GTS1-3 Race From Laguna Seca
26 October 1997
The Exxon PSR GTS1-3 season drew to a close today. With a field of thirty-one cars taking the green flag. With two drivers championships still to be decided in GTS 2 & 3i, the race was going to be anything but typical. In GTS-1 the Panoz Motorsports Group held down the top two spots on the starting grid. When all was said and done, the #96 car driven by David Brabham and Eric Bernard drove to a one lap victory over the GT1 Lotus of Giroix and Deletraz. The #66 Panoz of Doc Bundy and Andy Wallace led after the first round of pit stops only to experience mechanical failure going into the entrance of the corkscrew. A master brake cylinder failure was the culprit. Andy Wallace, who was driving at the time of the failure, commented "the car was great until the master cylinder failure. The failure meant that I didn't have any front brakes at all, only rear brakes, which spun the car twice before I hit the wall." It was another frustrating afternoon for the two drivers, who appeared to be well on their way to victory. At Sebring last week, the #66 Panoz was the quickest car during practice, but a bleeder valve problem caused Doc Bundy to experience a massive shunt. This was going to be the race to make up for Sebring. For the two Lotus entries the early part of the race displayed that they could keep up with the Panoz's. However, a pit fire ended the day for one Lotus and the awesome horsepower of the Panoz relegated the Lotus to second place. In GT2, Franz Konrad and Nick Ham scored another impressive victory, however the victory that was not enough to stop Larry Schumacher from achieving a second championship in as many years. Last year Schumacher won in GT3, this year in GT2. Schumacher commented "who knows, maybe we will move up to GT1." Konrad had eight victories during the year, all in ten races. The decision to by-pass Lime Rock probably cost Konrad the championship. Nonetheless, Schumacher drove consistent races all season. Five victories, five second place finishes coupled with one third place gave him the necessary cushion to win the championship. In GT3 BMW drivers, Dieter Questor and Marc Duez finished first in class and 8th over-all. Following closely on their heels was Bill Auberlen, who scored his first professional driver's championship. The championship for Auberlen was "a birthday, Christmas and New Year's all rolled into one." With five victories this season, coupled with two other podium finishes, Auberlen was another example of consistent finishes all season long. Auberlen's closest rival, Javier Quiros, finished third in class, and 10th over-all. During the season Auberlen won five times and scored two second place finishes. Never finishing out of the points was a remedy for a championship. Tom Milner, owner of the Prototype Technology Group praised Auberlen's calm approach to racing. "At the beginning of the season we felt that we could contend for the championship. A lot of hard work and good planning went into this championship. It has taken three years to achieve this goal, but it was all worth it." Auberlen further commented "to thank Milner and Erik Wensberg of BMW Motorsport Group for believing in his ability." Maybe Christmas came early this year.
David Treffer -- The Auto Channel