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GTS1-3 Race From Laguna Seca

26 October 1997

The Exxon PSR GTS1-3 season drew to a close today. With a field of
thirty-one cars taking the green flag.  With two drivers championships
still to be decided in GTS 2 & 3i, the race was going to be anything
but typical.

In GTS-1 the Panoz Motorsports Group held down the top two spots on
the starting grid.  When all was said and done, the #96 car driven by
David Brabham and Eric Bernard drove to a one lap victory over the GT1
Lotus of Giroix and Deletraz.  The #66 Panoz of Doc Bundy and Andy
Wallace led after the first round of pit stops only to experience
mechanical failure going into the entrance of the corkscrew.  A master
brake cylinder failure was the culprit.  Andy Wallace, who was driving
at the time of the failure, commented "the car was great until the
master cylinder failure. The failure meant that I didn't have any
front brakes at all, only rear brakes, which spun the car twice before
I hit the wall."  It was another frustrating afternoon for the two
drivers, who appeared to be well on their way to victory.  At Sebring
last week, the #66 Panoz was the quickest car during practice, but a
bleeder valve problem caused Doc Bundy to experience a massive
shunt.  This was going to be the race to make up for Sebring.  For the
two Lotus entries the early part of the race displayed that they could
keep up with the Panoz's.  However, a pit fire ended the day for one
Lotus and the awesome horsepower of the Panoz relegated the Lotus to
second place.

In GT2, Franz Konrad and Nick Ham scored another impressive victory,
however the victory that was not enough to stop Larry Schumacher from
achieving a second championship in as many years.  Last year
Schumacher won in GT3, this year in GT2.  Schumacher commented "who
knows, maybe we will move up to GT1." Konrad had eight victories
during the year, all in ten races.  The decision to by-pass Lime Rock
probably cost Konrad the championship. Nonetheless, Schumacher drove
consistent races all season. Five victories, five second place
finishes coupled with one third place gave him the necessary cushion
to win the championship.

In GT3 BMW drivers, Dieter Questor and Marc Duez finished first in
class and 8th over-all.  Following closely on their heels was Bill
Auberlen, who scored his first professional driver's championship. The
championship for Auberlen was "a birthday, Christmas and New Year's
all rolled into one." With five victories this season, coupled with two
other podium finishes, Auberlen was another example of consistent
finishes all season long. Auberlen's closest rival, Javier Quiros,
finished third in class, and 10th over-all.  During the season Auberlen
won five times and scored two second place finishes.  Never finishing
out of the points was a remedy for a championship. Tom Milner, owner
of the Prototype Technology Group praised Auberlen's calm approach to
racing. "At the beginning of the season we felt that we could contend
for the championship. A lot of hard work and good planning went into
this championship. It has taken three years to achieve this goal, but
it was all worth it." Auberlen further commented "to thank Milner and
Erik Wensberg of BMW Motorsport Group for believing in his ability."
Maybe Christmas came early this year.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel