GT Battle At The Bullring On Tap
GT Battle At The Bullring On Tap
With 15 cars, GT is the most populated of the four classes competing at this week’s Northeast Grand Prix, the third round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series. BMW has opened its account with two wins in two starts, but will have a challenging fight on its hands with Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette to stay atop the charts at the “bullring” that is Lime Rock Park.
For its success in 2011, BMW does not enter Lime Rock as the favorite — that honor, or burden, perhaps — falls to Flying Lizard Porsche. The Sonoma, Calif.-based squad has captured the last four GT class races at Lime Rock, no small accomplishment at any circuit, let alone at a track as tight and demanding as the 1.474-mile park road course.
JÃ¶rg Bergmeister and Patrick Long seek their third straight win as teammates here; it would be Bergmeister’s sixth straight as well if they can deliver a victory to jumpstart a championship defense. Adding support in the second car are Seth Neiman and Marco Holzer, who makes his first “regular” race start in ALMS after two previous starts in endurance races.
In 2010, BMW still finished second and third at Lime Rock. Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller have won the first two races and are out to an early lead in the class championship, and Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner are always contenders for podiums.
Corvette enters Lime Rock riding a wave of momentum from a dramatic and comeback victory in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Tommy Milner delivered a series of stunning stints to overcome a one-lap deficit to the class leaders after an unscheduled pit stop, and along with Olivier Beretta seek the team’s first win of the season. That honor could also fall to their teammates, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen.
Risi Ferrari may take the spoils, too. The new F458 Italia has shown a strong amount of pace in races so far in the U.S. and Europe, and Risi drivers Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander just won their class last week in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in Italy.
Although Risi has not won its class at Lime Rock since 2004, they have to say they will be in contention. They did capture the GT win in the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge at Lime Rock last year.
Sister Ferrari squad Extreme Speed will also look to figure in the mix after a strong qualifying effort at Lime Rock last year. The last of the Michelin technical partner teams (all of the above except BMW), Robertson Racing resumes with two of its Doran Ford GT-Rs after missing Long Beach but registering a podium finish in the GTE Am class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with David and Andrea Robertson and David Murry. The Robertsons share one car, while Murry shifts to the team’s all-pro lineup with 2004 Lime Rock GT class winner Anthony Lazzaro.
Additionally, efforts from JaguarRSR and Paul Miller and Falken Porsche have also improved in the first two races of the season, and the Le Mans break will have given each of them a chance to further development and move even closer to the leaders.
Add in that this is the shortest track on the ALMS calendar, and the action will be especially non-stop in class. Strategy pays a vital part as a green flag pit stop here will cost more time than at a much bigger circuit.