BMW sticks with three WTCC teams – ALMS drivers confirmed
BMW is to keep faith in its tried and tested national team concept for the 2009 FIA World Touring Car Championship. Three experienced teams will run five BMW 320si WTCC cars, receiving support from the national BMW sales organisations. Andy Priaulx (GB) will once again do battle for the World Championship with BMW Team UK – RBM, while Jörg Müller (DE) and Augusto Farfus (BR) line up for BMW Team Germany – Schnitzer Motorsport. Alessandro Zanardi (IT) will be racing with a new team-mate for BMW Team Italy-Spain – ROAL Motorsport: Sergio Hernández (ES) replaces his compatriot Félix Porteiro (ES), who represented the colours of BMW Spain for the last two seasons.
"The national team concept has proved itself both from a sporting and a commercial point of view," says BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. "This team structure was responsible for us winning every title between 2004 and 2007. It also allows us to involve the national sales organisations at the highest level in the World Touring Car Championship. Our team includes five very ambitious drivers, who will do everything to win back the World Championship in 2009."
Priaulx has been the most successful driver in recent years. He followed up his victory in the 2004 FIA European Touring Car Championship with three Drivers' World Championship titles in a row from 2005 onward. The racing driver from the Channel Island of Guernsey (GB) has ten race victories, 34 podium finishes and 347 points to his name. Last season he was once again the best-placed BMW driver, with 81 points. Müller is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. Like Priaulx, the 39-year-old can boast ten victories in the World Touring Car Championship – joining his fellow BMW driver at the top of the all-time winners' list. Müller's most successful WTCC season to date came in 2006, when he finished just one point behind World Champion Priaulx. 2009 is Farfus' third season for BMW Team Germany. With two victories, three pole positions and six fastest laps, the 25-year-old's talent was there for all to see on many occasions last year.
Zanardi made a unique motorsport comeback with BMW Team Italy-Spain in 2004, having lost both legs in an accident in 2001. The 42-year-old celebrated the latest of his three victories in the World Touring Car Championship last season in Brno (CZ). His team-mate, Hernández, won the 2008 Independents' Trophy and now joins the BMW national team squad. The highlight of the 2008 season for the 25-year-old came at the WTCC rounds held in Okayama (JP), where he finished third in the second race.
The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, which will run two racing versions of the BMW M3 in the 2009 American Le Mans Series (ALMS), also announced its driver line-up: Bill Auberlen (US), Joey Hand (US), Tommy Milner (US) and Dirk Müller (DE) will fight for points and victories in the popular American category.