GT – Wide Open for Wide Action at Road America

August 21, 2010

GT – Wide Open for Wide Action at Road America

August 21, 2010

BMW scored a 1-2 finish at Road America in 2009 and seeks their first win of 2010 this weekend. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Don’t blink when watching the GT class in the American Le Mans Series. All the class’s competitors know that even a blink could cost them several positions in the field entering the seventh round of the season at Road America.

Risi Ferrari rebounded with its third win of the season at Mid-Ohio, with Jaime Melo delivering a sensational passing maneuver on both Rahal Letterman BMWs into the Keyhole. Melo and Gianmaria Bruni closed to within 8 points of Flying Lizard Porsche’s Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long.

BMW and Porsche have differing prospects entering Road America. The nature of the circuit, primarily the number of long straights, plays to the advantage of the front engine BMW M3, which has a large amount of torque to launch off the corners onto the straights. BMW capitalized last season at this race with a 1-2 finish in class, the first for the Rahal Letterman BMW program, and the win for American counterparts Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand.

Auberlen now drives with Tommy Milner, Hand with Dirk Mueller, but either pairing could score the team’s first win of the season this weekend. The Auberlen/Milner No. 92 car has five podium finishes from six starts, the Hand/Mueller No. 90 three in six this season, without a win.

The Lizards, meanwhile, expect this to be a challenging race. The lighter, mid-engined Porsche 911 GT3 RSR lacks the same grunt and might suffer in straight line speed, which is crucial. But you can be assured Bergmeister and Long will be fighting their hardest as they always do to keep their championship lead.

And this battle has not yet even mentioned Corvette – which shows you how close this class is. Corvette Racing had by far its best race of the season at Mid-Ohio with both the No. 3 and No. 4 Corvette ZR1s at the top of the leaderboard in practice and qualifying sessions at some point, and the No. 4 finishing second in class only a half-second back of the winning Risi Ferrari. Now into the run of tracks which the team has prior data to work with after running their new GT2-specification car last year, Corvette is closer to the front of the pack than they were earlier in the season.

Risi and Lizard’s second cars may not necessarily figure in the battle for class victory but each is still a major player. Risi’s second car, now with Mika Salo and Pierre Kaffer back in the No. 61 for the first time since Lime Rock, won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge in GT there and will threaten the establishment since they don’t have points to worry about.

Additionally, the No. 44 Lizard Porsche of Seth Neiman and Darren Law (also back after missing Mid-Ohio), has a MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge win under its belt this season (Sebring) and will work to help their teammates in the No. 45.

Add in the two Extreme Speed Ferraris with Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp, Guy Cosmo and Ed Brown, plus the Falken Porsche, Robertson Ford and RSR Jaguar and the GT class remains as big a barnburner as ever.

See also: Highcroft Seeks Road America Three-Peat

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