Curtain to raise on BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3s
The two BMW M3s of the Rahal Letterman Racing Team will make their competitive debut at the 57th annual 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21st as BMW returns to the American Le Mans Series for the first time since the 2006 season.
Assembled at Rahal Letterman Racing’s Hilliard, Ohio headquarters over the past three months, the two BMW M3 racing cars represent more than two years of planning, design, construction and testing.
In recent weeks both M3s have had to undergo substantial additional modifications. Originally conceived for the GT2S class, the M3s have now been consolidated into GT2. Following the January 26-28 Winter Test IMSA further clarified aerodynamic, restrictor, and fuel cell specifications. Close cooperation with IMSA and the ALMS meant the team could prepare one of the cars for an additional two days of testing at the end of February.
“Two ALMS seasons have passed since BMW was last on track in 2006,” said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsports Manager. “We understand that the competition will be tough, but that is exactly what we are looking for. The first BMW M3 was originally built to race and, almost 25 years and four generations later, we are looking forward to getting back on the track with the 2009 BMW M3. Sebring is one of the most demanding races in the world and certainly will test our cars and our team. Just finishing the 12 Hours has always been considered an accomplishment.”
"Getting ready to debut the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3s at Sebring has been a rewarding experience, and our team has worked very hard to get to this point," said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing. "We have been pointing to this weekend for a long time and everyone here is eagerly anticipating the green flag as BMW returns to its rightful place in American sportscar racing. Our driver lineup is one of the best anywhere and the team we have put together with BMW is more than ready to carry the flag as the 2009 season begins."
The No. 90 M3 will be co-driven by BMW veterans Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand. The two Californians are well-known to BMW followers and 2009 will mark the fourth year the duo has raced together in a BMW M3. 23-year old Tommy Milner will share the No. 92 M3 with Dirk Müller. Sebring will be the first time the two have raced together.
All four drivers have extensive driving experience behind the wheel of race M3s and this skill will be heavily relied upon at Sebring. The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3s will be among only a handful of GT2 class cars to race the entire twelve hours without a third driver.
BMW has two overall victories (1975 – CSL, 1999 – V12 LMR) and two GT class wins (1997 – M3, 1998 – M3) at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Practice will begin Wednesday, March 18 and continue on Thursday. A 25-minute qualifying session is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon. A one-hour-and-forty-five minute night practice is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. A one hour final practice session at 9:55 a.m. Friday morning is the only on-track activity before Saturday’s race. The 57th annual 12 Hours of Sebring is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. SPEED TV will broadcast the race live.