Official Release: The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3s return to Florida for Round Two of the 2009 American Le Mans Series at this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg for the first of two consecutive street races.
Following the retirement of both cars at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring, the team has spent long hours during the ten days between events diagnosing the problems that struck both cars, and implementing modifications.
“Obviously, our extensive pre-season testing did not uncover this specific area of weakness, but Sebring certainly did,” said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsports Manager. “Ultimately, prop-shaft failure caused the retirement of both cars, but the failure was not identical to what we experienced in qualifying on the No. 92 M3. We believe we have made the necessary modifications and are looking forward to a much better result at St. Pete.”
St. Pete is the first of two consecutive temporary street circuits the team will face in the next few weeks (Long Beach, California is next) and the first ever for the team with the new 2009 BMW M3 coupes. The concrete barrier-lined circuit twists along Tampa Bay on the east side of the city, with 14 corners that put a premium on handling and braking.
“We learned a lot about the BMW M3 at Sebring and in working with BMW, we have continued to make improvements on the cars for St. Pete,” said team principal Bobby Rahal. “We feel the track suits our car well, as do our Dunlop tires, and our drivers feel good about the track so we are anticipating a better weekend.”
Two one-hour practice sessions begin the weekend on Friday, with qualifying scheduled for 2:15 p.m. The one-hour-and-fifty-five-minute race is scheduled to start at 1:20 p.m. Saturday and will be broadcast live on ABC television beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
About Rahal Letterman Racing: Rahal Letterman Racing, based in Hilliard, Ohio and co-owned by three-time IndyCar Champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, has been competing for more than a decade compiling 20 victories, 30 poles and one series championship (Bobby Rahal in 1992 in CART) and an Indianapolis 500 championship (Buddy Rice in 2004). In 2008 Rahal Letterman Racing again won Rookie-of-the-Year honors at the Indianapolis 500 and partnered with Andersen Racing to run two entries in the Indy Pro Series. In 2009 the team has joined BMW of North America to campaign the new BMW M3 as BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team in the American Le Mans Series and will also serve as the organizers of the Formula BMW Americas championship.