Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller raced the No. 92 BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team M3 to a second place GT2 class finish today at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. The duo completed 86 laps in the one-hour-and-fifty-five minute race. The podium finish was the first for the Milner/Müller duo and for the new BMW of North America M3 racing program.
The race began under bright Florida sunshine with Bill Auberlen starting the No. 90 M3 from third and Tommy Milner behind the wheel of the No. 92 M3, fourth on the grid. Both M3s settled into the fourth and fifth spots as the race passed the 30-minute mark. Auberlen was the first to pit on lap 28. After a quick pit stop for tires and fuel, Joey Hand attempted to pull away, but the car would not fire. The crew performed some quick diagnostics, but unfortunately the No. 90 M3 was retired.
Milner had moved the No. 92 M3 into third before pitting on lap 35. Müller returned to the race in fourth, but was soon back in a podium position as the race slowed for the only caution period of the day just before the one hour mark.
One lap before the restart, Müller ducked into the pits to tighten a loosening suspension bolt. The stop dropped No. 92 back to fourth, 10 seconds behind third. With 20 minutes remaining Müller charged up to the rear bumper of the car in third. Two minutes later he took over third and set his sights on the car in second place, only one second ahead. On lap 70, Müller raced into second place, holding the position for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team’s first podium finish.
Round Three of the 2009 American Le Mans Series, the Grand Prix of Long Beach, will take place on April 17 – 18.
Tommy Milner, driver No. 92 BMW M3 (second):
“It is wonderful to show what the M3 is capable of. Our car was almost perfect the entire race. Only one little hiccup with something loose in the front. The tires were awesome. Dunlop is really behind us. This podium feels great after our rough start at Sebring.”
Dirk Mueller, driver No. 92 BMW M3 (second):
“What a thrilling day to realize the first podium for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team! Tommy did a great first stint. He was driving like a machine, with a great machine below him. We had to make a safety check and dropped to P4 or 5. It was a great fight back to second. I enjoyed racing my last year’s teammate. It was as if I could read his mind at every moment and that was an advantage. Dunlop gave me a perfect tire. It was a different compound than Tommy was using because of the heat we had on the track. It was absolutely awesome, so the corners were really so much fun. Congratulations to the team for a well-deserved second place.”
Bobby Rahal, team principal:
“I am very pleased for BMW and the team. All the hard work from BMW Motorsport, BMW of North America, and Dunlop really paid off today. While we are disappointed that the No. 90 didn’t finish, we look forward to Long Beach and our continuing improvement.”
Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America, LLC Motorsports Manager:
“Expectations are very high for this program and it’s a great morale boost to see we have the car, the team and the tires. I want to thank our partners in Dunlop. They completed very strategic testing and a development plan that has born fruit today. We were very strong on both sets of tires in the 92 car and ultimately that has helped us in securing our first podium. We know we have the ingredients and in two weeks at Long Beach we will fight for the podium again. Unfortunately the No. 90 car did not finish today. I am disappointed for Bill and Joey, but we still are facing teething problems.”