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BMW Preparing for the 24h at LeMans

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Mario Theissen: "Our learning curve is a steep one."

This year, BMW faces the challenge of Le Mans (FR) for the first time since its victory there in 1999. For Mario Theissen, the 24-hour race eleven years ago was the first major assignment as BMW Motorsport Director. For that reason, the triumph with the BMW V12 LMR remains very important for him, as Theissen reveals in this interview.

Mr Theissen, how has Le Mans changed since 1999?

Mario Theissen: “It goes without saying that the Le Mans 24 Hours has developed significantly in the past few years. The ACO has managed to implement new ideas, while still preserving the unique atmosphere at this event. When you see how many fans are here at the circuit on Friday, although no driving actually takes place, it just shows the appeal of the Le Mans 24 Hours. That was the case when we won with the BMW V12 LMR in 1999, and it remains so today.”

How has the race weekend gone so far for BMW?

Theissen: “First we need to consider that we are not running the same car here that won at the Nürburgring. Due to the regulations we had to do several modifications to the BMW M3 GT2. Therefore we are still lacking experience with the car in this specification and had to use the practice and qualifying sessions as tests. On Wednesday we were significantly behind the leaders in the LM GT2 class. After this, our team worked intensively on the set-up of the two BMW M3 GT2 cars and made a lot of changes, which have paid off. Furthermore, our drivers are feeling more and more at home. Three of them have never raced in Le Mans before. Our learning curve is a steep one. We are confident that we will be competitive in the race.”

Who is the toughest rival in the LM GT2 category?

Theissen: “This class is extraordinarily strong. Whether Porsche, Ferrari or Corvette: there are many candidates who have the potential to win this race. The priority for all the cars is first and foremost to last the full 24 hours. There are bound to be incidents – and it is important not to be involved when they occur. For us, a podium position would definitely be a great success. After all, this is our first appearance in Le Mans for a long time.”

Are you pleased that the BMW Art Car is so well received by the fans?

Theissen: “Yes, but I am not surprised. BMW Art Cars have a long tradition in Le Mans. The motorsport-mad spectators remember this well. Furthermore, Jeff Koons’ design has been sensationally successful and is very well suited to the dynamic image of the BMW M3 GT2. Everyone finds this combination of racing and art fascinating.”


Grid positions seven and eleven for Team BMW Motorsport in Le Mans.

The second and third qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24 Hours saw the Team BMW Motorsport drivers improve on their times set on Wednesday: Twenty minutes before the end of the second qualifying, Augusto Farfus (BR) in the no. 78 BMW M3 GT2 recorded a personal best time of 4:01.893 minutes. This put the car in seventh in the LM GT2 class. Farfus will alternate behind the wheel with Jörg Müller (DE) and Uwe Alzen (DE) during the race.

The BMW M3 GT2 Art Car with the car number 79 will start the endurance classic on the “Circuit de la Sarthe” from 11th on Saturday. Dirk Werner's (DE) fastest lap, which was clocked at 4:03.215 minutes, also came in the closing stages of the second session. Werner teams up with Dirk Müller (DE) and Andy Priaulx (GB) on Saturday. Pierre Kaffer (DE), Jaime Melo (BR) and Gianmaria Bruni (IT) have claimed the LM GT2 pole position in their Ferrari F430 GT after setting the fastest time of 3:59.233 minutes.

The track was still wet for the early stages of the second qualifying session following heavy rainfall during the afternoon, but dried out over the course of the session. This allowed Team BMW Motorsport to switch to dry tyres at the end of qualifying. More showers in session three created difficult driving conditions. The engines will be given a rest on Friday in Le Mans. The highlight of the day is the traditional driver parade in the town centre, which begins at 18:00hrs.

Charly Lamm (Team Manager):

“Yesterday we had quite a big gap to the front-runners. Thanks to intense set-up work we were able to reduce it today. In addition, the drivers found their rhythm more and more at this track. This is crucial here in Le Mans, and that’s why we are happy with the day. We are gaining more experience with every lap, and getting closer to our competitors. I hope we can continue this upward trend during the race.”

Augusto Farfus (Car Number 78):

“The progress we have made is encouraging. We simply need a bit of time here to move forward step by step. That applies to both the car and us drivers. I found a good rhythm at the end of the second session, and was able to put in some good laps. We are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Dirk Werner (Car Number 79):

“Compared to yesterday, we have improved our car considerably. The conditions were still difficult at the start of second qualifying. By the time I got into the car, however, the track was in a good state and I was able to improve our time. Above all, it was important to continue our race preparations as planned. The grid position is not crucial at endurance races.”

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