The 2013 American Le Mans Series is back on track this Saturday at Laguna Seca Raceway, in Monterey, California, with the four-hour American Le Mans Monterey.
The first two races of the debut season of the BMW Z4 GTE have been strong ones for BMW Team RLL, with fourth and seventh place finishes at the 12 Hours of Sebring and, thanks to excellent strategy, an outstanding 1-2 finish at Long Beach. BMW stands second in GT class manufacturer points. With the win at Long Beach in the No. 55 Z4 GTE, Bill Auberlen and Maxime Martin stand in a tie atop the Driver points.
"For sure, there is nothing like winning," said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. "Any time you come off a win, let alone a one-two finish, you feel pretty good about things. I felt we could be competitive in the first couple of races, and at times we have been. The Long Beach finish was a case of having a really great pit strategy. We can't just show up at Laguna and think it's going to be given to us; we have to go win it."
John Edwards will co-drive with Dirk Müller in the No. 56 machine this weekend as Joey Hand takes a weekend off following a very successful opening round of the DTM series on May 5. Hand, the only full-time US driver ever in DTM, scored a career-best seventh place finish at Hockenheim. Edwards rejoins BMW Team RLL after co-driving with Hand and Müller at Sebring.
Laguna Seca and Long Beach have the same number of turns, 11, and are just over one quarter mile different in length at 0.27 miles, but anyone who has experienced both will tell you that the Long Beach temporary street circuit of Round Two is a completely different world than Round Three's Laguna Seca Raceway.
Long Beach is a frenzy of people and machines with all the action confined to a narrow strip of very expensive real estate along and around the city's famous harbor. Laguna Seca Raceway by contrast is a picturesque ribbon of road threading through rolling hills. At the top of the hill that begins the circuit's signature "Corkscrew" turns 8 and 8A you can almost see Monterey Bay, the body of water that defines that area of Northern California.
Rahal, who knows Laguna Seca better than most, continues, "I think the Z4 is going to be suited more to the circuit than the M3 was. Clearly it seems to be a better handling car. While we are still suffering with a lack of straight line speed versus our competitors, Laguna Seca is definitely a handling circuit. I believe the Michelin tires will continue to be an asset."
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 Z4 GTE – "What a great start to the 2013 season! We knew we had the team, we knew we had the tire, and best of all, now we know we have the car. The Long Beach win shows that BMW has built another winner and as a driver what more could you ask for?"
Maxime Martin, driver No. 55 Z4 GTE – "I'm really looking forward to race at Laguna Seca. I've heard a lot of good things about the track and I'm really excited. It looks more like a European track without terrible bumps of Sebring and the walls of Long Beach so it will be easier for me to learn."
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 Z4 GTE – "Laguna Seca is one of my favorite tracks in the world and I am really looking forward to driving the Z4 GTE through the "Corkscrew"! We'll try to keep our momentum from Long Beach and I welcome John back."
John Edwards, driver No. 56 Z4 GTE – "I'm very excited to come back for my second race with BMW Team RLL. It has been nearly two months since I've driven the Z4 and I'm getting antsy to drive it again! Sebring showed that the Z4 had promise, and the team's result at Long Beach confirmed it. Although it's still early in the season, the focus is always on the championship as a whole, and I'm looking forward to helping Dirk and BMW chase both driver's and manufacturer's titles."
Qualifying and live streaming of the race can be found on ESPN3.com. Follow BMW Team RLL on Twitter at @BMWUSARacing for "from-the-pit-box" updates all weekend. ESPN's two-hour summary of the American Le Mans Monterey is set to be broadcast at 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 12. The race will be shown live starting at 6:15 p.m. EDT/3:15 p.m. PDT on ESPN3 with the race start set for 6:30 p.m. EDT/3:30 p.m. PDT. ALMS.com will stream in-car footage throughout the race and the full live feed for international views.
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