BMW has confirmed its return for a third consecutive season of American Le Mans Series competition in 2011 to defend its 2010 GT manufacturer and team championships. The team, a partnership of BMW of North America and Rahal Letterman Racing, will campaign under a new name – BMW Team RLR – to align with BMW Motorsport's global racing nomenclature.
Two new BMW M3 GT cars are being constructed for returning drivers Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller. BMW Motorsport driver Dirk Werner will replace Tommy Milner who has left "to pursue other opportunities," according to the team. Werner co-drove with Auberlen and Milner at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans in 2010.
“Consistency was the key to our championships last season,” said Martin Birkmann, outgoing BMW of North America motorsport manager. “The four full-season drivers are a major component in our success and we are excited to have Dirk Werner join us in 2011 to maintain our strong driver lineup. Tommy Milner is truly an outstanding talent. We thank him for his years of service to BMW and wish him nothing but the best.”
Birkmann will move to Munich and enter his new role as manager of powertrain strategy for BMW Group on Jan. 1. Larry Koch will become responsible for management of BMW of North America's racing programs in 2011.
“We are very proud of what we have accomplished with BMW over the past two seasons and are eagerly anticipating the 2011 season where we intend to continue enhancing our efforts,” said team principal Bobby Rahal. “We welcome Dirk Werner as a full-time driver with BMW Team RLR in 2011 and feel secure that he will bolster what has proven to be a very strong driver lineup. Our team is currently working on the 2011 BMW M3 and we look forward to getting it on the test track in just seven short weeks.”
The 2011 American Le Mans Series starts with the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 19. BMW Team RLR will begin testing its new chassis at the end of January, also at Sebring.