The Alley

BMW scores upset GTLM victory

BMW25-Winner_RD46762Porsche North America’s twin Porsche 911 RSRs were on track for their third straight 1-2 finish in the hotly contested GT Le Mans class at Circuit of the Americas. The Porsches ruled the race for two hours and 37 minutes – but the final three minutes belonged to Dirk Werner, Bill Auberlen, and the No. 25 Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE.

Werner and Auberlen claimed their second victory of the season when the class-leading Porsches peeled off into the pit lane for last-minute fuel stops. That elevated the retro-liveried BMW to first in class, and promoted the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Pierre Kaffer and Giancarlo Fisichella to second. The No. 911 Porsche RSR of championship points leader Patrick Pilet and his Le Mans-winning teammate Nick Tandy recovered to finish third.

Werner held off the fast-closing Ferrari of former Formula 1 ace Giancarlo Fisichella as the BMW’s fuel pressure light flickered on the final lap.

BMW25-01_RD43431“On one hand, we had to make up ground and overtake the others, but we also had to save fuel,” Werner reported. “In the end, we could drive two more laps than the Porsches. We did a lot of saving fuel. That was just great work by the team.”

The BMW duo will go into the season finale three points behind Pilet in the championship standings. “We are getting close in the championship, and I think that’s where we belong,” Werner noted. “It’s great to go into the last race for a fight. That’s how it should be.”

Conditions were challenging at COTA, with ambient temperatures in the high 90s and track temperatures over 110 degrees. Consequently tire selection and management played key roles in the teams’ strategies.

“We ran the warmer temperature range Michelin tires – which the Michelin guys call ‘medium high-temp’—and we knew that we would be stronger over the long run,” said Auberlen. “On the final pit stop, our BMW Team RLL engineers immediately went to a fuel strategy. Dirk did a great job running a strong pace, saving fuel, and keeping the pressure on the Porsches.”

Switching to the “medium high-temp” Michelin tires for the last stint, the Risi Competizone Ferrari closed to within two seconds of the BMW at the finish.

Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen teamed up to win the GT Daytona class in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT. It was Keating’s third straight win at Circuit of the Americas and a repeat GTD victory for the driving duo, but it wasn’t easy. The No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 driven by Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala finished 1.071 seconds behind the Viper, which was penalized for running a red light at the pit lane exit. The pole-winning No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS driven by Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke finished third after also recovering from being penalized for failing to observe the red light at the pit lane exit.

The Alley : Trackside. Insight. Online.

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