• Nov 24th 2008 at 7:59PM
  • 15

Click above for a gallery of the BMW M3 Racing Version

Motorsports fans are eagerly anticipating the 2009 ALMS season where Ferrari, Porsche, Panoz, Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and now BMW will be competing for the GT2 title. BMW Motorsport unveiled the new M3 racing program back in February of this year and have been developing the car in Europe since then. They recently handed off the car to Rahal Letterman Racing who tested the car this past week at Road Atlanta and are currently running laps at Sebring International Raceway. BMW also announced the first two drivers for the program, Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand, both of whom have extensive experience driving previous versions of the M3. Auberlen first drove for BMW in 1996 and won titles in 1997 and 2004. The M3 will make its 2009 racing debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21.

[Source: ALMS via SpeedHunters and AutoFiends]


BMW of North America, LLC and Rahal Letterman Racing have named Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand as the first two drivers of the new M3s for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team in the 2009 American Le Mans Series. In choosing Auberlen and Hand, BMW of North America has picked two of the most successful BMW drivers in the world and two of the most familiar names to M3 racing fans here in North America.

Auberlen, 40, of Redondo Beach, CA first drove for BMW of North America in 1996 when he joined the previous M3 racing program, then in its second year of competition. Auberlen would go on to become the team's most successful driver, winning driver titles in both 1997 and 2004. When he takes the green flag at Sebring International Raceway for the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21, Auberlen will have the distinction of having raced every generation of BMW M3 campaigned by BMW of North America.

Hand, 29, of Sacramento, CA joined the previous M3 racing program in 2004 and raced through the 2006 season. Coming from a background in open wheel racing, Hand quickly adapted to the M3 and endurance racing. He drove to five wins and 17 podium finishes for BMW of North America in three seasons, many of those races partnered with Auberlen.

"BMW of North America is very pleased to have Bill and Joey on the team," said Martin Birkmann, BMW of North America Motorsport Manager. "Their experience with setup, GT racing and their raw speed will support the competitiveness of BMW's GT2 campaign in the ALMS. I have known both of them for many years, and besides being fast, they're both a lot of fun to work with. I am looking forward to seeing them pedal our newest BMW M3 racer."

"My emotions are really high. I feel like I am going back home to my family. To be a part of racing at the level that BMW brings is a dream for any driver," said Bill Auberlen. "I am really looking forward to being teamed up again with Joey. It'll be exciting to be on a team headed by a legend and racing icon like Bobby Rahal. I am really looking forward to 2009."

"I'm very excited to be back in the BMW family and to be driving a BMW M3 again. I built quite a fan base within the BMW community and I can't wait to put on a show for them again," added Joey Hand. "I am looking forward to working with a top-notch team such as Rahal Letterman Racing. Bobby helped me earlier in my career so we have a good relationship. I can't wait to get started!"

Since the program's announcement in February 2008, the ALMS BMW M3 has been developed and tested by BMW Motorsport in Europe. This month begins the official handoff to BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team with two more tests in the United States.

"If you are going to start a new BMW team in the United States, it is nearly impossible to find a pair of drivers with more success or more experience with BMWs than Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand," said Rahal Letterman Racing's Bobby Rahal. "Bill is one of the most successful American sedan drivers of the decade and Joey has more than displayed his ability to run right with him, so we expect this driver pairing to be a strong one for the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team."

Four test days are scheduled for November 19-20 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA, and Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, FL on Nov. 24-25. The tests will see BMW Motorsport drivers Jorg Muller, Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus behind the wheel of the test car.

Birkmann continues, "Key BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team personnel have been involved in the European testing, but now the two November tests will see them take a larger role. BMW of North America is confident that when our complete team and new M3s arrive at the track early next year we will have built a solid foundation for success."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Corvette Racing's gonna have their hands full racing on Porsche and Ferrari's turf next season. That being said, I have no doubt BMW and Corvette will fight fiercely and be competitive no later than a few races in. As a Californian, I'm glad my home team, Flying Lizard secured the championship this year because 2009 is not going to be easy for anybody. Not to say this year was easy, but with RLR and Corvette, things just got much, much harder.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I definitely will be keeping track of ALMS this coming season. With Corvette Racing going down to GT2 and Rahal Letterman Racing with their sick looking M3 joining the competition, it'll definitely be exciting.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The American Lemans Series is one of my favorite racing events.

      Nice looking BWM M3.

      I wonder if David Letterman starts breaking out his jokes before the races. It would probably distract his racing team from working. Heehe…

      Good luck to all the teams and stay safe on the race tracks. : )
      • 6 Years Ago
      I can't tell you guys how excited I am to see the circuit this year, with the line up it should be great.

      Also glad to see Road Atlanta getting some love......the great State of Georgia and BMW....doesn't get any better for me...lol..
      • 6 Years Ago
      Looking forward to seeing BMW scrap it up with the rest of the pack in GT2. That high wing just cracks me up. Good thing the car is white and the wing is black so it isn't as noticeable.
      • 6 Years Ago
      those giant fenders work well on this car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Has the feel (but even better) of the Trans Am wars of the late 60's/ early70's? Can't wait. A big welcome to BMW!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Love the wheels. Not the first time someone put Japanese wheels on a BMW, but probably the last time they got made fun of for doing so.

      Too bad PTG wasn't able to hang around long enough to run this one. Auberlen should be fast.

      I don't think there will be much competition, I predict this car will be on the podium of every race.
      • 6 Years Ago
      ALMS is going to be sweet this year. Can't wait for the season to begin.

      The 3 series though has become quite the barn. I think an ultra light 1 series with the old M3 mill would be a better entry. Terminal velocity has always been the M3s biggest challenge. They've always had trouble on high speed circuits. The rather large frontal area, compared to the Prosche, Ferrari and 'Vettes has always hurt them. They should do better on tighter tracks.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just chiming in with everyone above. GT2 should be a lot of fun this year. ALMS in general should be a lot better, if the competition in LMP is as good as it was last year.
      • 6 Years Ago
      wow, that looks awesome.

      Speedhunters.com looks a really cool site, havent seen it before.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wish the Formula One grid allows so many variations of similar performing cars (like different "formulas" that all end up with similar answers, not like a spec series which Bernie is slowly turning F1 into)
        • 6 Years Ago
        They used to be able to do that, but it's not the regulations that restrict us: It's the performance.

        At the time, a V12, V10 or V8 could race against each other competitively. A heavy, powerful car or a light, underpowered car. Odd triangle-shaped wings against traditional aerofoils. There was something for everyone, simply because nobody had any idea which way is the fastest.

        You'll notice vast differences between '70s early-aero cars, but slowly, over the '80s, they turned more and more alike as more and more teams realized that a certain design was the fastest possible way. By the end of the '80s, they all looked (overall) similar, except for differences in packaging-possibilities - but teams still had to experiment.

        One of the more successful experiments was the Tyrrell 019, which brought us the high-nose concept. Benetton improved on it, won a championship, and by 1996, everyone switched to it. This was the last year a low-nose car (a Williams) won.

        Slowly, into the year 2000, the scope for innovation declined as teams realized the best ways to improve on the designs that were open until that time. Of course minimum and maximum dimensions had to be set - but the teams realized that the way to maximize speed within these regs leads them all to the same path.

        By the year 2000, teams realized that V10 engines were the way to go - most teams opting for narrow 90deg or 72deg engines, with Renault the odd one out at 111deg - because they offered the best balance of power and weight. Aerodynamics became more similar - I highly doubt most of us could distinguish a Honda wing from a Williams wing nowadays - as teams optimized their designs.

        But this whole point doesn't matter, because now, into the 2009 season, the scope for innovation is truly zero. Aerodynamics are completely restricted, engines can hardly be improved, tyres are the same, KERS is limited in power and application, and electronics or other advanced technologies are banned.
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