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USRRC: Ernie Irvan Makes the Scene for PTG at Daytona

12 January 1999


Bill Auberlen and Peter Cunningham kept the Nos. 10 and 6 BMW M3 four-doors of Winchester, Va.-based Prototype Technology Group among the GT3-class leaders in today's second of three days' of testing for the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month at Daytona International Speedway.

Auberlen set a fast time of 1 minute, 57.650 seconds (an average of 108.933 mph) over the 3.56-mile Daytona oval/road course during the fourth of eight sessions held today. It was by only 6/100ths of a second by the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche in today's third session.

Cunningham drove the No. 6 PTG BMW M3 to a fast lap of 1 minute, 58.213 seconds (108.375 mph) in the fourth session for the fourth-fastest GT3-class time of the day. The No. 23 Porsche also clocked the third-best GT3 time of the day in today's opening session. The No. 17 BMW M3 of T.C. Kline Racing set the seventh-fastest GT3 time of the day, 1:59.524 (107.225 mph) in the opening session. The Nos. 45 and 54 Bell Motorsports BMW M3s set the eighth- and ninth-fastest times in class at 2:01.428 (105.544 mph, fifth session) and 2:01.752 (105.263 mph, fourth session), respectively.

Conditions were dry but much colder than Saturday's opening day of testing, when all but three cars (no BMW M3s) took part in night practice under heavy rain showers. Today's temperatures barely reached 50 degrees, with steady winds from the northeast. Tonight's session, under the new lights installed at the Speedway for last October's Pepsi 400, attracted the full field here this weekend. Testing concludes Monday for the Rolex 24, set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30.

Ernie Irvan

Having missed Saturday's session due to prior commitments, Ernie Irvan joined his PTG BMW M3 teammates for Rolex 24 testing Sunday afternoon for his first-ever race driving a GT sports car. In two separate stints - one in the late afternoon and one at the beginning of night practice under the lights - Irvin totaled some 20 laps in the No. 6 PTG BMW M3 he's sharing with Boris Said, Mark Simo and Peter Cunningham. His best lap times were under 2:02 (an average of approximately 105 mph), comparable to those of his teammates. "This is the first time I've ever driven the road course here at Daytona, so I'm just working to learn the course, following Boris (Said) around the whole time I was out there. But this is a lot of fun. Boris and Peter (Cunningham) and Mark (Simo) are doing an excellent job telling me what to do and what to expect. I respect them a lot because they're the best in the business at this type of racing. The BMW is night-and-day different from a Winston Cup car.

The BMW responds to every little steering input. And it brakes unbelievably well, really straight. This all came about courtesy of Boris (who drives the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series truck co-owned by Irvan and Simo). I was interested in going to the Bondurant school to get back into a racing groove after my accident, and Boris said, 'Why don't you just come drive the BMW with us?" I've got a lot to learn, but it's sure a lot of fun."

BORIS SAID, No. 6 PTG BMW M3 Four-Door - "Ernie's one of the best road racers on the Winston Cup circuit, so he knows more about this than he's probably letting on. The difference between NASCAR and sports car racing is like the difference between golf and tennis. There's no comparison. But he's a quick study, and he's coming along just fine." (Regarding the new lights at Daytona) It's like daylight out there. There are some endurance racing veterans who have a big advantage over the others at night, but these lights are a great equalizer. I'm all for it. It's awesome for the folks watching on TV. It'll be like a 24-hour race in the summer in Alaska ... the sun isn't going to set on this track!"

HANS STUCK, No. 10 PTG BMW M3 Four-Door -"I haven't driven a car like this BMW M3 in 10 or 12 years. I've been busy racing GT1 cars and World Sports Cars. But racing blood is in my heart, and I am grateful for the opportunity to drive for this team. The M3 is very comfortable. It's ideal for the long endurance races. It has ABS brakes and power steering, so, especially in the rain, we will have an advantage. (Regarding the lights) I've always thrived on racing in the dark. The oval part of the course is well lit, but it's still relatively dark in the infield."

SAID: "I AM THE TIRE-CHANGING CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!" With an hour to kill between today's final day session and the night practice under the lights, PTG drivers Boris Said, Mark Simo, Peter Cunningham and Bill Auberlen stayed in pit lane and engaged in a heated tire-changing competition using the No. 10 PTG BMW M3. Said was undefeated in the round-robin competition against his three teammates. "I beat these guys at everything," Said said.

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