Teams2010 Le Mans Series By Jeremy McMullen
Over the better part of thirty years, BMS Scuderia Italia has been competing in motor racing in all forms and styles. The team's involvement included everything from rally racing, superturismo, to sports car racing and Formula One.
Founded by Giuseppe Lucchini, the team has an incredible racing lineage. Throughout the course of the new millennium, the team has been involved in sports car racing having earned victory at the 1000km of Spa back in 2005 with Ferrari 550 Maranellos. The team had also earned great success in the GT Championship. However, Lucchini decided to concentrate entirely on endurance racing with one of its main focuses being the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Back in 2006 and 2007, the automotive engineering group Prodrive decided upon BMS Scuderia Italia to be one of its teams to drive the Aston Martin DBR9. The team entered the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, but crashed on only the 3rd lap of the race. Then, in 2007, the team was able to score an 11th place finish overall and 6th in GT1.
After ending their partnership with Aston Martin, and Prodrive, the team moved on. The team would purchase a couple of Ferrari 430s to participate in the GT Championship. However, the team would receive an entry into the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The team would arrive for the race with its three drivers: German Marco Holzer and Timo Scheider and Englishman Richard Westbrook. In qualifying for the race, one the first day, Risi Competizione set the pace with their Ferrari 430 with a lap of the 8.46 mile road course of three minutes and fifty-nine seconds. BMS' best time throughout the first day of qualifying was four minutes and six seconds. The difference was over six seconds. Risi Competizione would end up having its qualifying effort disqualified; however, due to infractions with its rear wing.
On the second day of qualifying, the Corvette Racing team would end up setting the pace. Car number 64 would achieve a lap of three minutes and fifty-nine seconds. This time, and Risi's disqualification, would promote Corvette Racing to the pole in GT2. BMS Scuderia Italia would improve their time from the first day of qualifying. The best time the team would record on the second day of qualifying would be four minutes and two seconds. The competition in GT2 was so tight that, even though the gap between BMS and Corvette was only three seconds, Corvette Racing's number 64 would start the race 37th, and BMS Scuderia Italia's Porsche 911 GT3 would start further back in 44th place overall.
The 24 hours of Le Mans is one of those races where starting position isn't all that important. Though starting toward the tail-end of the field, BMS had a 24 hour race in front of it. A lot could happen in those 24 hours. The team needed to remain out of trouble and only push when needing to.
The race got underway with all four of the Peugeot 908s leading the way. Back in GT2, the battle was already in full-swing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a balancing act of both speed and reliability. Even within the GT2 field, the balancing act tipped in favor of speed at the 2010 edition of the endurance classic. Unfortunately, that meant many of those who were fast would not be balanced out with reliability. Of course, with so many cars and different classes on the track at the same time, not all of the retirements were the cause of mechanical troubles.
During the night, the fast Risi Competizione team would end up retiring from the race. This handed the lead to Corvette Racing. Corvette Racing's car number 64 seemed on track to take the victory in GT2. However, the car would get squeezed out by one of the Peugeot 908 LMP1 prototypes trying to make up ground against the Audis. In the Porsche curves the Corvette had to run out wide where there was no grip. This led to the Corvette going off track and crashing heavily. Meanwhile, BMS Scuderia Italia carried on with a steady, and yet, fast pace.
Attrition continued to reduce the field. Heading into the last hour of the race BMS Italia was still in the running and was facing a challenge. However, the challenge wasn't coming from within the GT2 class. BMS Italia was sandwiched between the first-two GT1 cars. The team had the chance to beat out the 2nd place running GT1 car if the team could hold on until the end.
By the time the clock struck three in the afternoon, Team Felbermayr-Proton would take the victory in their Porsche 911 (997) GT3 RSR. The team managed to complete 338 laps and would beat out the GT1 class victor. Hankook Team Farnbacher would end up finishing 336 laps and would finish in 2nd in GT2. They too would beat out the first GT1 finisher. In a display of steady, consistent driving, BMS Scuderia Italia would finish the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans in 3rd place in the GT2 class. This was the team's third straight podium finish at the 24 hour race! The team of Holzer, Scheider and Westbrook would complete 327 laps and would be able to hold off the 2nd place GT1 finisher, Luc Alphand Aventures, to finish the race 14th overall!
After the success the team achieved at Le Mans, the team would take part in another 24 hour classic. At the end of July, the team arrived at Spa to take part in the 24 Hours of Spa. Only one year younger than Le Mans, the 24 hour race at Spa isn't as famous, but still is as tough. Once taking part on the ultra-fast and dangerous 8.77 mile public road course, the modern edition of the 24 hour race takes part on the shorter 4.35 mile road course.
Though shorter and less dangerous, the modern Spa-Francorchamps circuit is still considered one of the trickiest and technically challenging circuits there is in the world. To be fast around the circuit requires courage. One of the variables that make the circuit particularly challenging is the predictably unpredictable weather. Located deep in the Ardennes forest, rain at Spa is perhaps more reliable than what it is at Le Mans. Sure enough, the 2010 edition of the 24 hour race would include precipitation in its equation.
The team would feature a couple of famous drivers in its line-up. Henzler had helped the team earn a 3rd place finish at Le Mans. He was joined by Martin Ragginger. In addition, the team also employed the incredible talents of Jorg Bergmeister and overall champion at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, Romain Dumas. Dumas, with Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller went on to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Audi Sport.
The team would rely upon the same strategy as it had used to score 3rd at Le Mans. In qualifying, they were not the fastest team on the track. The honor of fastest in qualifying went to AF Corse in their Ferrari 430. They would complete a lap around the 4.35 mile track in two minutes and twenty-two seconds. BMW Motorsport would qualify 2nd with a time only five-tenths slower. Phoenix Racing would start the race in 3rd in their Audi R8 LMS having set a time in qualifying only eight-tenths slower than AF Corse's best time. BMS Scuderia Italia focused more on the race than being fast, just as they had at Le Mans. The team would end up starting the race from 11th having set a best time of two minutes and twenty-four seconds. The gap was over four and a half seconds between BMS and AF Corse.
From the very start of the race, BMW Motorsport dominated. Throughout the early part of the race, and even into the night, BMW led the race one-two. AF Corse ran into trouble and would fall out of contention. BMS Italia continued on despite the BMWs leading the race at one point by over two laps.
Just as with Le Mans, the 24 hour race at Spa was a matter of both speed and endurance. Unfortunately for BMW, the reliability had left the team. The number 79 broke a tie rod and went off the track into the gravel. The repairs took just long enough that it dropped down to 3rd. Two unscheduled stops hurt BMW's other car.
All of BMW's drama handed the lead to BMS Scuderia Italia with only about an hour remaining in the race. The team would end up holding on take the victory! Romain Dumas' ability to win both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Spa in the same season was the first time the feat had been accomplished by one driver since 1949! BMS Scuderia Italia was able to hold off IMSA Performance Matmut for 1st. BMW Motorsport's number 79 would end up overcoming its excursion into the gravel after the broken tie-rod to finish a lap down in 3rd. BMS Scuderia Italia's victory made it the second time the team took the victory in the 24 hour race. The team had earned the victory during the 2004 running of the race.
Despite taking part in the GT Championship, BMS Scuderia Italia SpA had run a rather limited schedule in 2010. However, the team made the most of every opportunity. By driving smart, and fast, the team put themselves in position to score major results at two of the biggest endurance tests there are in the world. After earning the victory at the 2010 24 Hours of Spa, the team undoubtedly looks forward to 2011, and scoring an even better result than its 3rd place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010.