BMW Team RLL’s Dirk Müller and Joey Hand in their #56 Z4 GTE finished third in the GT class in the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Baltimore, while their teammates Bill Auberlen and Maxime Martin finished fourth in car #55.
Corvette’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia won the class, ahead of their teammates Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin.
The race, scheduled for two hours, ran for just over an hour. An eight-car incident that occurred just seconds into the race, before most cars had crossed start-finish for the first time, blocked the track and brought out a red flag. Drivers sat in their cars for more than an hour while crashed cars were removed and the track surface was cleaned. The organizers extended the checkered flag time from 5:45 PM to 6:00 PM, leaving just over an hour to run when the event went back to green.
When the race resumed Team RLL immediately brought in car #56 to replace Hand with Müller. Hand, who is running a partial ALMS season because of his DTM commitments, is not in the driver’s points' chase, while Müller is a strong contender. With the limited race time remaining Müller could not exceed the maximum time allowed in the car, so he was eligible for points, and the car was able to continue for the balance of the race with no stops.
Car #56 had qualified second on the grid, but it had to start at the back of the pack because of a ride height infringement. The team's move propelled the #56 Z4 from last into the class lead. The team pitted #55 a few minutes later, as soon as Auberlen, who had started from the pole, had spent enough time in the car to score points. Müller led until late in the race, holding off both Corvettes. But on a late-race restart, Müller had to slow when he got caught behind a prototype that had hit a tire barrier in the chicane. At this point both Corvettes got by the Z4. Martin, who had been slowed when his car lost a rear valance, finished fourth in class in Z4 #55.
Baltimore has not been good to BMW. In each of the three years that the race has been run the BMWs have been quick and competitive, and have led the race, but in each they have been caught up in incidents. In 2011 Bill Auberlen was hit and set back on the way to what had looked like a win, and in 2012 Jörg Müller, who was leading the race, received a controversial black flag for blocking another car.
BMW NA Motorsport Manager Gordon McDonnell said “We knew this weekend would be rough and tough. We thought the Z4 GTE would be extremely well-suited to this course and we saw that in qualifying. The race seemed to have a mind of its own and we were along for the ride. I’m really proud of the guys for keeping their heads down. They fought really hard and third and fourth is a great result to leave this race with.”
ALMS competition resumes in three weeks at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Going into that race, BMW remains second in manufacturers’ points and Müller is fifth in drivers’ points.—Brian S. MorganBack to News