BF Recap: Rahal Letterman at Road America

So much of the weekend was a surreal experience.Arriving at the track Saturday morning during ALMS practice, we had no idea what to expect.After a slightly disappointing qualifying session, cut short by a red-flag just as the car ‘s were coming into their own, the team certainly felt they had pace to come, but were concerned about their grid position for the start of the race.So far a frustrating winless season full of promise with podiums at every race, the pressure on the team to win was immense.They know they ‘re fast, they know they ‘re reliable, with BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen present, today is the day to strike.

Luck, they say, is the result of preparation coinciding with opportunity.Certainly the time was right for the Rahal Letterman BMW M3 ‘s this weekend.With advances in fueling from the Rahal team ‘s Indy Car experience applied to the BMW ‘s delivery system cutting substantial pit time, a consequence of which directly impacting the race result.A close working partnership with Dunlop developing a tire that works optimally with the M3 ‘s chassis, paired with one of the most technically advanced traction control systems available on a Le Mans GT car, courtesy of BMW ‘s Formula 1 engineering talent.Finally, cool headed and aggressive driving guided by the peerless expertise of Rahal on the wall.With success at Road America last season, was there any doubt in the eventual result?

Starting from 4th on the grid, like a man possessed Joey Hand was immediately hounding the lead cars improving to second before the third lap of the race.By lap 8 Joey had taken the lead, while teammate Bill Auberlen had improved his position to 6th from 8th.With the race clearly falling to the RLR BMW team ‘s hands and another potential double podium on the horizon tragedy struck.Checking up behind a slower LMPC car at the kink, Auberlen was caught from behind by the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche driven by Jörg Bergmeister sending the 92 car into the No. 55 Level5 Motorsports car, taking it out and putting the No. 92 BMW M3 hard into the wall.Unrecoverable, the Auberlen was forced to retire the car.Ever the sportsmen Bergmeister and Auberlen shared some cordial conversation on pit-wall a short time after, where Jorg reportedly apologized to Auberlen.Great to see in a sport when the unexpected happens at triple-digit speeds.

After the disappointment of seeing the 92 car leave early the RLR BMW team ‘s attention shifted to the remaining 90 car commanded by Joey Hand.A stop under caution on lap 11 saw the team fall to third, undeterred Joey brought the team back to second before pitting for Dirk Muller, that saw the team fall further to 5th.Ever encouraging his drivers Rahal seems to give them only what they need, continually advising them of passing yellows and complimentary of skillful driving.

Lap 39. The final stop.Under caution, seemingly the entire field came in for fuel and tires.Whether by strategy or luck, or the happy consequence of an engineering partnership between RLR, BMW, and Dunlop, the No. 90 car pitted from fourth.In the fastest stop of the day the M3 was fueled and out.Right in front of the competing Corvette ‘s and Ferrari ‘s.The team ‘s season of work paid off and Dirk was in second, ideally positioned to take advantage of the 45 Flying Lizard Porsche when the yellow fell.Rahal to Muller, “Ready, Set, Ready, Set, , , Green, Green Green. “Dirk grabbed 1st on the restart and never looked back.

In the closing laps the tension in the pit was palpable as the 90 car driven by Dirk Muller was pursued by the Flying Lizard Porsche with the Vette ‘s closing in 3rd and 4th.Fuel strategy and execution at this stage were critical.Little did we know until after the race just how tight the fuel stop had been.Apparently the M3 ‘s fuel indicator came on during some point on the last lap with real concern whether they ‘d be able to finish.Of course Dirk held off the pursuit while conserving fuel and pulled out the victory for the RLR BMW M3.

With this victory comes a six point manufacturer championship lead for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing, with Muller and Hand move into a tie for second in the driver ‘s. Of course this victory is bittersweet with the 92 car out and no drivers points awarded Auberlen and Milner who fall 17 points behind, a tall challenge with only two races remaining in the season.Coupled with the challenge of building an entire car from a new chassis before Friday ‘s practice in Mosport.The mechanics won ‘t sleep, but such is the dedication we expect to see a hugely energized team high off a fresh victory on top again in Canada.

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