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

ALMS GT - Summerton To Wheel BMW At Elkhart Lake

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Watkins Glen, Aug. 9, 2012: Jonathan Summerton will drive in his second event for BMW Team RLL in the American Le Mans Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Aug. 16-18. The 24-year-old from Kissimmee, Fla., co-drove with Joey Hand and Dirk Muller to the GT class victory in his sports car debut at the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and will team with Muller in the BMW M3 in the four-hour race at Road America. Summerton has had an outstanding career in open-wheel racing, winning races in Formula BMW, Euro Formula 3, The Atlantic Championship and A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Summerton had the sole victory for A1 Team USA in A1GP in its four seasons in the disbanded series. A1 Team USA’s drivers included Bryan Herta, Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Buddy Rice. In this interview, Summerton discusses his opportunity with BMW Team RLL.

Q. How do you feel about racing at Road America with BMW Team RLL?

JS: I’m very excited. I love the track. It has lots of exciting corners with great passing areas. We’ll have a very fast BMW M3 and I’ll have a great teammate in Dirk Muller. We’re going there to win.

Q. Have you raced at Road America?

JS: Yes. I won in The Atlantic Championship, where I raced up from ninth on the grid, in 2008 and finished second to James Hinchcliffe in Formula BMW in 2004. The experience will be helpful. The driving style won’t be that different, but there is, of course, the differences in the weight and downforce levels between the open wheel and GT cars.

Q. What have you been doing since winning at Sebring?

JS: Lots of training and working on sponsors. We had a one-day test at Virginia International Raceway. I did a few hours in the M3 and really enjoyed it. It was helpful for me to get some quality seat time. We have a test at Road America on the Thursday before the race and it will give me the most help.

Q. You haven’t had the opportunity to race much in the past couple of years. How important was it to your career to get this opportunity with BMW and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing?

JS: Very important. My career in open wheel had stalled and I needed to go racing in a top series with a top team to move my career forward. This is a great opportunity and I’m very thankful to be able to broaden my career from top open wheel series to GT racing with a serious manufacturer in BMW.

Q. How did getting hired by BMW and RLL happen?

JS: It was one of those out-of-the-blue calls which everyone wants to get. Bobby (Rahal, team co-owner) called me up and asked me to test in Sebring and, well, from there it came together.

Q. How did it feel to win at Sebring in your first 12 Hour?

JS: If anyone had told me I would be able to celebrate victory with the guys after my first race in the BMW M3 GT, I wouldn’t have believed them. BMW Team RLL knows everything about this place. They know exactly what they had to do in any situation. The same goes with Joey (Hand) and Dirk (Muller). I couldn’t have asked for better teammates. They made me feel at home from the very first moment and supported me in all areas. Being with this team for this race is the best that could happen to me.

Q. What are your plans for 2013?

JS: I don’t have anything set yet. I am always open to any opportunities. Hopefully, something will come from this season and I will be picked up full time by a competitive team or a manufacturer. It’s a driver’s dream to drive for a manufacturer, but I also have a dream of driving in Formula One or IndyCar. Who knows what the future holds? I will take every opportunity I can get and do my best at whatever I do. I’ve always been able to win races and believe I can continue to win in any type of car or series.