GT – BMW wins Long Beach, Corvette and Ferrari close behind

April 16, 2011

GT – BMW wins Long Beach, Corvette and Ferrari close behind

April 16, 2011

The No. 56 BMW M3 took its second GT class win in as many races in 2011. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

BMW has gotten its 2011 campaign off to a torrid start. After having just two wins in its first two years since returning to the American Le Mans Series, BMW is now 2-for-2 in the new season.

Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller followed up their triumph from the 12 Hours of Sebring in their No. 56 BMW M3, with a win from pole position. The team fought back after losing ground early when their teammate pulled out in front of them and halted their pace.

When the leading No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche contacted the barriers in turn nine, BMW was able to take a lead it barely relinquished. The sister No. 55 BMW, which runs on E85 ethanol, won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge in GT.

“After the incident with Bill, I fell back and the aero felt differently when you’re not leading,” Hand said. “But when I backed up, the other cars backed up so I was right there again. Patrick (Long) was going to be the one to bring the biggest challenge.”

Michelin runners completed the podium in the deep GT class field, with the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R second in the hands of Jan Magnussen and Oliver Gavin and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia third thanks to a great drive from Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander.

Both cars put in stellar runs. Magnussen closed nearly 10 seconds to Mueller after that team’s pit stop before the gap evened out.

“The gap stabilized after that run,” Magnussen said. “We would have liked the chance to experience how fast we could go after a safety car period. Either way, I was real happy with the tires the whole race.”

The safety car period Magnussen referred to was an accident between two GTC cars, which put the race under caution, and did not resume under green.

A strong run for Risi, too, after starting from the rear of the GT field. Vilander put in a strong first stint, climbing to fourth in class by his first and only pit stop and handing off to Melo. It marks the first podium for the new F458 in ALMS.

Falken Porsche (No. 17, Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers) and JaguarRSR (No. 99, Bruno Junqueira, Cristiano da Matta) recorded their best finishes in ALMS, fourth and sixth in class. Both cars briefly led the race in class, as did the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Sandwiched in-between the 17 and 99 was the No. 3 Corvette, driven by Olivier Beretta and Tommy Milner.

Black Swan Racing recorded its second GTC class win in as many races this season, with Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 54 Porsche GT3 Cup.

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