BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3 scores GT2 victory
Okayama (JP) – Coming off a third-place finish in the American Le Mans Series championship, Dirk Müller (DE) and Tommy Milner (US) celebrated victory Saturday with the BMW M3 GT2 in the team’s first-ever entry in the Asian Le Mans Series, besting the field at the Okayama International Circuit in Japan.
The drivers of the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team put in a flawless performance and crossed the line as winners in the GT2 category after 113 laps, relegating Marc Lieb (DE) and Wolf Henzler (DE) in their Porsche 911 RSR to second with a gap of 0.292 seconds. Following this year’s ALMS victory at Road America (US), this is the second win for the new GT sports car, and also the car’s maiden win in Asia.
Both drivers contributed mightily to the win, as the final phase of BMW’s inaugural Asian Le Mans Series inaugural event was a thriller. After Müller, who was in the car at the start, had worked his way up from fifth on the grid to second in the early stages of the three-hour race, Milner took over the wheel of the BMW M3 GT2 on lap 52. The 23-year-old took the lead with a successful overtaking maneuver on Henzler on lap 78. In order to save time, the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team decided not to change their Dunlop tires during his second pit stop on lap 103 when Milner remained in the car.
The bold strategy gave Milner a wide gap on the pursuing Porsche but things tensed up as the race clock wound down. Eight minutes before the end of the race Lieb, running on fresh tires, started to put Milner under constant pressure, But the BMW driver successfully defended the lead in a nail-biting finale, committed no mistakes and ultimately took the checkered flag as winner.
The second round of the Asian Le Mans Series will be held on Sunday. The red lights go out at 9:00hrs local time (0:00hrs GMT).
Bobby Rahal (Team Principal):
“This is a fantastic result. We had a little misfortune in qualifying, so it was important that Dirk gained some ground after the start. Our fuel economy and the pace of the car were very good. During our second pit stop we didn’t change our Dunlop tires. Tommy then drove the race of his life. The Porsche managed to close the gap, but just couldn’t get by. There’s only a little time to celebrate our win as there is a second race to contest tomorrow. Up to now Japan has proved excellent ground for us.”
“This was a tough race. As we didn’t change tires during the pit stop I knew it would be a close finish. Marc Lieb put me under pressure, and I had to fend off his first attacks in order to keep my chances alive. I managed to do that. Finally I scored my first win. In the ALMS I finished on the podium five times, and many times I got close to victory. Now it has happened at last. A big thank you to my team. The guys are once again doing a great job.“
“We knew that our package would be competitive. But it’s just great that it was strong enough for the win. After the start I gained several positions. In these close battles my experiences from the World Touring Car Championship are a bonus. I didn’t risk anything when behind the Porsche and patiently waited for my chance. That paid off. Tommy did a perfect job today and wrapped up our victory.”
Results Saturday race, GT2 category.
1 Müller/Milner, BMW M3 GT2, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, 3:00:43.317
2 Lieb/Henzler, Porsche 911 RSR, Team Felbermayr-Proton, 3:00:43.609
3 Farnbacher/Simonsen, Ferrari F 430 GT, Team Farnbacher, 3:01:58.089
4 Ried/Holzer, Porsche 911 RSR, Team Felbermayr-Proton, +1 lap
5 Tanaka/Hiranaka, Ferrari F 430 GT, Jimgainer Racing, +1 lap
6 Aoki/Fujii, Ferrari F 430 GT, Team Daishin, +2 laps
7 Kinoshita/Kageyama, Porsche 911 RSR, KTR, +4 laps
8 Robertson/Robertson/Murray, Ford GT Mk7, Robertson Racing, +5 laps
9 Lee/Ma/Enge, Aston Martin Vantage, Team Hong Kong Racing, +6 laps
Not classified: Koijma/Hori/Kimura, Porsche 911 RSR, Scuderia Forme