The GT Fight

April 12, 2013

The GT Fight

April 12, 2013


Q.What do you get when you take some of the world’s top manufacturers, drivers, engineers and independent teams and throw them together in well-matched cars on a classic 1.968-mile street circuit?

A. The GT class of the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, and arguably the closest thing to a two-hour, 10-man WWE cage match on wheels.

Consider: Corvette, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari have all claimed GT victories in the first six years of the ALMS round here in Long Beach and they are now joined by a factory backed pair of SRT Vipers. Add in: Seven of the 20 drivers in the class have wins here at Long Beach.

The GT roster starts with the defending race and ALMS GT champion #4 Corvette Racing duo of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner and the #3 Corvette with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Mags also has a 2008 GT1 class victory here with Corvette.

_RD48289BMW Team RLL, led by former Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal, rolls out a potent pair of new BMW Z4 GTEs as Redondo Beach’s Bill Auberlen and newcomer Maxime Martin wheel the #55 BMW while Sacramento’s Joey Hand and co-driver Dirk Müller, the 2011 Long Beach GT winners, hustle the #56.

Ferrari counters with a distinctive 1-2 independent punch. The 2007 GT winning #62 Risi Competizione team has a Ferrari 458 Italia led by Olivier Beretta, a two-time GT1 class winner here, teamed with newcomer Matteo Malucelli. Also flying the Ferrari flag is the new West Racing/Alex Job Yokohama Ferrari with drivers Townsend Bell of San Luis Obispo paired with Bill Sweedler.

Porsche also goes the independent team route with factory driver Wolf Henzler joining the Derrick Walker led Team Falken and co-driver Bryan Sellers, while Porsche factory shoe Marco Holzer joins Bryce Miller aboard the Paul Miller Racing Porsche.

Adding fresh spice to the match and firing the passion of the Viper Nation is the first-ever Long Beach appearance for the new SRT Viper factory squad led by Bill Riley. Dominik Farnbacher, a 2008 Long Beach GT winner, is joined aboard the #91 Viper by Marc Goossens, while Monterey’s Jonathan Bomarito is paired with Canadian ace Kuno Wittmer in the #93.

_RD41796The Corvette, BMW, SRT Viper factory pairs and Risi Ferrari and Paul Miller Porsche will all race with the ultra-successful MICHELIN® tall front tires.

With cars so closely matched, qualifying, pit stops and precise handling are all important factors. So too is traffic, as the GT cars deal with the faster prototypes of varying speeds and, in turn, encounter the slower GT Challenge class cars.

While the two-hour race length makes it possible for the GT cars to complete the race on a single pit stop, the timing of any yellow caution periods may also dictate strategy. Teams will try to gain track position through pit and tire strategies.

GT and P1 drivers need to complete only 15 minutes in the car. The co-driver can take the balance. That opens up a big range of options for pit strategies. Look for some of the two car teams to consider splitting pit strategies.

To win on the streets, sometimes you have to take some chances. And sometimes you get run over by the guy you didn’t see coming.


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