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FIA-GT: Both New BMW Sports Cars Pre-Qualified for Le Mans

6 May 1998

MUNICH: The first hurdle has been passed. Both new BMW V12 Le Mans sports cars have secured an entry for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race. 59 vehicles attended the pre-qualification round of which 48 received permission to take part in qualifying for the race on 6/7 June.

Team BMW Motorsport is engaging two open BMW V12 Le Mans, under the direction of Gabriele Rafanelli. Tom Kristensen (DK) and Pierluigi Martini (I), two of the six BMW Le Mans drivers, were given the task of pre-qualifying. Tom Kristensen, last year's winner, lapped the 13.6 kilometer course in the morning in 3:44.528 minutes, with Martini achieving his own personal best lap time of 3:41.412 with the second group in the afternoon. BMW is entering in the Le Mans Prototype 1 category, in which four of the presented 17 cars failed to pass the pre-qualification. The fastest lap in this category went to a Ferrari 333 SP, which lapped in 3:41.039 minutes.

Gabriele Rafanelli: "We have achieved the first target which we set ourselves. The BMW V12 Le Mans is a very young car. We will have to learn more of its qualities bit by bit and that is going to be our task for the next four weeks."

Tom Kristensen: "We worked extremely well in the six hours which our qualifying group had at its disposal - it is great to be in Le Mans again."

Pierluigi Martini: "I was able to cope well with the car. I am of course happy, that I was able to be the one to pre-qualify. After all, I am concentrating fully on Le Mans this year. For me, its not only one of the most traditional races, but also one of the most fascinating."

A winner is developed yet further - the BMW V12

The BMW Motorsport Ltd. development team has been working together with experts from Williams since September 1997 on the BMW V12 Le Mans, a completely new construction. Only the motor was not an unknown factor. The engine of the BMW V12 Le Mans is a further development of the V12 which powered the McLaren BMW GT1 sports car with which BMW won the 24-Hours of Le Mans and the BPR Endurance Championship in 1995. The unit powered the McLaren BMW to 2nd place in the GT Championship and a double victory at the 24-Hours of Le Mans in the GT1 category in 1997.

The current version of the six-liter V12, which must be equipped with two air-restrictors according to the regulations, produces 550 bhp. The engine top-ends at 8,000 revs/min and generates as much as 670 Nm already at 4,500 revs/min. "I have never driven such a silky-smooth and at the same time powerful engine," said BMW works driver Hans-Joachim Stuck (D) after the very first tests.

Hans-Joachim Stuck is one of the most experienced Le Mans connoisseurs, with 17 starts, including two victories to his name. Together, the BMW Le Mans drivers, Johnny Cecotto (YV), Tom Kristensen (DK), Pierluigi Martini (I), Steve Soper (GB) and Stuck, have started 26 times in the most famous endurance race in the world. The only Le Mans rookie in the team is BMW touring car ace Joachim Winkelhock. "I am really looking forward to this new experience and I have at the same time great respect for this race," says the man from Swabia.

Who is who:

Applicant/Team Name: Team BMW Motorsport
Name of Vehicle: BMW V12 Le Mans
Direction: Gabriele Rafanelli