BMW Team RLL came out on top of a physical encounter among the GT runners at the 12 Hours of Sebring, its pair of M3 sportscars both surviving contact on track to chalk up an impressive 1-2 finish the super competitive category.
The no.56 car – shared by Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and Andy Priaulx won the class, completing 312 laps. The second car – Dirk Werner, Bill Auberlen and Augusto Farfus the drivers – finished second as the top three cars all completed the same number of laps.
“I came to Sebring with a really good feeling that we could win this – and now it really worked out,” said Hand, who added Sebring victory to his Rolex 24 win from January. “The victory belongs to everyone in BMW Team RLL. In the off-season the guys built two brand-new BMW M3 GT cars that worked well from the word go. I also want to say thank you to Dunlop. The tyres played an important part today and we had this advantage on our side.”
After qualifying third and fourth in class the BMW challenge got off to a slow start – Ferrari and Corvette squads instead battling for the class lead. Even worse the no.56 BMW – started by Muller – was involved in two skirmishes on track, The first, with an LMP2 coupe forced a pitstop to replace a flat tyre, while contact with one the Jaguar XKR at the daunting turn one pushed the car into a spin, luckily halted before hitting anything else.
The sister no.55 car also had its share of incident. With the hours ticking down – and in a wheel to wheel battle typical of the GT class – contact with the no.04 Corvette at the hairpin caused a flat left-rear tyre.
After a pitstop – the car having made it make with minimal damage as a result of completing the latter part of the lap effectively on three wheels – the car was back out on track and inside the final hour passed the other Corvette at the same corner to take second and ensure a perfect start to the defence of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) teams' title.
Officially running under the BMW Motorsport banner the team also put BMW ahead in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) standings.
“We won in a very hard-fought race against very strong competitors and celebrated a fantastic one-two with our BMW M3 GT cars,” said Mario Theissen, BMW motorsport director. “A big compliment not only goes to our drivers but also to the development team in Munich and BMW Team RLL. Everyone did a great job here in Sebring, from the first to the last pit stop.”
“I'm satisfied with second place and this fantastic overall result,” said Werner, who will complete a full ALMS campaign for BMW. “The points we were able to score today, will be very valuable over the course of the ALMS season. Ahead of this race we were really confident to be competitive, but this one-two comes as a nice surprise to all of us.”
BMW Team RLL's ALMS season continues on April 16 at Long Beach. The next round of the ILMC takes place in Europe, the Schnitzer squad running under the BMW name at Spa on May 7.