The 2013 American Le Mans Series is back on track this Saturday at Laguna Seca Raceway, in Monterey, Calif., with the four-hour American Le Mans Monterey. The race was shortened to four hours this year, previously having been a six-hour race.
The first two races of the debut season of the BMW Z4 GTE have been strong ones for BMW Team RLL, with fourth- and seventh-place finishes at the 12 Hours of Sebring and an outstanding one-two finish at Long Beach.
“For sure, there is nothing like winning,” said team principal Bobby Rahal. “Any time you come off a win, let alone a one-two finish, you feel pretty good about things. I felt we could be competitive in the first couple of races, and at times we have been.”
Long Beach is a frenzy of people and machines with all the action confined to a narrow strip of very expensive real estate along and around the city’s famous harbor. Laguna Seca Raceway by contrast is a picturesque ribbon of road threading through rolling hills.
At the top of the hill that begins the circuit’s signature “Corkscrew” turns 8 and 8A you can almost see Monterey Bay, the body of water that defines that area of Northern California.
“I think the Z4 is going to be suited more to the circuit than the M3 was,” Rahal said. “Clearly it seems to be a better handling car. While we are still suffering with a lack of straight line speed, Laguna Seca is definitely a handling circuit. I believe the Michelin tires will continue to be an asset.”
BMW stands second in GT class manufacturer points. With the win at Long Beach in the No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE, Bill Auberlen and Maxime Martin stand in a tie at the top of the driver points.
“What a great start to the 2013 season,” Auberlen said. “We knew we had the team, we knew we had the tire, and, best of all, now we know we have the car. The Long Beach win shows BMW has built another winner?”
For Martin, it will be his first time over the famed Laguna Seca track.
“I’m really looking forward to racing at Laguna Seca,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about the track and I’m really excited. It looks more like a European track, without the terrible bumps of Sebring and the walls of Long Beach, so it will be easier for me to learn.”
John Edwards will co-drive with Dirk (DE) in the No. 56 machine, as Joey Hand takes a weekend off following a successful opening round of the DTM series May 5. Hand scored a career-best seventh place finish at Hockenheim.
“Laguna Seca is one of my favorite tracks in the world and I am really looking forward to driving the BMW Z4 GTE through the ‘Corkscrew,’” Müller said. “We’ll try to keep our momentum from Long Beach and I welcome John back.”
Edwards rejoins BMW Team RLL after co-driving with Hand and Müller at Sebring.
“I’m very excited to come back for my second race with BMW Team RLL,” Edwards said. “It has been nearly two months since I’ve driven the BMW Z4 GTE and I’m getting antsy to drive it again.”
Saturday’s race begins at 6:30 p.m. and the race will be shown on a tape-delayed basis by ESPN2 on Sunday at 4 p.m.