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BMW E46 320i


24 Hour Races

BMW celebrates its 17th overall victory on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife

On 13th June 2004, BMW added another chapter to its success story in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. At the end of one of the world's most gruelling marathon events, the two BMW M3 GTRs with the start numbers 42 and 43 were first and second to cross the finishing line. Victory went to the GT sports car driven by the three Germans Jörg Müller (Hückelhoven), Dirk Müller (Burbach) and Hans-Joachim Stuck (Ellmau). Click here for 2003 Nürburgring race...

Duncan Huisman (NDL), Pedro Lamy (PRT) and Boris Said (USA) in car number 43 finished second to complete BMW's seventh one-two victory on the legendary Nordschleife.

"It's a fantastic result", enthused BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen, who had followed the race by GPS and data transmission from Montreal, where the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix was being held on the same weekend. "A huge compliment to the team and the drivers, who managed to keep a cool head and made the right decisions in spite of the most challenging conditions."

The weather conditions accompanying the triumph of Team BMW Motorsport were anything but straightforward. There was rain from the outset, some of it torrential, which repeatedly turned the pit lane into a hive of activity. But the Schnitzer Motorsport racing team benefited from the longstanding experience of their team manager Charly Lamm (Freilassing) and carried out flawless work, enabling both cars to successfully complete the long-distance classic without any technical hitches.

"Everything went perfectly for us", said Lamm of the team's achievement.
"It was ideal", added Jörg Müller. "We never touched another car and had the right tyres on almost throughout." Final driver Dirk Müller's reaction after the exhausting race that took everything out of them physically and in terms of mental concentration: "When I crossed the finishing line I went goose-pimply all over." Stuck, the seasoned endurance driver, commented: "Psychologically it was the most strenuous race I have ever competed in. But despite that it was tremendous fun."

For the 53-year-old it was already his third victory on the Nordschleife - over a span of 34 years. In 1970, Stuck had won the inaugural 24 Hour Race in a BMW 2002 ti. He was also behind the wheel of the BMW 320d that became the first diesel model to win the event in 1998. Now Stuck and his two team-mates had ensured the debut success of a GT car.

The BMW M3 GTR with an output of 500 bhp once again displayed its winning qualities on the Nürburgring. The GT coupé had originally been designed to pick up victories in the American Le Mans Series. The muscly M3 GTR met this brief from its first deployment in 2001, the year that saw Jörg Müller win the Drivers' Championship, while BMW Motorsport came top of the Team category and BMW secured the Manufacturers' title.

Despite the successful past of this tried and tested racing car, Team BMW Motorsport arrived at the Nordschleife with a raft of innovations. The GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile data transmission system, for example, was used for the first time to allow the team to receive a steady stream of data from the two BMW M3 GTRs. In the past, the BMW race engineers had had to grope in the dark when the cars were negotiating the back section of the 24.427-kilometre circuit. This time the team under the direction of seasoned race strategist Lamm was kept permanently informed of the operating conditions and precise location of the cars.

"A marathon of this kind is an immense sporting and technical challenge", Theissen had said before the start of the race. Team BMW Motorsport rose to that challenge with bravura. With its 17th overall victory to date, moreover, BMW compellingly corroborated its status as the most successful car marque in the Eifel by far.

Checkered Flag

Nürburgring winners also successful at Spa-Francorchamps

After its clean sweep at the Nürburgring, Team BMW Motorsport sent both BMW M3 GTRs out to compete in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hour Race on 31st July. The situation in the Ardennes, however, was very different from that at the Nordschleife seven weeks previously. The GT coupés were racing in Group 2, which was governed by the BELCAR regulations. That meant the use of traction control was prohibited, as was the logging of vehicle data via the GPRS mobile data transmission system. The regulations also demanded that the tank volume be reduced from 120 to 100 litres.

On the 6.947-kilometre circuit, the 500 bhp BMW M3 GTRs had to pit their skills against higher-performance cars from the FIA GT Championship. "We are aiming for a class win" was the strategy accordingly formulated by BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen before the race.

That aim was impressively met by Team BMW Motorsport. As previously at the Nürburgring, drivers Jörg Müller, Dirk Müller and Hans-Joachim Stuck in car number 142 claimed success in the Ardennes as well: at the end of 525 laps they had secured their targeted class victory in Group 2. The German threesome came sixth in the overall placings.

The number 143 BMW M3 GTR driven by Pedro Lamy (PRT), Andy Priaulx (GBR), Antonio Garcia (ESP) and Kurt Mollekens (BEL) was in third position heading for a podium finish when Garcia had to abandon the race at 3.51 in the morning due to an electrical problem. Car number 142 also had technical difficulties to contend with and spent a total of 92 minutes in the pits undergoing repair work. But these setbacks failed to deter either the drivers or the Schnitzer Motorsport racing team. Jörg Müller, Dirk Müller and Stuck remained undaunted and repeatedly battled their way back to the front ranks.

"I'm impressed by the fighting spirit displayed by the drivers and the team", said Theissen, who was present at the event in Spa. "There were laps in which the BMW M3 GTR posted the best times of the whole field. That shows the good performance of the car on this circuit as well and in this competitive environment." BMW has collected 21 overall victories at Spa and has now added a further class win to its tally.


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