BMW Looks for a Change in 1999

19 March 1999

Sebring, FL-March 19, 1999

Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) is no stranger to success in the motorsports world. The various formats (F1, Prototype Sportscar, Touring and Motorcycles) that the Munich, Germany based company has competed in has always been met with the greatest of commitment to succeed. That success is achieved with absolute attention to detail. 1999 is no different. On all formats from engine development of the V12 LMR to aerodynamic design of the monocoque the approach is to procure information for improvement.

With BMW Sports Director Gerhard Berger at the helm it should not have been a surprise that the V12 LMR of Tom Kristensen, J.J.Lehto and Jorg Muller is sitting on pole position. While Berger is not solely responsible for the success, he is known as a astute manager of technology feedback.The cars that will be racing in the 12 Hour race were rolled out January 1st, 1999. For a brand new team that would be an incredible feat. BMW is hardly a brand new team

. However, the enthusiasm and outright glee of the BMW team when they captured the pole on Wednesday could not be masked.

Considering the disappointment that the team endured during the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, the capturing of pole position at Sebring must have felt like a three hundred pound monkey being temporarily lifted of the backs of numerous people. The information gathered during the off- season was applied to improve today's product. Now comes the race and the monkey is back and weighing more than ever.

Sebring will be a test for the initial outing of the BMW. Long-known as a "track that fights back" the track layout of concrete to asphalt back to concrete is an outing that some drivers describe as "riding the waves." Gerhard Berger, questioned about racing at Sebring commented, "You can't simulate Le Mans, especially not in Sebring. Rather what we are doing is carrying out another test under racing conditions. We want to get to experience the critical points of our new car in extreme situations and give the team the opportunity to make themselves acquainted with each other."

BMW is no stranger to pole position here at Sebring. J.J.Lehto won the pole position in 1997 driving the Fina McLaren BMW factory team in the FIA GT Championship. Lehto commented, "Hopefully we can do better this year. We have said all the time that the car was made for Le Mans. We cam here to see. You need to have a good setup here. It's a tough circuit. The biggest thing is it's 12 hours and very hard for the cars. You really need to work on the suspension to get over the bumps. I think it's physically tough on the drivers. It's not only a speed race. If you want to take risks, you can always gain something, but it depends on if you want to take it."

Somehow Lehto did not mention anything about lifting monkeys.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel

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