ALMS Update at Dawn

June 12, 2010

ALMS Update at Dawn

June 12, 2010

The No. 82 Risi Ferrari and No. 64 Corvette C6 ZR1 engaged in a great battle for the GT2 class lead at Le Mans before the Ferrari retired. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

The pitch black overnight period is nearing an end as the sun is about to rise on Sunday at Le Mans, the last day of an eventful and sometimes draining week.

For the American Le Mans Series teams and drivers competing at Le Mans, this is when their seasons can be made with a win or podium in the endurance classic. All the preparations, planning, setup, practice and qualifying culminate with a result at 3:00 local time on Sunday afternoon.

Corvette Racing is in prime position to win their GT2 debut at Le Mans. After a decade in the GTS/GT1 ranks, Corvette’s new GT2-spec C6 ZR1 runs 1-2 in the class this morning. It would be a popular win for Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan and the Corvette Racing crew, who celebrate their 50th anniversary at Le Mans this year.

Sadly, the race has ended in retirement for two top GT2 contenders. The Flying Lizard Porsche’s string of bad luck at Le Mans continued with a radiator issue in the first six hours and the end for the No. 80 car of Joerg Bergmeister, Darren Law and Seth Neiman.

Meanwhile the streak of six consecutive major endurance race victories will not reach number seven for the No. 82 Risi Ferrari. Niggling gearbox issues have blighted the charge of Jaime Melo, Gianmaria Bruni and Pierre Kaffer. Despite starting last in GT2, the car came through the field to the lead and contended for victory. Their teammates Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele lost time early due to contact but returned and are looking for a top-ten finish in class. 

Highcroft Racing’s Le Mans debut has involved a full-race battle with its sister HPD ARX 01-c of Strakka Racing. Highcroft has run second for most of the race with drivers David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner. They are having an impressive first run at Circuit de la Sarthe, and also working to promote aid to Africa with the Miles to End Malaria program.

Despite Lord Paul Drayson’s unquestioned passion and enthusiasm for Le Mans, it’s been a race plagued with mechanical issues on the Drayson Racing Lola Judd Coupe. But that said, Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Emanuele Pirro have kept the car running and are looking toward finishing the team’s first event – it’s already the furthest this new prototype Drayson purchased last year has gone in a race.

Peugeot , Audi and Aston Martin have made several appearances in the ALMS, and they are the favorites to take the overall win and unofficial “top gasoline prototype” honors. The No. 2 Peugeot has had a trouble-free race to this point and the No. 007 Lola Aston Martin has run in the top 10 overall the entire race. ALMS veterans Audi have run closer to the front than was anticipated with their R15 Plus TDIs.

Simon Pagenaud, Patrick Long, Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut are all drivers racing for different teams at Le Mans, but Long is the only one of that quartet still running. Pagenaud’s No. 3 Peugeot retired in the third hour with a broken suspension, while Tucker and Bouchut’s step up to an Audi R10 TDI from their LMPC Oreca in ALMS has just ended in the 13th hour. Long’s European Porsche, the No. 76 Imsa Performance entry (no tie-in with the ALMS sanctioning body), runs fourth in GT2.

Additional ALMS teams Michael Lewis/Autocon and RSR Jaguar made the start of Le Mans and had the experience of being there, but both teams’ races were fruitless. The Autocon Lola AER retired on the first lap and the RSR Jaguar also was garage-bound within the first half hour.

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