Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rahal Letterman Lanigan And Pippa Mann Look To Relive Past Glories at Kentucky Speedway

HILLIARD, Ohio (September 29, 2011) – In sporting circles, ‘The Friendly Confines’ refers to Wrigley Field – home to baseball’s Chicago Cubs. But for Rahal Letterman Lanigan and its driver Pippa Mann, hopes are that the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval can wear that moniker as well this weekend, as the team and its rookie driver return to a place that has given both sides plenty of good feelings over the past seasons.

This weekend’s Kentucky Indy 300 will see Mann revisit the site of her first-ever Firestone Indy Lights win, while her RLL teammates will look to recapture the form that brought them back-to-back poles in 2004 and 2005. Mann dominated the Lights event on the tri-oval a year ago, claiming the pole and leading wire-to-wire to take her maiden victory.

“I had a great run at Kentucky last year, and we got the car just right for me, allowing me to run away with the race in Indy lights,” Mann recounted. “However, that doesn't really affect my confidence as much coming back as it would for some other drivers, simply because I tend to take my confidence from the handling of the car.

The Brit tested her IZOD Indy Car Series #30 Dallara/Honda/Firestone at Kentucky last weekend, and while her and her Rahal Letterman Lanigan suffered through a long morning of rain before getting on track, Mann was able to complete 63 laps and post times that were competitive with the top cars at the test session.

“The test showed we still have a little work to do, the car is definitely fast enough, but we just need to get me and her to “play nice” a little better together before we go and play with everyone else out there in the race.” reported Mann. “I think some people, and myself included, have under estimated how big a challenge it is to jump in for just a few races, mid-season, with a team and people whom I have never worked with before. Normally you would have plenty of time to get up to speed, but only having a few opportunities really magnifies the situation!”

The Ohio-based RLL squad has had seven top-10 starting spots in 12 starts at Kentucky, including poles by Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick. RLL cars have finished second at Kentucky on two occasions and have earned six top-10 finishes overall, most recently with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2008.

“After a tough outing in New Hampshire, it was important to get back on track and have a good test day prior to this weekend’s event, and I think we accomplished that last week, despite not having a full day of testing because of the rain,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We have had a decent amount of success at Kentucky in the past and we believe that we are capable of having another good weekend there if we work hard and stay focused.”

The two-day event gets busy quickly on Saturday with practice sessions available from 12:00 to 1:15 p.m. and again from 2:45 to 3:45, leading into single-car qualifying which gets underway at 6:00 p.m. The 200-lap Kentucky Indy 300 gets the green flag at 2:45 Eastern Time, with live flag-to-flag coverage beginning on Versus at 2 p.m.

 

BMW Team RLL Petit Le Mans Preview

Woodcliff Lake, N.J. – September 26, 2011… With the American Le Mans Series GT Team and Driver championships secured at Laguna Seca on Sept. 17th, BMW Team RLL has three goals set for the 14th annual Petit Le Mans this weekend.  The team has set its sights on winning a second consecutive GT Manufacturer title, move drivers Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner to second place in the driver point standings and win Dunlop the Tire Manufacturer’s championship.

The 1000-mile race also serves as the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup where BMW Team RLL will represent BMW Motorsport for a second time this season. The first was the 12 Hours of Sebring where the team finished first and second with the same six-driver lineup that will pilot the potent BMW M3 GTs this weekend.

Joey Hand, Dirk Mϋller and Andy Priaulx will co-drive the No. 56 M3 GT. Hand, Mϋller and Priaulx won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Hand and Mϋller winning the next two rounds at Long Beach and Lime Rock Park.  Three more podium finishes in the next five rounds allowed Hand and Mϋller to clinch the Driver’s title at Laguna Seca with a second place finish.

Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner will be joined in the No. 55 M3 by Augusto Farfus. The trio finished second at the 12 Hours of Sebring with Auberlen and Werner finishing on the podium three more times in the next seven rounds. Auberlen and Werner stand third in ALMS driver points, only nine points in arrears, and with a strong Petit Le Mans finish could move to second place.

“BMW Team RLL is extremely pleased to have clinched the driver and team championships, but there is more work to be done to win championships for BMW and Dunlop,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We intend to go all out in pursuit of those titles as well. But championships aside, to win Petit Le Mans would be a major accomplishment for us and our drivers. This is a grueling race on the team and the car and we need to manage ourselves so that we can be in the hunt at the end.”

Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “Petit Le Mans has mixed emotions for me.  I am pumped up because it’s one of the world’s great endurance races, but it’s also the last race of the year and no racing driver wants the season to end. Joey and Dirk have clinched the Driver and Team Championships, but this team has two more championships to nail down.”
 

Dirk Werner, driver No. 55 M3 GT –“I am really looking forward to the season’s finale. Of course, we want to add the manufacturer’s championship. We expect it to be a hard race, due to the long distance and the high number of starters. Bill and I are still keen to celebrate our first victory of the season, so I am highly motivated. The car will be very good – like it always has been throughout the season.”

Augusto Farfus, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “This will be my first time at Road Atlanta so I have to get to know to the circuit which is quite fast from what I have heard. It is great that BMW already won the driver’s championship. I am looking forward to such a big race. I hope we can have a good weekend.”

Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “It feels great to have two championships wrapped up before Petit Le Mans. When we won Sebring this year I thought that this would be our year. It took a lot of hard work and with the help of BMW Motorsport, BMW of North America, Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Dunlop we are almost there. We go to Petit Le Mans to win the Manufacturer’s Championship and the Tire Manufacturer’s title. It will be great to have Andy Priaulx back to help us try to finish the season the way we started it.”

Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT –“I am still really excited about having won the title in the driver’s championship. Obviously we cannot celebrate the title yet, as the manufacturer’s championship is not decided. We are keen to win the prestigious race at Road Atlanta, and we are keen to win the manufacturers’ title for BMW, so we still are extremely motivated. We are looking forward to Augusto’s and Andy’s support. We have a very good car and a very strong team, so we want to achieve both targets.”

Andy Priaulx, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “I am really excited going to Petit Le Mans. Obviously Dirk and Joey just won the driver’s championship with BMW, so it is a very good environment to go into. I am looking forward very much and will enjoy the race.”

Following a test session on Wednesday, Sept. 28, practice and qualifying for the Petit Le Mans will be held on Thursday, Sept. 29 and Friday, Sept. 30. The 1000-mile race is scheduled to take the green flag at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 1. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and a two-hour highlights show will be broadcast on ABC television at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 2.

RLL Adds Jay Howard to Indy Car Lineup for 2011 Season Finale

HILLIARD, Ohio (September 21, 2011) – Never one to miss out on a good party, Jay Howard will trade a leisurely autumn weekend in Indianapolis for the excitement and bright lights of Las Vegas, joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan to drive in the IZOD Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway October 16th.

Howard will join the Ohio-based team for the third time this season, this time as the driver of the newly-numbered #15 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone, after having had promising outings with RLL at this year’s Indianapolis 500 as well as the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 30-year-old from Basildon, England made up 13 spots in the first of the Texas 275-milers back in June and was having a strong run in his first Indy 500 in May before a problem with a wheel ended his charge. The former Firestone Indy Lights and U.S. Formula Ford Zetec champion will be making his 13th career Indy Car series start, and his first on the high-speed 1.5-mile LVMS oval.

“We were impressed again by Jay’s pace and the ability that he showed in negotiating traffic at Texas, and we are anticipating a strong effort out of the Service Central car at Las Vegas,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Vegas will be a free-for-all on a very fast track, but Jay has never shied away from close racing and we expect to be competitive with both RLL cars in the season finale.”

Howard will be partnered with compatriot Pippa Mann for the Vegas event, with Mann slated to pilot the team’s #30 machine. Howard ran with RLL teammate Bertrand Baguette at Indianapolis, and was a single-car entry for the Twin 275s in Texas. Howard had driven the team’s #88 car in those outings as part of a partnership between RLL and Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

“It's great to be back with Service Central and Rahal Letterman Lanigan for the IndyCar World Championship at Vegas,” Howard said. “We had a strong run at Indianapolis and a bit of bad luck at Texas so we are looking to finish off the season on a high note in Vegas heading into 2012 with the new car and the expanded schedule.  I can't thank Orland [Wolford] and Bill [Ihnken] enough for sticking by my side these last two seasons and giving me another opportunity to drive the Service Central car. Vegas is the perfect venue for the finale; Randy [Bernard] has done a great job for the series thus far. I have not driven at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but I'm looking forward to hitting the track for the first time.”

“We are proud to have Jay represent the Service Central family of tire and automotive service centers,” said Bob Crostarosa, SVP marketing, TBC Retail Group. ”There is a lot of fire and drive in Jay; we look forward to watching Jay move through the pack as he did in Indy and Texas. It is sure to be an exciting race.” Crostarosa went on to say that all 1300+ locations will be tuned in to cheer for all three Service Central Cars that will be on the track.

Howard is expected to be part of the largest field of the 2011 IZOD Indy Car season, outside of the traditional 33 Indy 500 starters. In what is the swan song for the current iteration of the Indy Car engine/chassis package, race promoters are anticipating more than 30 starters for the event, which takes place on Sunday, October 16 and will be shown live on ABC starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

 

BMW Team RLL Clinches ALMS GT Driver and Team Championships at Monterey

Monterey, CA – Sept. 18, 2011… A strong start to the season followed by consistent podium finishes throughout the midpoint of the year culminated in the first American Le Mans Series GT Driver championships for the No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Dirk Mϋller and Joey Hand, and the second consecutive Team championship for BMW Team RLL. The Mϋller /Hand pairing clinched their first titles as teammates with a grueling second-place finish in Saturday’s American Le Mans Monterey race at Laguna Seca Raceway, marking BMW Team RLL’s eighth consecutive podium finish in GT competition.

“A Drivers Championship – against this year’s competition – is fantastic,” said Joey Hand. “Dirk and I are a great team. We had a great showing from our Crowne Plaza and Avnet partners this weekend. It was great to win in front of them. The Dunlop tires were really strong all week. I am excited…that’s for sure!”

Starting from the pole, the duo completed 236 laps in the six-hour race around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca circuit in the hills of Monterey, California. The No. 55 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner finished in fifth place to maintain their third-place position in the Driver point standings. Following the race the third-place finishing Ferrari was penalized 90 seconds for avoidable contact, moving Auberlen and Werner up to fourth.

Both BMW M3 GT cars were very strong in the opening hour of the race. Joey Hand used his pole position to build a 20-second lead by the end of the first hour. Hand maintained his lead through the first round of pit stops, while stablemate Bill Auberlen in the No. 55 M3 GT was able to push the No. 4 Corvette until his tires were damaged and subsequently passed him to move into the second position. Auberlen’s effort would prove key as the Corvette was the only team that could keep BMW Team RLL from a second straight team title.

All through the six-hour contest, the top five GT Class competitors were within a few seconds of each other. Finally, at the top of the final hour, each competitor had completed their last pit stops and it was a sprint race to the finish. With 40 minutes remaining, Mϋller was in first position with a comfortable lead over Auberlen in second, but a left tire puncture sent Auberlen to the pits for a new Dunlop tire, dropping him back to fifth.

Three minutes later, the fifth caution of the race tightened up the field again. After the restart with only eight minutes remaining, Dirk Mϋller dropped back to third during a heated battle with a Ferrari and a Porsche, but he moved up to second on the last lap when the second-placed Ferrari began to run out of fuel, opening the door for Mϋller to repass for the second-place podium finish.

“Fantastic! I am so happy for Joey, for the Championships, for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, for BMW, for Dunlop, and for all of our partners and supporters,” added Dirk Mϋller. This one means so very much to me. This year we felt it, we worked so hard and so well together. Thanks so much to everyone!”

“As we prepared for the 2011 season, we knew we had all of the ingredients to contend for the championship, but it takes a lot of effort from everyone involved to actually make it happen,” said BMW Team RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Each one of our drivers gave us everything they had, BMW provided us with a great car and outstanding support from throughout their great organization and the crew both at the track and at the shop worked extremely hard to make this happen. We are happy to celebrate these championships with our partners at Crowne Plaza, Avnet, Dunlop, Rays and everyone else involved with BMW Team RLL!”

The BMW Team RLL squad has one final order of business as it looks to clinch its second consecutive ALMS GT Manufacturer championship in the 2011 season finale. The final round of the American Le Mans Series season is the challenging 10-hour Petit Le Mans, which will be held on October 1 at Road Atlanta.

BMW Team RLL Earns Seventh Consecutive ALMS GT Pole

Monterey, CA. – September 16, 2011… BMW Team RLL driver Joey Hand recorded the sixth pole of the season for the No. 56 M3 GT in this afternoon’s qualifying session for the American Le Mans Monterey to extend the BMW Team RLL qualifying streak to a total of seven consecutive poles in 2011. His lap of 1:22.226 minutes around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca circuit bested the 12-car GT field by a margin of .898 seconds. Hand and co-driver Dirk Mϋller lead the GT driver point standings with a total of five podium finishes that include three consecutive victories to start off the season.

Teammate Bill Auberlen qualified the No. 55 M3 GT in the third position with a 1:23.132 minute lap. Auberlen and co-driver Dirk Werner have finished on the podium in three of the last four races, including a second at Road America and stand third in GT driver points.

“Well, this is another great performance by BMW and the team,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal.  “Joey nailed the laps. It’s a big margin to be ahead. Like Dirk Werner did at Baltimore…Joey found a shortcut.  I am really pleased the cars have been up front all weekend long, we just need to stay there tomorrow. We just hope for a problem free race”.

“On the pole again! It’s great!” said Joey Hand. “I have a cold and haven’t been feeling great this week but didn’t want that to be an excuse. So I gave it everything I had. It’s a testament to our team how the car came out of the trailer, we were on the money from the beginning. We kept fine tuning through the practice sessions and the guys really nailed it. The No. 56 BMW M3 GT has led every session and we have one more very important session to lead: the race. My wife and kids are here, we have a lot of Crown Plaza and Avnet friends here and we want to give them a great race at my home racetrack.”

With only two races to go, BMW, BMW Team RLL and Dunlop lead the GT Manufacturer, Team and Tire championship standings respectively.

The six-hour Modspace American Le Mans Monterey is scheduled to take the green flag at 1:30 p.m. PDT Saturday. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and rebroadcast on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 18.

 

BMW Team RLL Laguna Seca Preview

Woodcliff Lake, N.J. – September 14, 2011… With seven of nine races totaling more than 26 hours of hard fought competition in this season’s 2011 American Le Mans Series now complete, BMW Team RLL heads to Laguna Seca Raceway for this weekend’s American Le Mans Monterey six-hour sports car race. The team won the first three events and has finished on the podium in every race thereafter to lead all GT championships, but the defense of its 2010 Manufacturer and Team titles begins in earnest at the classic Northern California 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course and the penultimate round of the championship.

Joey Hand and Dirk Mϋller, in the No. 56 M3 GT, have led the Driver standings since their victory at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring (shared with Andy Priaulx) and did finish second in last year’s race at Laguna Seca. As season progresses, the competition is getting more intense. With five extra points available at this race and 10 extra at the season-ending Petit Le Mans, their 25 point lead is not yet enough to secure the team’s first Driver’s title.

Teammates Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner, in the No. 55 M3 GT, stand third in GT driver standings – now 11 points from second – after feeling more than simply the heat of the competition at the Baltimore Grand Prix. The resulting contact from a overly optimistic pass attempt by a competitor took Auberlen out of the lead and a probable victory in the closing laps of the race. Auberlen was able to salvage a fifth-place finish at the new street circuit, but it ended the duo’s streak of three consecutive podium finishes.
 
“Everyone involved with BMW Team RLL knows what is on the line for us at Laguna Seca,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “We have had a great season so far and lead all three GT championships, but it could all go for naught if we don’t put up a good result at Laguna Seca. The track is always been one of my favorites, and we feel that we should have a good car there, but it is a long race and anything can happen. If we can minimize our mistakes, we are confident in our ability to have a good weekend!”
 
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT –“Baltimore proved to be an awesome street circuit in which Dirk and I experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We started on the pole and the race went really well, with excellent pitstops putting us into the overall lead. That hit by a competitor ended any chance to capitalize, but that is behind us now. I think Laguna Seca will be just what we need. The BMW M3 GT is well suited for this high speed track and a six-hour race should give us an extra advantage with the team’s ability to combine excellent strategy and fast pit stops.”
 
Dirk Werner, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “I am really looking forward to Laguna Seca. This is one of the greatest circuits we race this year. Of course everybody knows the famous ‘Corkscrew’, but this track offers a lot more. I think that we will be very competitive there – like at all other races this year. So far, our car was always well prepared and really fast. This is a 6hour-race which means that you have to change your approach slightly. The qualifying will not be that important. But of course we will try to continue the streak and fight for pole position. In the race itself it will be crucial not to risk too much in the early stages, in order to still be in the position to fight for victory in the finish. And it is important that the car is still quick when it gets dark and cooler in the last stage of the race.”
 
Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “Laguna Seca is my home race so my family and many friends will be trackside rooting me on. Even though I have not won there, Laguna Seca has been good to me in past years with many poles and second place finishes. The track is known for the Corkscrew, but I love the fast, downhill turn 9 and 10 combination. The placement of the car is critical because one small mistake can mean big trouble, but you can gain some time there and have fun too. Dirk and I were very strong at Laguna last year and finished second. I am looking forward to this trip with our goal to remain on the podium and collect more points toward the championship.”

Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “I don’t think about title calculations, but think from race to race as I have the whole season. Of course we did not risk too much in the last races, because our highest priority was to bring the car to the finish and get good points. We still are facing two long races with a total of 55 points to win. So everything is still possible and we need to stay focused. Last year we were pretty strong at Laguna Seca and we bring important information from last year as a base for our work. We should be very competitive. Of course we want to win, that is why we are going there. The team prepared everything very well and is extremely motivated. In thinking of the championship it is crucial to not make any mistakes and bring the car home safe after six hours.”

Following a test session on Thursday, practice and qualifying for the American Le Mans Monterey will be held on Friday, Sept. 16. The six-hour race is scheduled to take the green flag at 1:30 p.m. PT Saturday, Sept. 17. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and rebroadcast on ESPN2 at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept 18.

Pippa Mann Cleared For Indy Car Return at Kentucky

HILLIARD, Ohio (September 11, 2011) – Putting together an Indy Car after a crash is a fairly big undertaking, but it pales in comparison to getting the human body back up to speed after a big hit.

But despite suffering an impact of more than 110 g’s at New Hampshire Motor Speedway less than four weeks ago, Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Pippa Mann has fought hard to recover from her injuries and was medically cleared this week to return to IZOD Indy Car Series competition. Mann was injured on August 13 when her car spun and had hard contact with the concrete wall at NHIS during practice for the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225. Chief among her injuries was an end-plate fracture of the C7 vertebrae, which showed up on an MRI exam conducted upon her return to Indianapolis.

“Being cleared to return to the cockpit is like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” Mann said. “I was worried about whether I would heal quickly enough to be cleared in time for my next two races, and now that concern has finally been put to rest. As a nice coincidence, it's great to be getting back in at a track which I know my way around fairly well. I won at Kentucky last year in the Lights car so I have been pushing extremely hard to get back in the seat for that event. Now that I am cleared to drive, I'm finally able to start getting excited about going back to one of my favorite race tracks!”

The young Brit will drive in a test at Kentucky Speedway on September 23, piloting the Rahal Letterman Lanigan #30 Honda/Dallara/Firestone in advance of the Kentucky Indy 300, which will be run on October 2. Mann is also slated to compete with RLL in the season-ending IZOD Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16.

“Pippa fought very hard at Loudon, trying to learn a difficult track, a new car and a new team all in the same weekend,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “She never quit trying at Loudon, and that attitude helped her recover quickly from her injuries and has put her in position to get back in the car at Kentucky. We expect that Pippa’s experience at Kentucky will help her and the team put together a much better effort both at the test and on the race weekend.”

BMW Team RLL Scores Pair of Top-Five Finishes in Baltimore

Baltimore, Md. – Sept. 3, 2011… The No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mϋller finished second at the inaugural American Le Mans Series Baltimore Grand Prix to extend the team’s lead in Manufacturer, Driver and Team GT class championships. Starting from the third position, the duo completed 70 laps in the two-hour race at the 2.1-mile, 12-turn temporary circuit running though the streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The race ended in heartbreak for the polesitting No. 55 M3 GT of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner after an overzealous passing attempt by a competitor spun Auberlen from the lead 22 minutes into the second hour of the contest. Up to that point the car had never been further back than second with Werner leading the first 18 laps of the race. A well-timed pit stop just before the race’s first caution period put Auberlen in the perfect position for their first win of the season, but it was not to be. The BMW ace battled back from eighth, ultimately finishing fifth, to remain third in the driver point standings.

“Obviously we are happy with a second place finish for the No. 56 M3 GT, but the Corvettes certainly did not help our day,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “I am sorry that Dirk and Bill got punted from what would have been a great finish. Overall we have been consistently on the podium and that means good things for the Driver, Team and Manufacturer Championships! Onward to Laguna Seca Raceway.”

Round Eight of the American Le Mans Series will be held on September 17 at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Video:

Joey Hand and Dirk Mϋller – second place

BMW Team RLL Takes GT Pole In Baltimore

Baltimore, Md. – September 2, 2011… BMW Team RLL driver Dirk Werner recorded the first pole of the season for the No. 55 M3 GT in this afternoon’s qualifying session for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix to extend the BMW Team RLL qualifying streak to a total of six consecutive poles for the season. His lap of 1:31.362 minutes around the 2.1-mile, 12-turn temporary street circuit bested the 13-car GT field by a margin of .588 seconds. Werner and co-driver Bill Auberlen have finished on the podium in the last three races, including a second at the last round at Road America and stand third in GT driver points.

Teammate Joey Hand qualified the No. 56 M3 GT in the fourth position with a 1:32.010 minute lap. Hand and co-driver Dirk Mϋller lead the GT driver point standings with a total of four podium finishes that include three consecutive victories to start off the season.

BMW and BMW Team RLL lead the GT Manufacturer and Team championship standings respectively.

Video: Dirk Werner, driver No. 55 M3 GT (pole)

Video: Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT (fourth):

Video: A lap of Baltimore with Dirk Werner

The two-hour Baltimore Grand Prix is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and rebroadcast on ABC at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 3.