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LM24: Peugeot Dominates Le Mans
Written by: John Dagys 06/14/2009 - 10:11 AM Le Mans, (FRA)

After three years of trying and tens of millions of dollars spent developing the fearsome 908 HDi-FAP prototype, Peugeot returned to victory circle in the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans after a sixteen year hiatus.


Peugeot crosses the start/finish line in formation after taking control of the twenty-four hour race from the first lap and never letting go.

The French manufacturer dominated this year’s twice-around-the-clock marathon, with its diesel-powered LMP1 coupes leading the way from start to finish. David Brabham, Alexander Wurz and Marc Gene’s flawless performance was rewarded with the ultimate prize - victory at Le Mans - in a race that featured sheer disappointment for archival Audi.

For months, the story lines centered around the battle brewing between the two diesel giants of LMP1 - Audi and Peugeot. The German manufacturer held a stranglehold over Circuit de La Sarthe for the past decade, winning in eight of the last nine attempts and was poised to continue that success with its brand-new R15 TDI. But Peugeot, fed up after falling short on last year’s race due to numerous tactical errors, wasn’t going to settle for second once again, and it’s performance here today proved it.

From the onset, the “French Lions” drove away with the race. The all-French No. 8 crew of Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Formula One Torro Rosso star Sebastien Bourdais led the opening six hours, settling a blazing pace along the way. However, the lead changed hands to the sister No. 9 car when the pole sitters lost 35 minutes in the pits replacing the left-rear driveshaft.

By this point, Peugeot’s third contender, the No. 7 of Nicolas Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Christian Klien, was already knocked out of contention after a costly pit lane error that saw the inbound Pescarolo Peugeot of Jean-Christophe Boullion collide with the departing Pedro Lamy. Lamy’s factory 908 suffered a left-rear tire puncture, shredding rear bodywork and damaging suspension components on his trip back to the pits, leading to a 30-minute repair job. It dropped the car seven laps behind.

As the the Nos. 7 and 8 Peugeots worked their back way up the leaderboard (No. 7 further delayed in the overnight hours for various repairs), Brabham, Wurz and Gene maintained a one, and sometimes, two-lap lead over the No. 1 Audi R15 TDI of Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen.

The defending race winners were Audi’s final bullet after a disastrous opening half of the race which saw its No. 3 machine of Alexandre Premat in the gravel bed ten minutes in and Lucas Luhr’s No. 2 car crashed out in the seventh hour. Premat’s Audi, which he shared with on-loan Porsche factory drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, later suffered fuel injector issues, which led to an extensive rebuild of the V10 TDI powerplant and its components.


Audi had a troublesome race, with all three of its R15 TDIs suffering setbacks. (LAT)

But the No. 1 car wasn’t immune from engine-related problems either, as it battled similar overheating issues, making frequent trips to the garage to clean its intercooler and radiator ducts. By hour 21, an extended stay cost the trio four laps, and any hope of a debut victory for the R15 TDI.

Audi’s costly setback gave Peugeot clear sailing for the remaining two hours, as Gene and Bourdais took the 908s to a historic 1-2 finish in front of hundreds of thousands of local supporters.

"Before the start, I used a French cycling analogy to describe the crew of the No. 8 car as 'sprinters', the No. 7 crew as 'road sprinters' and the No. 9 drivers as 'warriors'. Today, it was the 'warriors' who won,” explained Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel. “We were here as challengers, and our mission was to try to topple the favorites. And that is exactly what we did, essentially by steering clear of the different potential pitfalls in our path. It turned out to be a terrific race, and Peugeot Sport is a truly magnificent team.”

The win came 16 years after it’s last Le Mans crown when Christophe Bouchut, Eric Helary and Geoff Brabham drove a Peugeot 905 to overall victory in 1993. Ironically, 43-year-old David now joins his brother Geoff with achieving his first overall Le Mans victory in a Peugeot.

"It's such a great feeling to have won," said a beaming Brabham after the race. "Peugeot Sport did a tremendous job; they really did. It's a great team, they gave us a 100 percent reliable car and the three of us drove a faultless race.

"Our strategy was really to take care of the car; the tires, the brakes - particularly the front brakes which were wearing a bit more than we would have liked," Brabham added. "We just agreed to adjust our driving styles and keep within a consistent lap time target. We were running at a restricted pacebut other cars were having problems, so it worked out ok. We didn't make one mistake and that's what it takes to win this race."

Brabs now has three consecutive Le Mans wins to his credit, after his two class victories in an Aston Martin Racing DBR9. The veteran Australian knew heading in that this year’s race could be one of his final chances to claim the coveted overall victory, something that’s eluded him in his nearly two-decade long sportscar career.

Gene celebrated alongside Brabham as first-time overall winners, while Wurz notched his second. The tall Austrian became the youngest-ever winner in 1996 aboard a Joest TWR Porsche and now adds the 908 to his win list at La Sarthe.

"What made the difference? The fact that we kept it on the track without picking up any damage,” Wurz said. “We also had a great team behind us, and a phenomenal car. It's a fantastic feeling to have won in France in a French car."

The Peugeots proved to be unstoppable in a straight line, especially when Audi’s two remaining R15 TDIs reverted to a slower engine map midway through the race to combat its overheating issues. Severe understeer, later corrected with new bodywork, also cost the German squad valuable time in opening hours.

"Obviously we are a little disappointed about the result,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We didn’t manage to extract the full potential of the Audi R15 TDI in the race, which we had seen during testing. In addition, we had several technical problems that really caught us by surprise.”


Peugeot took a page from Audi’s game book, having a perfectly executed race strategy and near flawless pit stops, something we haven’t seen from the French manufacturer until now. It could be considered a coming of age for the third-year team in this highly competitive form of sportscar racing, or perhaps a strengthening of the guard with Citroen rally boss Quesnel now calling the shots. Either way, Peugeot showed it has the maturity needed to succeed in endurance racing.

Audi’s McNish, Capello and Kristensen came home third, completing 376 laps, six less than the winning No. 9 Peugeot. The No. 007 AMR Eastern Europe Lola Aston Martin finished three further laps back in fourth, an outstanding finish for Jan Charouz, Stefan Mucke and Tomas Enge after overcoming a qualifying accident on Thursday and staying relatively trouble-free all race.


The odds were stacked against them, but Charouz, Mucke and Enge finished the highest of the gasoline-powered LMP1 cars. (LAT) » More PhotosThe same couldn’t be said for AMR’s two other Lola-Aston Martins, though. Harold Primat escaped injury in a heavy crash at the Porsche Curves in the 20th hour - the same place where Luhr had his off. Primat and co-driver Peter Kox had done the lion’s share of driving up until that point, as Stuart Hall was excluded from further competition after sideswiping an LMP2 car. AMR’s third Gulf-liveried machine, the No. 008 of Anthony Davidson, Darren Turner and Jos Verstappen, suffered intermittent gearbox issues during the second half of the race, finishing 11th overall.

Team Oreca Matmut’s No. 11 Oreca 01 AIM entry of Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Soheil Ayari came home fifth, ahead of the delayed No. 7 Peugeot in sixth.

Colin Kolles’ two privateer Audi R10 TDIs both finished inside the top-10 in what could be considered a surprise result. It was especially the case for the seventh-placed No. 14 car of Andre Lotterer and Charles Zwolsman, which was without the driving duties of Narain Karthikeyan, who dislocated his shoulder in a fall just hours before the start. The former F1 driver was not cleared to race by the ACO doctor.

All six of Kolles drivers were Le Mans rookies, not to mention Lotterer, who was already a late call-up. He didn’t get his first laps in the diesel-powered machine until Wednesday, making this result even more remarkable.

This year’s race also had its share of carnage. While Luhr and Primat both suffered high-speed accidents, they didn’t compare to Benoit Treluyer’s horrific crash in the 14th hour, which destroyed his Pescarolo Peugeot beyond recognition. Miraculously, the defending Super GT champion emerged uninjured, despite initial concerns. It could have been a lot worse, and we’re thankful for the safety mechanisms built into the closed-top 908.

Up until that point, Treluyer and co-drivers Boullion and Simon Pagenaud were running in fourth and ultimately could have had a shot at the podium if not for the race-ending accident. Both Pagenaud and Boullion impressed with their fast laps in the 2008-spec Peugeot.

LMP2 turned into another last-man-standing affair, but the quickest car all week rightfully took victory. Team Essex’s Casper Elgaard, Emmanuel Collard and Kristian Poulsen kept their Porsche RS Spyder out of trouble, and out of the garage to take the win, one year after finishing second in class.


Team Essex also took top honors in the Michelin Green X Challenge. (LAT) » More PhotosThe Danish crew fought with the similarly prepared NAVI Team Goh RS Spyder of Seiji Ara, Keisuke Kunimoto and Sascha Maassen for the first half of the race until the Japanese-run machine made two unscheduled visits to the garage to replace the car’s front undertray. A high-speed crash on the Mulsanne Straight, likely caused by mechanical failure, put an end to the team’s day with one hour and 15 minutes left.

Goh’s late-race misfortunes promoted the No. 33 Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola-Judd of Xavier Pompidou, Jonny Kane and Ben Leuenberger to second, 14 laps behind the winning Porsche. The Swiss team fought alternator issues throughout the race. The No. 24 OAK Racing Pescarolo Mazda of Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon inherited third in what was the remaining Mazda MZR-R not to have an engine failure.

Barazi Epsilon’s Zytek 07S was the fourth and remaining P2 runner at the finish, out of the 12 which started the race.

Corvette Racing bid farewell to the GT1 category with an expected win, but only one of its C6.Rs made the finish. The black No. 64 car had a spirited battle with the winning No. 63 car of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O’Connell and Antonio Garcia, but stopped on course with almost an hour to go with transmission problems.

O’Connell and Garcia drove the majority of the race together, as Magnussen became ill following his nighttime stint. Nevertheless, the duo brought the C6.R home in 15th overall, claiming the team’s sixth Le Mans class victory. It also marked O’Connell’s fourth class win, making him the most successful American driver at Le Mans.


Corvette Racing bids farewell to GT1, with a bright future ahead in GT2. (LAT)

"When you look at the Americans who have won here multiple times, they're all important figures in motorsports history," O'Connell said. "To achieve my fourth win with Corvette Racing, driving a sports car that's an American icon, it's hard to put that into words. There is nothing more difficult and more rewarding than winning here, and sharing it with two awesome drivers like Jan and Antonio."

Garcia continues his magical success story, claiming the 2008 Le Mans GT1 win with Aston Martin, then going on to the Rolex 24 at Daytona overall crown in January, a Sebring class win in March and now back-to-back Le Mans victories for the talented Spaniard.

"I'll tell you tomorrow when I wake up what it means to win Le Mans twice,” Garcia said. “This is my third 24-hour race win a row – I won Le Mans last year and Daytona 24 this year. I cannot ask for anything else. Corvette Racing gave me a car and a crew that worked perfectly, and I really appreciate it. During the night and this morning, I was up to my best. That's what a proper team needs to be – everyone giving 100 percent."

The privateer No. 73 Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette of Julien Jousse, Xavier Maassen and Yann Clairay finished second after the late-race retirement of the No. 64 machine, with the troublesome No. 66 Jetalliance Aston Martin DBR9 of Alex Muller, Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer and Thomas Gruber inheriting third, some 48 laps behind the winning Corvette.

These three were the only finishers in GT1, as the No. 72 Alphand Corvette crashed out early, and the troubled JLOC Lamborhini completed only a single lap, battling all week with mechanical issues.

Risi Competizione
celebrated their second successive Le Mans victory as Ferrari F430s took seven of the eight classified finishing positions, including the top four positions in GT2. Risi’s Mika Salo and Jamie Melo stood on the top step of the podium for the second straight year, this time joined by Pierre Kaffer, who claimed his first victory at La Sarthe.

"It’s easier to win this race when you know how to do it already, like from last year," Salo said. "You know you don’t have to be the fastest; you just have to save the car a little bit, be careful not to make mistakes and hit anybody or let them hit you. In the beginning of this year’s race we had to go a little faster than last year, but it turned out very well.”

The trio took control of the race from the sixth hour, after the then-leading No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche hit trouble. First it was a loose restrictor, which allegedly enabled team owner and gentlemen driver Raymond Narac to set the race’s fastest fastest lap, a 4:04.188. Then, the Patrick Long and Patrick Pilet-driven Porsche fought ongoing clutch issues while still maintaining third, before retiring with gearbox failure in the final hour.

Porsche in fact had another miserable race in GT2, with none of its five 911 GT3 RSR’s classified in the end. The No. 77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of works stars Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Wolf Henzler were the early race favorites all week but retired on track in the second hour with a broken fuel pump.

The pole-sitting No. 80 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche led early on in the hands of Joerg Bergmeister, but an incident for Seth Neiman dropped the car down to fourth. Darren Law, making his Le Mans debut, ended the car’s race in the barriers at the Playstation Chicane in the 15th hour.


Risi Competizione fought Porsches and Ferraris on their way to a repeat victory in GT2 at Le Mans. (Marshall Pruett)

“To be honest I didn’t expect to see the Porsches out of the challenge from the first few hours," said race winner Melo. "Before the race we all thought they were really strong, but I think Risi Competizione has really prepared well for this race in the past year as well as more recently. Pierre, Mika and I were able to do really consistent lap times, and it was a really easy car to drive so that helped us to do our job."

Porsche’s attrition played perfectly into the Ferrari teams hands, with last year’s runner-ups BMS Scuderia Italia and drivers Paolo Ruberti, Matteo Malucelli and Fabio Babini finishing second in class again.

Late-race trouble for the then-third placed AF Corse Ferrari elevated Risi’s No. 83 Ferrari, run in conjunction with Krohn Racing, to the podium for the second time in three years. Like their winning teammates, Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonnson and Eric van de Poele drove a trouble-free race.

JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari of Rob Bell, Andrew Kirkaldy and Tim Sugden were on their way to a second-place finish but suffered clutch issues in the closing hours, settling for fourth.

The only non-Ferrari finisher in GT2 came from the Snoras Spyker Squadron crew, getting its Spyker C8 Laviolette to the finish line in fifth in class. Well done to Tom Coronel, Jarek Janis and Jeroen Bleekemolen for giving the Dutch crew a well-deserved finish.

Team Seattle’s Le Mans debut was also rewarded with a fine finish, as Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foser and Don Kitch Jr. came home 9th in class, raising over $200,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital and France’s Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque.
Posted on 14 Jun 2009 by garysweb1
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ALMS: St. Pete Post-Race Notebook
ALMS: St. Pete Post-Race Notebook, Written by: John Dagys 04/05/2009 - 08:29 AM St. Petersburg, FL


Strong Run for LG Motorsports

Two weeks ago, Lou Gigliotti hadn’t even planned on competing in the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. But given his team’s fourth place finish Saturday, the veteran World Challenge driver/owner is walking away a relatively happy man.

LG Motorsports enjoyed its best race yet in the Series with its Riley Technologies-developed Corvette. After a promising run cut short at Sebring, Gigliotti once again teamed up with rising star Eric Curran in his Riley Technologies-built Corvette C6, thanks to some last minute support from Sonny Whelen, Curran’s World Challenge employer.

The GT2-spec Corvette ran as high as second during the race in the hands of Curran, who also set the car’s best lap time of 1:14.933. Towards the middle of his stint, Curran came under attack from Dominik Farnbacher in the No. 21 Panoz, as well as Dirk Muller’s No. 92 BMW, who both got by the yellow-flamed Vette with about 20 minutes remaining.

“His car was similar to mine in terms of speed,” Curran said of Farnbacher’s Panoz. “The only downside of this Corvette right now is that it can’t maintain that pace, whether it’s the tires or our chassis setup. The car’s showing speed and we’re getting closer. We need to get it to be consistently fast.”

Tire compounds ended up playing a role here, as track temperatures soared to 112 degrees in the race, considerably higher than yesterday. Gigliotti admits they made the wrong call in using soft compound Dunlops instead of opting for a harder compound better suited for the warmer conditions. Other teams also appeared to make this mistake.



If funding comes through, Lou Gigliotti is hopeful of completing the season with he and co-driver Eric Curran. (John Dagys)

“It was all about tires today,” Gigliotti said. “Eric had stickers on and got six or seven laps on them, then [they started to go away]. He started running 1:17’s, then 1:18’s, and then dipped into the 1:20’s near the end and was hanging on for dear life.”

But despite the challenges, the Riley Corvette came home in fourth, the team’s best finish in the Series to date, and in only Curran’s third ALMS start. Lack of track time hurt many teams this weekend, and Curran thinks they could have had a more solid run if they had more time to dial in the car.

“We know the potential of this car and we’ll keep working on it,” Curran said. “The short amount of time here didn’t help us, either. This morning, I did one lap. We just needed more time. The car’s still under development, but it’s got a ton of progress. Running that thing up to second place was pretty exciting.”

LG Motorsports is currently entered for the next round at Long Beach, but Gigliotti says the team will not make the trip unless additional funding is found. In fact, some of this weekend’s expenses came out of Gigliotti’s own pocket, in an effort to showcase the team’s potential.

Without a doubt, Curran hopes to be back behind the wheel of the Riley Corvette soon, and will definitely be racing his Whelen Engineering Corvette in the SPEED World Challenge GT Series at Long Beach in two weeks’ time.

“I love that the American Le Mans Series is so competitive and there’s so many top-notch cars,” Curran said. “We’re out-classed in terms of budget compared to some of these teams. But here we are and we’re fighting hard, and we’re hoping to get some additional sponsorship and keep going with this. I think with some more test time and development, Lou and I could be a threat for these guys.”

Traffic on the Streets

With only 17 starters, you’d think traffic wouldn’t play a large factor in the race. But if you’re a LMP2 competitor, think again. Regulation changes during the off-season have put the smaller prototypes at reduced speeds, thanks to a larger restrictor and minimum weight increase.

The front straight was one of the only good places for the LMP2 cars to overtake the GT2 cars this weekend. P2 class winners Lowe’s Fernandez Racing had a trouble-free race, but also played a cautious approach when navigating through traffic. With a lower top-end speed, P2 cars such as Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz’s Acura ARX-01b have trouble overtaking slower GT cars, especially on the tight and twisty bits of the street circuit. And it may even prove to be a tougher challenge come Long Beach.

“For me in particular, it was extremely tough to pass the GT2’s with the weight and restrictor penalty we have this year [in LMP2],” Diaz said. “It was really, really tough. I can anticipate it being a nightmare with the [GT1] Corvettes at Long Beach for sure. We have to be extremely cautious. Compared to last year, we’re losing quite a bit more in traffic than this year.”

The Chase is on in GT2

It only takes one bad race for your championship hopes to fade away. Luckily, we’re only two events into the season, and there’s still plenty of time to rebound. But in the ultra-competitive world of GT2, every point could ultimately end up making a difference. That would be bad news for Risi Competizione, as the Sebring-winning Ferrari retired early on Saturday, scoring zero points.

St. Pete is one race Risi Competizione would like to forget. Pierre Kaffer started from the top spot after co-driver Jamie Melo put the ‘Rosso Red’ Ferrari F430 GT on the pole the day earlier. However, Kaffer made an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 27, with the Houston-based team discovering the car had suffered a broken right-front suspension. It was then retired shortly after.

“It's a shame for the team and the mechanics because we were in a good spot for the race and the championship, and to stop the race is a shame for us and for Ferrari,” Kaffer said. “There was no contact, nothing, with the wall or other people but I felt after 2 or 3 laps that something was wrong with the car.”

Risi held the GT2 championship lead heading into St. Pete, but now fall to third in the standings, behind race winners Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche, as well as the Panoz Team PTG pairing of Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James, who pulled off yet another third-place finish on Saturday.

Ten points now separate first from third, with the Panoz duo only four markers from the championship lead. And who would have thought that one of the fastest GT2 cars is not yet in the title mix? For the second straight race, Farnbacher Loles Racing suffered cruel luck as a brake line cut the Porsche’s right rear tire, shredding rubber into the suspension and causing a lengthy repair job. Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner had to settle for a seventh place finish, which in result lost them more ground in the GT2 championshipchase.

Briefly...

Our thoughts are with de Ferran Motorsports CEO, and former HPD President, Robert Clarke, who is the hospital tonight after sustaining head injuries from a fall off a golf cart Saturday morning. We’ll pass along more information as it becomes available.

David Murry proved that Sebring was no fluke. The Robertson Racing driver peddled his Doran Ford GT-R up into the GT2 class lead for a brief moment in the race, thanks to some clever pit strategy. Murry and co-driver Andrea Robertson were legitimately running as high as second at one point, but settled for a sixth place result. Hat’s off to the Dick Barbour-led team.

Primetime Race Group isn’t having much luck at one of its home tracks. The Hollywood, Fla.-based team suffered its second consecutive race-ending crash at St. Pete, after team owner/driver Joel Feinberg slammed his Dodge Viper Competition Coupe into the wall. One year ago, the Primetime Viper was totaled in a multi-car accident on the streets. Here’s to better luck next year.

Next Stop: Long Beach

Sunny Long Beach plays host to round three. There are currently 20 cars on the entry list for the April 18 race. From one street course to the other. In two weeks’ time, the Series will be in Southern California for the Long Beach Grand Prix. Once again another scenic, waterfront destination, Long Beach could throw up some different challenges for teams, as car setups will likely not be the same. Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Patrick Long explains:

“I think it’s a little tougher on setup at St. Pete because you have a lot more direction changes left and right. Where at Long Beach, there’s a lot more 90 degree radiuses, where you can be going toward the same direction, and it will succeed to work for you. In saying that, the weather and circuits are completely different, so there’s a lot of variable there. So I don’t think our setups will transfer straight to Long Beach, but we do have a head start.”
Posted on 08 Apr 2009 by garysweb1
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ALMS: IMSA GT3 Cup Cars Allowed Into Series
ALMS: IMSA GT3 Cup Cars Allowed Into Series Written by: ALMS Communications http://www.americanlemans.com 03/27/2009 - 06:38 PM Braselton, GA

In an effort to promote the brightest and best of a new generation of sports car drivers, the American Le Mans Series announced today that it will open its grid for five races in 2009 to the crème de la crème of GT3 and Challenge level drivers.

The first race of the “Challenge Class” for which GT3 Challenge Cup drivers will be eligible to compete will be the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City. Those eligible will include professional drivers and those from the ranks that don’t earn their living racing but who qualify because of their race-level experience. There will be no “Challenge Class” at Petit Le Mans or the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.


Select Patron IMSA GT3 Cup entries will be allowed to compete in 5 ALMS races this year. (ALMS)


“When the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) launched the GT3 Cup Series a few years ago, one of the primary goals was to develop future American Le Mans Series talent, and with this announcement today we take a big step forward in fulfillment of that goal,” said Series’ President and CEO Scott Atherton. “We believe this is a bold and innovative way to encourage the next generation of entrants for the classes that are eligible for Le Mans as well as for the teams involved in our development series. The addition of these teams and drivers will add new intrigue for the fans as well as the television audience as great new storylines emerge. It’s a win-win for all involved.”

IMSA will oversee selection of drivers in the “Challenge Class”, ensuring the appropriate level of driver experience. To be eligible, drivers and teams must have had notable success for at least a year within GT3 level of racing. In order to maintain the affordability of the class, the cars exclusively will be the Porsche 997 Cup car utilized in the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama. The Porsche 997 Cup car is one of the most widely raced cars in the world. The technical regulations will be virtually identical tothose used in that series, although the sporting regulations will be generally those used in the American Le Mans Series. The class will run on a spec Yokohama tire identical with the tire that has been successfully launched with the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama.

“By keeping the technical regulations consistent with our Challenge series, we will be able to keep the cost extremely reasonable, consistent with our desire to introduce a new generation of entrants for the Series,” said Tim Mayer, Chief Operating Officer of IMSA and the American Le Mans Series. “We have also seen in Europe that the mixture of professional drivers, along with drivers who drive at a professional level but make their living in other ways, is both popular and extremely effective.”

In the United States, the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama has been the fastest growing series among IMSA’s other sanctioned race series. Begun in 2005, it averaged nearly 30 entries per race a year ago and is perceived as a major rung in the sports car ladder.

"The American Le Mans Series’ Challenge Class creates a platform for qualified drivers to transition from Sprint racing to Endurance racing in a cost-effective manner,” says Paul Ritchie, President and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America. “It will allow the teams to build experience and resources before moving up within the classes of the Series. Porsche Motorsport North America is obviously excited to see more Porsches in the entry lists and will be there to fully support the teams with Parts and Electronic services as we do in all other series."

“The Challenge Class is a good idea not only for the American Le Mans Series and IMSA, but for Yokohama and the drivers as well,” says Mark Chung, Yokohama’s Director of Strategic Marketing. “It means increased exposure, and it will be an excellent opportunity for our new eco-friendly race tire.”
Posted on 28 Mar 2009 by garysweb1
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ALMS: An Epic Victory for Audi at Sebring
ALMS: An Epic Victory for Audi at SebringWritten by: ALMS Communications http://www.americanlemans.com 03/21/2009 - 09:44 PM
Sebring, FL

One slip up, one extra minute in the pits and the story might be different. Yet it’s a familiar story with a familiar ending – Audi debuts a new car with a victory at Sebring. The German marque posted win No. 1 for the Audi R15 TDI on Saturday as Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen beat Peugeot at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.


Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello gave Audi its debut victory with its all-new R15 TDI. (LAT)

McNish crossed the finish line 22.279 seconds ahead of Peugeot’s Franck Montagny in an epic battle between sports car racing’s two diesel powers. The two prototypes stayed on the same lap throughout the 12 hours in a carry-over from last year’s clashes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, also razor-thin Audi victories.

“This one for me this one was better than Le Mans because we came here with a new car and at the end of every stint it was at the maximum for the entire 12 hours,” Capello said. “To come here with a new car really says something for Audi.”

McNish took the lead for good at the 42-minute mark when Montagny made his final fuel-only stop. McNish clicked off fast lap after fast lap to build up enough of a gap to make a late splash for fuel with 14 minutes remaining and maintain his lead. McNish re-entered the track while Montagny was just entering the backstretch.

“I knew I had 55 seconds to get in and out with a comfortable gap,” McNish said. “But if a yellow came out after they pitted and prior to our stop, it was all out the window. We were lucky because I think everyone drove exceptionally well until the end. The poker aspect is played by the engineers not by the drivers; the pit strategy is by the guys behind the wall. We are just given instructions to do things and that was drive very, very quickly.”

The winning trio made the R15 TDI Audi’s third prototype to win in its race debut joining the R8 in 2000 and R10 TDI in 2006.

The two Audis and two Peugeot 908 HDis swapped the lead 23 times. The race also set records for fastest average speed (117.986 mph), distance covered (1,417 miles) and laps completed under the current 3.7-mile, 17-turn configuration (383).

“Coming with such a young car to such a tough race track and make the distance record with three yellows, it was really extraordinary and shows the know how from the last 3 cars - the R8, R10 and now R15,” said Kristensen, who won his record fifth overall race at Sebring and also owns a record eight Le Mans victories.“I was really impressed with what the team did the last few days. This is such a huge team effort. I am humble and proud to be a part of teams like this. Victories like Le Mans and Sebring belong to a lot of people, and that’s what I enjoy is sharing it.”

Montagny drove with fellow Frenchmen Sebastien Bourdais and Stephane Sarrazin. They combined to lead eight times and suffered a late setback when it pitted near the nine-hour mark with what the team feared was a punctured rear tire. The car replaced its rear tires on the emergency stop, which altered the strategy for the rest of the race.

The second Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner finished third. It led four times in the race.

Lowe’s Fernandez Racing captured its long-awaited first LMP2 victory for Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. The pairing’s Acura ARX-01b ran a strong and consistent race while Dyson Racing’s two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes struggled with mechanical issues.

“We just had to focus and keep a secure pace,” Diaz said. “After that it was just a matter of not losing the concentration. Lap after lap it’s hard to keep the concentration so it became a challenge of not making mistakes. The Dyson Mazdas did not score points and we got a lot, so it gives us a cushion. But our goal is to win every single race this year. That is the pressure for ourselves. We want to prove we are the best team.”

Saturday’s win was Acura’s second P2 victory in three years at Sebring. Fernandez and Diaz placed second in class behind the winning Andretti Green Racing trio of Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan in its inaugural run in 2007. Last year the duo finished third overall and in P2 before the car was excluded after post-race technical inspections.

It was the start of a season that saw much more bad luck than good for the Lowe’s Fernandez team.

“We should have won two or three races last year, and I feel really good about this win today,” Fernandez said. “You can’t relax too much so we tried to keep a good pace without being too conservative. After eight hours I kept trying to push it and learn what we could from the car. It’s great to start the season like this and I’m happy for Lowe’s to start out like this. This is good for us - a perfect race.”

Corvette Racing’s Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen scored their second straight GT1 victory as they teamed with Antonio Garcia in the final race for the GT1 version of the Corvette C6.R at Sebring. Magnussen crossed the finish line a lap ahead of Oliver Gavin, who teamed with Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fässler.

Antonio Garcia now adds a Sebring class win to his endurance racing accolades, which include a GT1 class win at Le Mans and January's overall victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. (LAT) » More PhotosO’Connell took the lead for good at the 51-minute mark, and the crew of the No. 3 entry kept the car out front with quick and efficient pit stops.

“It was a really good battle,” said O’Connell, who extended his record for Sebring victories to eight. “The No. 4 car had a better setup for qualifying, but we improved our car some and both cars were within 20-30 seconds throughout. We closed up during some cautions but our crew did a great job. The No. 4 car is full of fighters and they kept pushing every bit.”

The last race for Corvette Racing in GT1 will be the Long Beach round in mid-April. Then it’s off to the 24 Hours of Le Mans where the team will hope to close the C6.R’s GT1 career with a sixth victory in France. The team is scheduled to debut its GT2 car at Mid-Ohio in August.

“Sebring is a great place to prepare for Le Mans, even just the 12 hours with the bumps,” Magnussen said. “It’s a great way to start the year and find out where you are and how prepared you are. I think we are really ready to go to Le Mans with a shot at winning.”

Risi Competizione won in GT2 for the second time in three years, this time much easier than the team’s epic 2007 victory which it won in class by a race-record 0.202 seconds. Mika Salo took the checkered flag in Risi’s Ferrari F430 GT that he drove with Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo by two laps.

The trio had to start the back of the field after Melo could not arrive at the circuit until Friday morning. But the Ferrari took the lead in the second hour and never trailed again.

“I have to thank these two guys working on the setup this week, making a good setup for the race and making the sacrifice for me starting at the back,” Melo said. “It’s good to start with a win like this. And we get to see against the Porsches and the BMW to see how quick they can go. We still have a long way to go for the championship but this is a good start.”

The Ferrari’s main contenders fell by the wayside early on due to contact (Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Marc Lieb) and mechanical difficulties (Farnbacher Loles Racing’s pole-sitting Porsche of Dirk Werner, Wolf Henzler and Richard Lietz).

“We started from the back, but it was OK because we won last time from the back,” Salo said. “The GT cars could get spread out so you could do two or three laps by yourself. Winning is good. You always want it close but a win is great. Some laps the new Porsches could not keep it consistent, but we saw in the week they can do really quick laps but in the long run we can beat them.”

The Ferrari also caught a break when it was included in an early wave-by under caution to pick up the leading prototype. As a result the Ferrari gained nearly a full lap on nearly the rest of the field.

“I am really glad to be in the Ferrari family with good teammates that I can trust all the time,” said Kaffer, an overall winner with Audi in 2004. “It’s really nice and I have to say the guys did a really brilliant job. The mechanics did a great job getting the car prepared.”

The Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni, Mathias Russo and Luis Companc placed second for Ferrari’s first 1-2 GT2 finish at Sebring. Panoz Team PTG’s Panoz Esperante GTLM of Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James was third in class following a hard-fought battle with one of Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Porsches late in the race.

In the first race of the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge, the Corvette C6.R of Magnussen, O’Connell and Garcia was the top scoring car using a combination of overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact. The sister Corvette was second among GT entries followed by the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Seth Neiman, Darren Law and Johannes van Overbeek.

The race-winning Audi was the top scoring prototype in the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge while also setting records for distance covered, average speed and laps completed - a picture of performance and efficiency. The sister Audi placed second in the prototype standings with the Peugeot 908 HDi of Pedro Lamy, Nic Minassian and Christian Klien.
Posted on 27 Mar 2009 by garysweb1
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Pickett Wins in Trans-Am Return at Road Atlanta
Pickett Wins in Trans-Am Return at Road AtlantaWritten by: SCCA Communications http://www.scca.com 03/24/2009 - 02:36 PM Braselton, GA

Greg Pickett, of Benicia, Calif., captured his 17th-career Trans-Am win today at Road Atlanta, the season-opener for the Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series and the first Trans-Am race since 2006. Michael Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., and Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, completed the top three.

Greg Pickett was back to his winning ways in the Trans-Am series, taking first place ahead of SPEEDtv.com's Mike Skeen in the series' return after its closure in 2006. Driving the No. 6 Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR, Pickett started third behind polesitter Tony Ave’s No. 10 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford Mustang and Tomy Drissi’s No. 5 X-Men Origins – Wolverine Jaguar XKR and fell back another position at the start to fourth-starting R.J. Lopez, of Bal Harbour, Fla.

Ave built a six-second lead in the opening seven laps over Lopez, Drissi and Pickett. On lap eight, Lopez began to separate his No. 06 WabashPower.com/Mobil 1/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette from the pair of Jaguars and started to reel in Ave’s Mustang. Ten laps later, Lopez was all over Ave and took the lead on lap 20.

From there, Ave fell back into the clutches of the pair of Jaguars, eventually dropping from second to fourth on lap 24, with Pickett moving to second and Drissi remaining third.

All the while, Rookie Skeen, known to the road racing community from the 2008 television show Setup, was slicing through the field after starting last (19th) in his No. 70 Atlantic Autosport Chevrolet Corvette. Two laps later, he was clear of Ave with his sights set on the Jaguars of Drissi and Pickett.

In the meantime, Lopez drove away to a four second lead and looked to be in good shape to take a Trans-Am Series debut win. In traffic, Pickett was able to bring the gap down to the two second range, but on lap 32, it was back up to nearly three seconds. Eight corners later, it was all over, as the Corvette’s motor expired on the back straightaway without warning.

“It just went,” Lopez said. “I was 100 percent sure I had the win. I was starting to cruise, saw Pickett coming after the traffic and was able to pick the pace back up. Next time…”

At the same time Lopez’s motor was expiring, Ave tangled with another car and ended up in the Turn One gravel, ending a run that started with his first series pole earlier in the day. Both incidents brought out the full-course caution and when the field came around to be picked up by the pace car, Pickett was in front, with Drissi second and Skeen third.

As the cleanup ensued, it appeared that the final three would be locked in with the 36-lap, 91.44-mile contest ending under yellow, but on the final tour, Drissi’s Jaguar sputtered to a stop with a fuel pickup problem, promoting Skeen to second and Ruman’s No. 30 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Corp Chevrolet Corvette to third.

“This is a little fairy tale, winning the first race in the series that Muscle Milk sponsors,” Pickett said. “I’m just tickled for the SCCA and our Muscle Milk brand. Trans-Am is back!

“It was a difficultrace. I’ve done a lot of these races, and you can’t push too hard—it just won’t work over the course of a race. RJ [Lopez] was going faster than I wanted to go at that point. But he was gradually coming back to me. It was too bad for him, but look—we have two GT-1 cars on the podium. That’s fantastic. We need more people to bring their GT-1 cars out to race with us in Trans-Am!”

Skeen earned the Flowmaster Star of the Race Award and the Sunoco Hard Charger of the race for his drive from 19th to second. He set a new Trans-Am Series lap record during his run to the front of 1:22.650 (110.635 mph). Skeen was visibly exhausted after the race.

“This is our first race this long and I don’t have a cool suit,” Skeen said. “In fact, we’ve only had the car a month and weren’t really sure we were coming until last week. In qualifying, we had a wheel separate and didn’t turn a time. We knew we would have a good pace because we were good in practice and that was on old tires—we only had one set of sticker tires.

“From the start, we just went for all the marbles. I knew I was catching the Jaguars, and figured Tony [Ave] was running away. Toward the end, I was starting to get hot, but I was still keeping up. It’s great to finish second.”

Ruman started sixth and ran seventh for the first 20 laps before gradually moving up as other cars retired. When, Drissi stopped on course on the final lap, she wasn’t sure what to do and didn’t realize where she’d finished until after the checkered flag fell.

“This is just awesome,” Ruman, who equaled her father Bob Ruman’s best finish of third, said. “This McNichols team has worked so hard for so long. [Jeff] Emery and I were battling for a long time and when I got clear, I was about 14-15 seconds off the cars ahead of me and we were trying to close in and were beginning to. It really fell our way today in the end.”

Ruman’s accomplishment was particularly impressive as she was competing with a 310ci engine in a sea of larger-displacement powerplants.

John Schaller, of Fort Myers, Fla., moved from eighth on the grid to finish fourth in his No. 08 JRS Motorsport/Central Power Distribution Chevrolet Camaro, followed by Drissi, who was the first car one lap down.

Daniel Ramoutarsingh (Jaguar), Jon “Chevy” Leavy (Camaro), Bob Monette (Corvette), Glen Jung (Mazda RX-7) and Rob Foster (Corvette) completed the top 10.

After the race, Pickett revealed that he would donate his winnings to series programs that help GT-1 racers get to future Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series events.

The series next travels to VIRginia International Raceway April 17-19 as part of the North Carolina Region Double National weekend. For more information, please visit www.sccatrans-am.com
Posted on 27 Mar 2009 by garysweb1
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