PSCR-GT: BMW M3s Go for Double-Double at Sebring
13 March 1998PTG BMW M3s Open Sports Car Season Hoping To See 'Double-Double'
Victory at Sebring 12-Hour Would Bring '97-98 Sweep
Of Both Daytona and Sebring Endurance Classics
SEBRING, Fla.; March. 12, 1998: Fresh off a resounding 18-lap margin of victory at last month's Rolex 24 at Daytona, Tom Milner and his Prototype Technology Group (PTG) BMW M3s are doubling up on season openers at Sebring.
Daytona was sanctioned this year by the revived United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). The Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 21, meanwhile, is this year's first event of the Professional Sports Car Racing GT Championship series, where the PTG BMW M3s will focus their primary efforts for the remainder of the year.
And that's just the beginning of the double talk as the BMW M3s, riding a victory march that now stands at 14 wins in the last 16 events -- plus two manufacturer's, one driver's and one team championship -- go for a rare endurance racing "double-double."
"We win at Sebring and we claim the rare distinction of winning two of the biggest endurance races in the world two years in a row," says Milner, who despite his team's lofty goal is quick to keep his troops focused on more worldly goals as they attempt to claim a piece of history this weekend. "No matter how you slice it, we still have to do what we do best -- heads-up driving, good clean pit stops, and, of course, good luck when we need it."
One last bit of double-talk: the BMW M3 that made it to the Daytona GT3 winner's circle last month has double the doors of its predecessor, becoming the first four door in history to win the Daytona 24-hour in GT3.
Last year at Sebring, the PTG team prevailed in a nail-biting, come-from-behind effort to take GT3 class honors here, which came on the heels of their first-ever victory at Daytona.
"We've got all the momentum anyone can ask for, that's for sure," says Bill Auberlen, who co-piloted PTG's #10 BMW M3 coupe to victory here last year en route to Sports Car's GT3 driver's championship.
"Despite all the wins the last year and a half, and as easy as we might have made it look at Daytona last month, we're coming to Sebring hungrier than ever," says the 29-year-old Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif. "When you're on top, it just makes everyone that much more determined to beat you. So we have to be at our very best every time out there. I'd say that's plenty of motivation."
Joining Auberlen in the driver's seat of the #10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 four door, the same car that won Daytona, are fellow Southern Californians Boris Said III, 35, and Mark Simo, 38, both of Carlsbad.
In the other team car, the #6 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 coupe, are veteran sports car racer Peter Cunningham, 35, of West Bend, Wis., and Ross Bentley, 41, of Vancouver, B.C.
"I'm really happy with our combination of drivers," says Milner, who may field a possible third "customer" car for the event. "Obviously, the double-double (consecutive Daytona and Sebring wins two years in a row) is a feather we'd be very proud to wear in our cap. Another would be if we could become the first BMW team since 1975 to pull off the Sebring 'hat trick.' (The BMW CSL of Brian Redman, Hans Stuck, Sam Posey and Allan Moffatt claimed the pole, recorded the fastest race lap, and won the race in 1975 by three laps.)"
Talk about setting lofty goals. But Milner feels the chemistry is right with his Winchester, Va.-based PTG BMW M3 team.
"Everyone in racing knows it takes a superior combination of driving talent, race cars and crew members in order to win consistently," he says. "I think we are in a groove right now. Among other things, it takes a lot of good fortune to keep things going your way.
"You can avoid most bad luck by doing everything to the best of your ability. Our advantage is that we're now in our fourth year, and we're way beyond the hump of that first win. That first win is always the hardest one to get. After that, it seems that everyone knows exactly what to do, and you tend to make fewer mistakes from having done it all over and over again."
The Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring begins at 10 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 21.