending ALMS GT champions Joey Hand and Dirk Müller teamed with their new co-driver, Jonathan Summerton, to win the GT class in the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring in their BMW Team RLL M3. Their teammates, Jörg Muller, Bill Auberlen, and Uwe Alzen, finished fourth among the American Le Mans Series GT cars in the field, and fifth in the entire GT field, which included both World Endurance Championship cars and ALMS cars.
Corvette, running a new wide-body car, had the advantage in qualifying, and led early in the race. At first it appeared that BMW was playing catch-up, although their lap times were close to the times of the two Corvettes. But BMW finally showed its hand in the seventh hour of the race, when both Bill Auberlen and Dirk Müller ran times quicker than those of the 'Vettes, and Auberlen moved past Corvette driver Tommy Milner into the lead.
From that point on, the battle for the ALMS GT lead was a contest among five cars, including the BMWs, the two Corvettes (one driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor, and the other driven by Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin, and Richard Westbrook), and the WEC-leading Ferrari 458 Italia of Olivier Beretta, Andrea Bertolini, and Mario Cioci.
While all GT cars ran for the race podium, there were in fact two classes, one for the WEC cars and the other for the ALMS cars. The five cars swapped the lead until the final 45 minutes of the race, when Hand pitted after the other GT leaders with a margin that enabled him to hold on to first when he returned to the track. But Beretta still challenged Hand, while the other ALMS cars ran a few seconds back, with Magnussen third, Gavin fourth, and Jörg Müller fifth.
In fact, Beretta got by Hand on the penultimate lap, but Hand repassed him. Then Hand was hit by the backmarker Ferrari of Gimmi Bruni; Hand went off course momentarily, and Beretta went off trying to avoid him. Hand recovered to hold onto the lead, while Beretta fell to third, ahead of Gavin in the second Corvette and Jörg Müller in the other M3.
The overall race win went to the Audi R18 of Allan McNish, Dindo Capello, and Tom Kristensen. The ALMS runs again at Long Beach on April 14.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.orgBack to News