BMW, M3 Returning To American Le Mans Series With Rahal Letterman

BMW announced at the Chicago Auto Show Wednesday its plan to return to the American Le Mans Series with its next-generation M3 coupe starting late 2008. For this venture, Rahal Letterman Racing will campaign the cars on behalf of BMW Motorsport.

“This is another monumental day for the American Le Mans Series – we have had a phenomenal start to ’08 and this big news from BMW adds to our momentum,” said Series President and CEO Scott Atherton. “BMW represents one of the cornerstones on which the American Le Mans Series was built and has maintained a loyal following of dedicated owners and fans since that time. We are thrilled to embrace this effort from BMW with Rahal Letterman Racing.”

The 2009 season will see Rahal Letterman campaign two M3s for a full-season championship run.

As a result, BMW will compete in a GT2 field that includes efforts from defending class champion Ferrari as well as Aston Martin, Dodge, Ford, Panoz and Porsche. The Series boasts more manufacturers in the single GT2 class than many other motorsports series do in their entire grid.

“The American Le Mans Series prides itself on being the ultimate R&D platform for manufacturers from all over the globe,” Atherton said. “And now BMW – ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ – joins the most extensive list of world-class manufacturers to recognize the opportunity the Series offers to transfer the technology present on their race cars directly to showrooms and dealerships around the world. I have no doubt that BMW will capitalize on its investment in the American Le Mans Series and see the same rewards our other competing manufacturers have realized.”

The return of BMW appropriately coincides with the American Le Mans Series’ 10th season of world-class sports car racing. BMW won the first race in the history of the American Le Mans Series as JJ Lehto, Tom Kristensen and Jorg Muller drove a BMW V12 LMR to victory in the 1999 Twelve Hours of Sebring. That same year, BMW became the first team from the American Le Mans Series to win the overall championship at the 24 Hours of Le Mans . In all, BMW teams have won 15 times in the series – nine in GT2 and six in LMP1.

“Not only has the American Le Mans Series’ fan base increased substantially over the years, but also has BMW’s following among its owners and club members,” Atherton said. “BMW has some of the most passionate and outspoken fans – trust me, I hear them often… – and I believe we can speak for these fans in saying we are overjoyed that they will be returning to the Series. We share the passion and appreciation they have for world-class sports car racing and competition, and we can’t wait to see the new BMW M3 back on the race track.”

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest in what has been a history-making offseason. In January, the Series revealed a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International as it was recognized as the world’s first motorsports body to meet the criteria for green racing being developed by these groups. The Series also laid the groundwork for the Green Challenge, a competition that will encourage manufacturers to introduce and develop their “green” technologies. It will debut at Petit Le Mans.

In a related development, the Series also announced in conjunction with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) that KL Process Design Group will supply cellulosic E85 for 2008. Corvette Racing in GT1 and Drayson Barwell Motorsport in GT2 will campaign the full season on E85.

The Series also will see new entries from Acura, Aston Martin, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche for 2008.

The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, Fox Latin America, 7TV in Russia and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring will be available at

About the American Le Mans Series
The American Le Mans Series is the premium brand of motorsport in North America , featuring high-tech sports cars from the most prestigious automobile manufacturers in the world. With its direct link to the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, its unique four classes of competition showcase exotic prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2 classes) and sophisticated production-based GT cars (GT1 and GT2 classes), all competing on the track at the same time. With a 12-race schedule in 2008, the American Le Mans Series competes at premier road racing tracks across North America and at selected temporary street circuits in major urban markets. With a television package that includes five network broadcasts on ABC and NBC as well as seven live telecasts on SPEED, plus live broadcasts across Europe , the Series delivers a global marketing platform that is unmatched in motorsports. The Series, founded in 1999 by Georgia entrepreneur Don Panoz, represents a mirror image to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans , the world’s most famous and authentic automobile race. The American Le Mans Series features elite marques such as Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Mazda, Panoz and Porsche, and premium brands such as Michelin, Yokohama , Kumho, Lowe’s, EPIC, Shell, DHL, Hyatt Hotels, XM Radio and many others. The teams competing in the Series range from top professional teams such as Penske Racing, Andretti Green Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing to top-level independent teams such as Dyson Racing and Intersport Racing.

The American Le Mans Series features technical rules that not only allow new technology, but actually encourage auto manufacturers to introduce new innovations into the racing environment as a means of rapid development for production car application. The Series is the only motorsports body in the world that features multiple street-legal alternative fuel sources – clean diesel, E10 gasoline and E85 cellulosic (non-feedstock) ethanol. Through partnerships with diesel fuel supplier Shell, VP Racing Fuels and EPIC (Ethanol Promotion and Information Council), the American Le Mans Series has taken the global leadership role in motorsports for the development of alternative fuel technology and its practical use in production cars.

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