Dijyano – Balancing Act

July 11, 2010

Dijyano – Balancing Act

July 11, 2010

The No. 37 Intersport Lola AER was 27 mph faster down the front straight than the Highcroft HPD, the second fastest behind the Autocon Lola by 3 mph. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Balancing the performance of race cars is an impossible challenge for series organizers and sanctioning bodies worldwide, so it should be no surprise that performance balancing is a hot topic here at Miller Motorsports Park for the fourth stop of the 2010 American Le Mans Series.

While attempting to combine the LMP1 and LMP2 prototype classes into a single class at most 2010 events, the ALMS faces a different challenge here in the 4,500 ft elevation outside Salt Lake City.

Saturday morning, the defending series champion Patron Highcroft prototype was a stunning 30 miles per hour slower than the turbocharged Autocon Lola prototype on the main straightaway. The Intersport Racing Lola was 27 mph faster than Highcroft. Even the smaller engined LMP2 based Dyson Racing Mazda was 12 mph faster down the straight.

And, it is not just the Highcroft car that looked like it was tied to a stake on the straightaways. The naturally aspirated (non-turbo) Drayson Lola Judd and Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder were also struggling.

While turbocharged cars like the Autocon, Intersport and Dyson entries are expected to have an advantage over non-turbo cars in thinner air, the differences from the IMSA/ALMS sector timing reports on Saturday morning were staggering.

In the sector from the center of the final turn to pit-out, the Intersport Lola to the was a staggering 1.5 seconds quicker than the Highcroft prototype in just a 15-second sector of the track. The gap to the Dyson Lola was 0.8 of a second in the morning. The Highcroft team worked feverishly to narrow that gap pushing to find the balance that would permit them to carry whatever speed they have as momentum around the entire circuit.

So what happened? In qualifying the Highcroft car, driven by defending race champion Simon Pagenaud, won the pole followed by Jonny Cocker in the Drayson car. The Dyson Mazda came third, with Klaus Graf in the Muscle Milk Porsche fourth. The Intersport car qualified fifth, followed by Autocon.

The sector gap from Intersport to Highcroft was reduced from 1.5 seconds to 1.0 seconds, while the gap from Highcroft to Dyson fell to 0.3 seconds.

But the race may prove a different story as the straight-line speed of the turbo cars should be a big advantage at the start, in traffic and on restarts.

Ironically, in the GT category, featuring factory supported teams from Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and Corvette, all of the cars are within a few tenths of a second over the same track sector. The top seven GT cars, all naturally aspirated, were covered by 0.355 seconds in qualifying. Looks like ALMS has that one pretty close.

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