Team RLL got some bad luck with a some heavy rain at the wrong time and a long pitstop which forced a change in strategy. The team has now had two races in a row not go as planned despite winning the first three of the year.
Official release: It was rain won and BMW Team RLL three and four as rain proved to be the ultimate winner of the American Le Mans Series Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge. A torrential downpour stopped the two-hour-and-forty-five-minute contest with 13 minutes remaining with Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner finishing third in the No. 55 M3 GT. Teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Müller came home fourth in the No. 56 M3 GT for a second consecutive race.
The finish keeps BMW on top in the GT Manufacturer point standings, BMW Team RLL in the Team points lead and Joey Hand and Dirk Müller at the top of the driver standing.
“It was a tough day for us”, said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We had a bad first pit stop with the No. 56 M3 GT and that ultimately forced our hand with a strategy call which may have worked if it had not rained. Third and fourth is not a bad way to end today, but we always come to finish one-two.”
The team elected to start Muller in the No. 56 M3 GT after Hand qualified the car on the pole and he led the GT field across the line on the opening lap. Dirk Werner started the No. 55 M3 GT from the second spot, but was slowed by a LMPC car in the first turn and dropped to fifth. Müller dropped to third on lap two, but the two BMW Motorsport drivers quickly recovered to hold the third and fifth positions as the race began to develop. Müller moved up to second before both drivers pitted under green on lap 40.
Bill Auberlen replaced Werner in the No. 55 M3 GT and was able to jump Müller, who remained in the No. 56 car, in the pits. Unfortunately, the two tangled a few turns later and Auberlen was spun around. Müller continued on in third place with Auberlen dropping back to fourth.
As a few rain drops began to fall Müller pitted under green just past the 1:30 hour mark (lap 64) for Hand. With Dunlop rain tires ready if the rain intensified, the team elected to send Hand out on slicks.
The rain did begin only 22 minutes later with Hand pitting for rain tires on lap 76 and Auberlen following has teammate in on lap 77. Yellow flags waved for a second time in the race just before the 2:00 hour mark slowing the field with Auberlen circulating in sixth and Hand in eighth.
When the green flag waved Hand had contact with the Ferrari to bring out the race’s third caution period. Hand was able to continue, but the rain intensified, making the track treacherous when the green flag waved on lap 88.
Auberlen and Hand charged forward as competitor after competitor slid off the track reaching the third and fourth positions before the fourth yellow flag waved. A red flag brought all the cars to the pits and ultimately an end to the race.
Round Six of the American Le Mans Series, the Road Race Showcase, will be held at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on Saturday, August 20.