As the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida inches closer, BMW and Rahal Letterman Racing are continuing their efforts to debut their two-car factory-sponsored program with the next-generation M3.
"The American Le Mans Series and BMW have a lot in common, I think," Martin Birkmann, Motorsports Manager for BMW North America, said in an exclusive video interview with americanlemans.com. "It was a logical fit for us to go there."
American Le Mans Series President and CEO Scott Atherton expressed nothing but praise for Audi following its announcement that it will depart after the first event of the 2009 season, calling Audi's near-legendary accomplishments and technological advancements "the pinnacle of achievement in sports car racing."
"I cannot say enough about how great a partner, competitor and participant Audi has been since it first competed in the Series in 1999," said Atherton about the auto manufacturer that literally rewrote the record books for the world's premier sports car series. "We understand that the economic climate is forcing many companies to make very difficult decisions. We will welcome Audi back to the American Le Mans Series stage at the appropriate time to compete against our world-class group of race teams and manufacturers.
"Audi, along with Dave Maraj and his Champion Racing organization, have established the benchmark for how a motorsports organization should be run," Atherton added. "They raised the game for all our competitors with their innovation, work ethic, professionalism and accomplishments, which are major reasons why the American Le Mans Series enjoyed its most successful season ever this year."
Audi's new state-of-the-art R15 TDI sport prototype will still make its debut, however, in the American Le Mans Series. With its new revolutionary clean diesel-powered prototype, Audi will attempt to record its 10th consecutive victory at America's most iconic sports car race, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on March 21. After that, it returns to Europe to prepare for its defense of the 24 Hours of Le Mans championship.
Audi campaigned its first full season in the American Le Mans Series in 2000. By the end of the 2008 season, it had recorded 55 LMP1 class victories, including 30 consecutive wins from Sebring 2006 to Detroit 2008. Its dominance was unmatched, particularly in the endurance classics where it excelled unlike any other. Audi won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans nine times each. In 2005, the Maraj-led Champion Racing team from Pompano Beach, FL became the first American-based team to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 38 years. A year later, Audi introduced the revolutionary R10 TDI turbo diesel, often called the world's most technically advanced and sophisticated race car. It has captured Le Mans every year since that debut.
"The decision to withdraw from the American Le Mans Series was a very difficult one," said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. "Furthermore, with the Champion Racing team, we also had a partner that operates at the highest level. The extraordinary dedication and precision of Team Champion was the key to Audi's victories over the last few years in America. We achieved an unprecedented winning series together. Our brand dominated proceedings last season by taking seven wins in 11 races. TDI-Technology supported perfectly the launch of Audi-TDI Technology in the USA."