The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

BMW M3s Qualify 1-2 at Sebring

19 March 1998

SEBRING, FL: Bill Auberlen and Peter Cunningham and their respective PTG Yokohama/Fina BMW M3s occupy the top two spots on the GT-3 class starting grid after the first of two qualifying sessions for this weekend's Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring today. Qualifying resumes Thursday for Saturday's 46th renewal of this endurance classic. Auberlen drove the #10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four-door sedan to a fast lap of 2 minutes, 13.926 seconds (101.02 mph) over the 3.75-mile Sebring road course. With the course layout having undergone changes for this season, Auberlen's mark stands as the new Sebring GT-3 qualifying record. Cunningham, meanwhile, drove the #6 Yokohama/Fina two door coupe to a fast lap of 2:14.923 (100.27 mph). M3s occupied the top two spots on the GT-3 starting grid last year with Auberlen leading the way in record time, and went on to win the race.

BILL AUBERLEN on today's qualifying session: "We had a little hiccup that had me worried at the very start of the session - a hood pin came loose. So I had to come in hoping I could go back out there and set myself up for a clean lap, it's critical to make yourself a good hole. Fortunately, it was a quick fix, the tires were still warm, and I was able to get a good clean lap. The car is absolutely superb. We've been testing here since Monday and we came out ready today."

PETER CUNNINGHAM on today's qualifying session: "I've been working fast and furiously trying to get acclimated to these cars, this being only my second race with the team. I got a good bit of seat time in testing Monday and Tuesday, but it wasn't until this morning that I was able to get intimate with the subtleties of the car, and my ability to make changes I was comfortable with - in particular, softening up the rear sway bars during qualifying and putting me over the hump. These guys have all done an excellent job."

PTG is fielding a third BMW M3 this weekend, the #1 four door sedan that includes 35-year-old female Italian driving veteran Giovanna Amati. She joins co-drivers Les Delano and Andy Petery in the customer car BMW M3. Amati's racing background includes Formula Fiats (1981-84) Italian Formula 3 (1985-86), Formula 3 and Formula 3000 in Japan (1987-91), Porsche Supercup European Championship (1993) and Challenge Ferrari (1993-94). She also was with the Brabham Formula 1 team for three events in 1992. Most recently, Amati has been a racing and automotive industry television personality in Italy, and writes a weekly automotive column for Italian women's magazine "Amica." She currently stands 11th on the GT-3 grid after a fast qualifying lap of 2:18.538 (97.65 mph). Her session was cut short after making contact with a slower GT-3 car. "I was already past the car and it came over and hit me," Amati said. "Otherwise, the car is great. I enjoy working with this car and this team. I'm only sorry that we weren't able to finish the session. We will have another chance tomorrow, I hope."

Bill Auberlen is now an employee of BMW AG of Munich, having recently signed on as a factory driver. In addition to driving this season's Professional Sports Car Racing series events for PTG, Auberlen will participate in the upstart, European-based International Sports Racing Series featuring World Sports Cars. He will drive a BMW-powered Riley & Scott for Team Raffinelli.