Following a four-week intermission after BMW Team RLL’s GT class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring American Le Mans Series curtain-raiser the second act of the team’s ALMS GT class title defense will be set in the streets of Long Beach, California on April 14th.
Last year Joey Hand and Dirk Müller had starring roles as Long Beach race winners and, ultimately GT class driver’s champions. This year’s story has begun much as the last with Hand and Müller sharing a second consecutive Sebring 12 Hour victory – this time supported by Jonathan Summerton, of Kissimmee, Fla., as third driver.
Only two hours long the Long Beach race is not only the shortest of the season, but the tight confines of the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit sets a stage for high drama and conflict.
Bill Auberlen co-drove to a podium finish with Tommy Milner in both 2009 (P3) and 2010 (P2), but it was Milner that played the villain last year when the now Corvette driver’s contact with Auberlen during an over-ambitious pass knocked Auberlen (and 2011 co-driver Dirk Werner) back to a seventh place finish. This season, Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller will co-drive the No. 55 M3 GT at Long Beach. The race will be Müller’s first at Long Beach.
“We look forward to returning to Long Beach after having won there last year,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “Long Beach is such a huge event, such a historic event that any time you do well there you feel particularly good. We have had pretty good luck in Long Beach with three podiums in a row including a win last year. Last year we won at Sebring and then again in Long Beach -- two-for-two -- and we’re going to try to do that again this year. The cars are good at Long Beach and we will have good driver lineups as always. I feel optimistic but it’s a tough race as we saw last year with the 55 car that was running very well but got taken out by one of the Corvettes. You have to assume the worst maybe because it is a street race but I think we have a good chance to repeat our success. I look forward to being in Long Beach and having a great weekend.”
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT
“It’s great to be home for my favorite race. The entire event really impresses me and the overall feeling of excitement is contagious! I know the BMW Team RLL guys will give Jörg and I the support to win, but this street race is tight and tough.”
Jörg Müller, driver No. 55 M3 GT
“I'm really looking forward to Long Beach as it will be the first time for me driving an event together with IndyCar. I have never been on this circuit before but I’ve watched a lot of video. I'm a big fan of street circuits and have won races in Monaco, Pau and Macao.”
Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT
"Long Beach is an event I look forward to every season. You can feel the entire place radiate with energy on every lap. Dirk and I won the race from the pole last year so obviously our goal is to repeat and continue to keep him and BMW Team RLL at the top of the point standings."
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT
“After two really busy weeks with the factory BMW Z4 at the Nordschleife with BMW Team Schubert, I am looking forward to one of my favorite race venues! I won LBGP already a couple of times, but it is always very special and it is always a different race. The walls are hungry and you need to be careful not to attack too hard too early! Personally I do like very much street circuits and for sure Long Beach. There are so many friends and fans and together with IndyCar it is just a perfect weekend! With our victory from Sebring in the bag we are fully motivated to keep our streak alive.”
The American Le Mans Series at Long Beach race will take the green flag at 4:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 14th. The race will streamed live on ESPN3.com beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2 television beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Live timing and scoring will be hosted on www.americanlemans.com