BMW Team RLL will contest its first race at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), in Alton, Va., on Sept. 15. The four-hour VIR 240 is the penultimate round of the 2012 American Le Mans Series season and only a strong finish will keep the team in the hunt for a third consecutive GT class championship.
The team will face the weekend with heavy hearts following the death of Scott Roembke. Despite being away from most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons to battle his illness, Scott remained an integral part of the RLL organization. Officially he was Chief Operating Officer, but everyone who was part of the first years of the BMW Team RLL program will never forget his reassuring, “Okay, babe.” or continue to be amazed by the strategy calls he made. The team’s 2010 ALMS championship is a testament to what Scott brought to the team and the sport.
Still standing second in GT class manufacturer points, the team has shown it potential to win in the most recent rounds. However, several setbacks have, despite excellent efforts, resulted in less than maximum results. A controversial call for “avoidable contact” by the series’ steward at the most recent race in Baltimore took the No. 55 M3 GT of Jörg Müller from the race lead to serve a one minute penalty and ultimately a eighth place finish. In the prior race at Road America, close competition resulted in contact that put the No. 56 M3 GT into the wall, ruining what would have been most certainly a 1-2 finish for the team. At Lime Rock, Bill Auberlen qualified the No. 55 M3 GT on the GT class pole, but unfortunately the BMW ace had to start his 100th ALMS race one lap done from the pit lane after a fuel cell issue on the installation lap.
With two wins and an additional four podium finishes in the first eight races of the season, Dirk Müller stands third in driver points. Joey Hand stands fourth, but will miss the race at VIR as well as Petit Le Mans due to conflicts with his DTM schedule. Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller are seventh. Jonathan Summerton will substitute for Joey at VIR.
“The race at VIR is a first time event for us,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “It’s a very fast circuit which, I believe, actually works to our strengths. Like at Elkhart Lake, our car seems to like fast corners. It will be a new experience, so gearing and other areas of the setup are still a little bit of an exploration. We did have a good test there in June so I expect good things. It’s a difficult place to pass but it should make for a great race.”
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “VIR is my other favorite racetrack in North America. Fast turns make it fun to drive. We have a great and tested team. I think good things will happen.”
Jörg Müller, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “This track is brilliant. I am fortunate that we tested there two months ago. I enjoyed the track and I am glad I have a few laps of experience for this race coming up. My teammates like the track a lot so this will be positive for everyone.”
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “I so enjoy this track. It is beautiful like Spa with uphills and blind corners. I think our car will do very well there. Since testing there in June I have been excited to go back again.”
Jonathan Summerton, driver No. 56 M3 GT – I really can’t wait to get back in the car and do whatever I can to help the team. We had a test at VIR a while back and we learned a lot that will help us.”
The four-hour VIR 240 race will take the green flag at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 15 with live streaming coverage available on ESPN3.com starting at 2:15 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will broadcast the race at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept 16th.
The Series’ website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch all ALMS races live on ALMS.com.