LMP – CytoSport on Highcroft’s Heels Entering Mid-Ohio

August 5, 2010

LMP – CytoSport on Highcroft’s Heels Entering Mid-Ohio

August 5, 2010

CytoSport's win at Lime Rock closed the gap on Highcroft entering Mid-Ohio. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Things open up a bit with the course length at the sixth round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series season, but they have closed up in the championship chase. The “bullring” 1.53-mile road course at Lime Rock Park is in the past and the series resumes after a week off to start a stretch of three races in four weekends at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Mid-Ohio has two fairly long straights, with a run into the “Keyhole,” Turn 2 and then a stretch down the backstraight into Turn 4 with a right-handed kink in the middle of it the longest stretch and best passing opportunity. Mid-Ohio is also unique as the race starts on the backstraight but the timing and finish line is on the frontstraight out of Turn 13.

After the straights come two very technical sections with a number of elevation changes, and shifts between right and left-hand turns. The sections are The Esses and Thunder Valley, respectively.

“This track throws a lot of different challenges at you with a variety of corners, elevation changes, and grip levels,” said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin ALMS technical team leader. “Under the current rules, our Prototype teams are much slower in straight-line speed than the competition so we need to really deliver outstanding cornering power and longevity to help our Michelin teams win.”

A total of 34 cars including 13 prototypes, split 7 and 6 between LMP and LMPC, will attempt to conquer one of the series’ toughest racetracks.

It’s a battle of Michelin technical partner teams at the top of the standings. Klaus Graf closed the championship gap to David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud to just seven points (107-100) entering Mid-Ohio.

Graf, co-driver with Greg Pickett of the Muscle Milk Team CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder, fended off a late race challenge from Brabham in the Patron Highcroft HPD ARX 01-c to secure the team’s first overall win at Lime Rock. Pickett would be tied with Graf had he not missed Round 3 of the championship in Monterey due to business commitments.

Pagenaud won overall at Mid-Ohio last year while Brabham’s car sustained damage after contact early in the race with one of the GTC cars. Brabham and Scott Sharp still finished second. The Graf/Pickett pairing made its debut with the Porsche at this race and finished second in the LMP2 class, with the result starting a streak of nine consecutive podium finishes entering this weekend.

Four teams running Lola chassis comprise the majority of the class, and three of them look to bounce back from disappointing runs at Lime Rock. Both the Dyson Lola Mazda and Drayson Lola Judd Coupes led overall early there, but faltered due to mechanical issues. Intersport Lola looks for a solid weekend in the team’s home race with Jon and Clint Field behind the wheel.

While Autocon Lola returns after missing Lime Rock, Libra Racing makes its ALMS debut with a Radical IES driven by Andrew Prendeville and Chris Buncombe to complete the seven-car LMP class.

The LMPC finish at Lime Rock was quite stunning. Green Earth Team Gunnar’s Gunnar Jeannette ran out of fuel on his final lap but as he had completed the same number of laps before the second placed-car, he and Elton Julian were scored as class winners for the second time this season. With their top rivals in the championship not able to start, Jeannette closed to within four points of Level 5’s Scott Tucker. Tucker’s co-driver in the No. 55 Christophe Bouchut did not score at Lime Rock and is now a further nine points back (104-100-91).

Jeannette’s performances have been especially noteworthy for his efficiency on his sets of MICHELIN® tires. In the last two races, Jeannette’s car did not need a tire change at the two hour, 45-minute race at Salt Lake City, and needed only to replace one of the front tires at Lime Rock due to a puncture sustained from debris.

Other notes in LMPC are the return of defending LMP2 class champion Luis Diaz to prototypes, as Diaz and Ricardo Gonzalez join the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen car, and IMSA Lites competitor Frankie Montecalvo makes his ALMS debut in the No. 36 Genoa entry, which again carries the colors of Green Earth Team Gunnar.

See also Lizards Lead, Others Chase Into Mid-Ohio

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