This Labor Day Weekend, GT class leading BMW Team RLL travels to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix for the second street race of the 2011 American Le Mans Series season. The long established race on the streets of Long Beach, California has been part of the series for years, but the newly constructed temporary 2.0-mile circuit winding through the streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area will be brand new to teams, drivers and fans alike.
The No. 56 BMW Team RLL M3 GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller won this April’s Long Beach race from the pole – the victory part of a three race win streak to start off the nine-race season. With two fourth place finishes and a return to the podium at the most recent race at Road America, the duo continues to lead the GT driver standings by a margin of 22 points.
Teammates Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner stand third in GT driver standings – only 6 points from second – after a run of three consecutive podium finishes in the No. 55 M3 GT.
With two-thirds of the season now complete, BMW Team RLL stands at the top of every GT championship category and looks to add the driver title to the Manufacturer and Team championships won in 2010.
“We have three races left in the season and there are some very good cars and great drivers that are trying to knock BMW Team RLL out of the top spot in the standings. We have to be ready to deal with the best efforts that these teams have to offer, because time is running short,” said Bobby Rahal, Team Principal. “Baltimore is the only wild card left on the schedule, and we will all be starting from scratch on this new road-course layout. We are expecting a good turnout and great support from the fans in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area and we hope to give all the BMW fans a reason to cheer on Saturday.”
Bill Auberlen, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “We have all looked at the track sketches for the new circuit and prepared as best we can, but at the end of the day it’s a mystery for all of us. Our advantage will be BMW Team RLL’s ability to analyze the first data collected and make the right changes fast. Dirk and I are gaining in points every race so we’ll keep our heads down and try to gain more.”
Dirk Werner, driver No. 55 M3 GT – “I hope that the upward trend we had at the last races – especially with our car – will continue. After three consecutive podiums we are heading in a good direction in the championship. We are close to the second place in the overall classification. And we aim to get this second position with a good result at Baltimore. The track itself is new for everyone. So it will be crucial who can adapt quickest to the new conditions. We already raced on a street course this year, at Long Beach. There, our car was fast, and that makes me confident that this will be the case at Baltimore as well.”
Joey Hand, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “This new race in Baltimore comes at a great time for us. We’re leading the championship, we’re on top of our game and ready for a new challenge. I have always been an outspoken lover of a street race. The limits are tighter. The margins are inches, not feet. I’m looking forward to the same success we had at Long Beach. In Baltimore everything will be new except how BMW Team RLL prepares. Top to bottom this is the talent a driver wants behind him. From the gear stacks to set ups they get it right faster. This race will be about who is the quickest – the quickest. We will be those guys.”
Dirk Müller, driver No. 56 M3 GT – “I am still smiling about the great weekend BMW Team RLL had at Road America. At this stage of the season we do not necessarily need to win every race, but we need to try and get good points. And what happened in that four hour race – that was motor racing at its best. I am glad to be a part of it. Now I am really looking forward to Baltimore, as I like the challenge of new tracks and am a big fan of street racing. Baltimore combines both. There are not many possibilities to prepare for this race, but the team gave us drawings of the track which I studied intensely. At first sight, the track looks quite easy, but there can be tricky blind corners. As this circuit does not exist anywhere, you cannot drive it in a simulator. I am really optimistic about this weekend. Joey, me and the whole team are absolutely on our toes. We have one target – to extend our lead in the championship.”
Practice and qualifying for the Baltimore Grand Prix will be held on Friday, Sept. 2. The two-hour race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 3. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and rebroadcast on ABC at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept 4.