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BMW Leads First Hour at Sebring

20 March 1999

Sebring, FL-March 20, 1999

Setting an absolutely blistering pace the #42 BMW V12 LMR of J.J.Lehto, Tom Kristensen and Jorg Muller holds an incredible 18.8 second lead over the #43 BMW V12 LMR of Joachim Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas. Following in third place is the #16 Riley & Scott of James Weaver, Andy Wallace and Dorsey Schroeder. The #20 Riley Scott Ford is in fourth place with Butch Leitzinger and Elliott-Forbes Robinson. The top five is rounded out with the #26 BMW V12 LM with Bill Auberlein, Thomas Bscher and Steve Soper.

Under absolutely ideal conditions the 12 Hour race waved off at 1016AM. Fifty-eight cars took the green flag. Straight away the BMW's poured into the lead. Lehto lost the lead at the start but by lap two had regained the lead and has been steadliy pulling away since the drop of the green flag. At the one hour mark 30 laps have been completed .

Yannick Dalmas in the second place BMW has been the only car to keep up with the hard- charging Lehto. James Weaver in the third place Dyson Racing R&S Ford has been caught up in a battle with teammate Butch Leitzinger. Bill Auberlein in the 1998 BMW V12 LM is 48 seconds behind the leading BMW but it may be that the team strategy is to preserve the car.

The last car on the lead lap is the #12 Ferrari of Wayne Taylor, Alex Caffi and Juan Fangio II in sixth place. But at the pace of the BMW team that position on the lead lap is in jeopardy.

In GTS class the top five is a real good battle between the #3 Corvette C5R of Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul,Jr. and the #56 Porsche 911 Turbo of Martin Snow, Melanie Snow and Patrick Huisman. In third place is the #4 Corvette of Scott Sharp, Andy Pilgrim and John Heinricy. In fourth place is the #61 Porsche 911 of Konrad Motorsport with Peter Kichak, Charlie Slater and Mike Hezemann and in fifth place is the # 48 Porsche 911 Turbo of Wolfgang Kaufmann, Michel Ligonnet and Lance Stewart.

In GT class the BMW's of Prototype Technology Group are holding down first and second place in their class. However, the Porsche 911 of Alex Job Racing currently in third is fighting for the lead. The three cars make for an interesting story. At Daytona the BMW's were basically a no-show with various mechanical problems. On the other hand the Alex Job Porsche with Darryl Havens, Cort Wagner and Kelly Collins on board won their class at Daytona. The battle between these three cars will be one to watch as the 12 Hours unfold.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel