The BMW Rahal-Letterman Racing team continued their strong start to the 2010 ALMS season, leaving Long Beach, CA with another podium to add to the brace the team scored at Sebring.
However, the Ohio based squad had to ignore the series' conventional wisdom, opting to run the entire 100 minute race on a single set of the Dunlop tyres.
“The team pick[ed] a week ago how we were going to do Long Beach,” says driver Bill Auberlan in an official video posted on Youtube. “They knew, they came here and they said we're going to use one set of tyres, the Dunlops are going to do the whole distance. We're the only team that stayed on the same tyres the whole race.”
Whether or not the team had, indeed, picked their strategy in advance their choice took on new significance when their pair of BMW M3s qualified 6th and 7th on the 1.9mile circuit, flanked by barriers that make it very tough to overtake, especially in such a competitive class.
The team gambled further, according to Martin Birkmann, manager of BMW or North America Motorsports, who describes how the team brought the no.92 car Auberlan shares with Tommy Milner into the pits as soon as their fuel window opened on lap 25.
It was then the strategy sprung into action the new driver installed and the car refuelled in twelve seconds, a “great job” in the words of Auberlan. When the caution flag flew just after the hour mark the remainder of the field came in for their own pitstops, Milner jumping up to the front of the class with Joey Hand in the no.90 car slotting into second, again reaping the benefits of a quick pitstop.
After the restart Hand soon lost second to the Flying Lizard Porsche which Milner fought manfully to keep behind him, succeeding until the final ten minutes when the Porsche was able to squeeze past in turn nine.
Milner would also lose second to the no.3 Corvette, crossing the line as part of a tight three way battle for the podium with the Risi entry covered by less than three seconds after 65 laps of racing. Joey Hand encountered an (as yet) unknown mechanical problem dropping him behind that battle and into fifth.
It was a good day for the team, yet one that team principal Rahal feels could have been better; “we gambled on not changing the tyres,” he explains perhaps mindful that Milner may well have taken the lead thanks to caution, even with fresh tyres. “I'm not sure if we long a little bit on an edge there.”
“At the end of the day, we gambled and the downside of the strategy was that we couldn’t quite maintain the top positions,” expands Birkmann. “But we finished high in the points, the car shows great pace, and our drivers have been phenomenal. We are looking forward to Laguna now.”