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BMW Team RLL claims second consecutive ALMS GT win in Long Beach
Dirk Müller (DE) and Joey Hand (US) drove BMW Team RLL to the top of the GT class podium for a second consecutive time this season at Saturday’s American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach (US). The no. 56 BMW M3 GT will be credited with the most laps led in the two hour contest, but not until the final minutes of the race were slowed by a caution flag was the outcome decided.
Hand started the race from the GT class pole and led for the opening laps, but lost the lead some 20 minutes into the race after an almost surreal set of circumstances. A few positions behind Hand, team mate Bill Auberlen (US), in the no. 55 BMW M3 GT, was hit by a competitor and spun around 180 degrees in the tight confines of turn two. By the time he was finally able to get pointing in the right direction, Hand had come back around and lost two positions as he avoided the accelerating Auberlen.
Hand gave chase and with a slick overtaking maneuver of two cars in turn six regained the lead at the 40-minute mark. A second battle ensued with a Porsche, and Hand lost the lead, only to regain it a second time as Patrick Long (US) slid into the wall. He built up a seven second lead before pitting just past the hour mark. Müller took over and held the lead for the final hour of the race for the duo’s second consecutive GT win.
Dirk Werner finished the race in the no. 55 BMW M3 GT seventh in class, two laps in arrears. Following the traditional American Le Mans Series hiatus for the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FR) in June, BMW Team RLL will begin its defense of the GT class lead at Lime Rock Park (US), in Lakeville, Conn., on 9th July 2011.
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director): “This was a great win by Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the no. 56 car and a great position to be in going into the Le Mans break. We are also confident we had the possibility for a one-two. Both cars are clearly very reliable, we have a strong team and strong drivers.”
Bobby Rahal (Team Principal): “This was a big win for us as we didn’t want to come to Long Beach and lose the advantage we fought so hard for in Sebring. Back-to-back wins are tough to come by in any series, but especially here in the GT class of ALMS, and this is a big victory for our team.”
Joey Hand (Car number 56): “I’m extremely excited. Finally I got this win at Long Beach. It’s a big deal for me, after coming here for ten years. I drove very hard in the beginning, in order to make sure Dirk Müller would be in a good position. I knew he would then bring it home – and that’s exactly what he did.”
Dirk Müller (Car number 56): “Joey Hand laid the foundation for this by taking pole position and putting in a great first stint. He was in control of the race in the beginning, which was impressive to see. Then he passed the pressure over to me, and I drove the car to the end. I was able to push hard on our Dunlop tires and to hold off a very quick car behind us. We kept away from the walls and did it.”