Saturday’s ALMS event at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca provided much excitement across many different fields. All eyes were focused on the first race of the day in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Yokohama. In which we saw some very entertaining and close racing and the chequered flag was secured by Bryce Miller in the number 35 TruSpeed Motorsports car, second place went to Henrique Cisneros and third to Carlos Kauffmann in the NGT Motorsport cars. Results for Saturdays race can be found here.
This was a great appertiser to the weekends main event the ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón. However before we got to see the ALMS race take place we got to catch a glimpse of the Unlimited Racing Championship (URC) Series. The URC series will feature identical NuArt CanAM cars.
The NuArt CanAm cars are purpose-built from the ground up and engineered for safety, aerodynamics, driver comfort and speed. These magnificent cars feature spectacular 700+ horsepower, big-block V-8 motors and state-of-the-art aerospace quality components with an emphasis on safety.
“This project was years in the making,” said Richard Nauert, founder of the Unlimited Racing Championship and designer of the NuArt CanAm car. “We analyzed the original Can-Am cars, remaining true to the visual, as well as spiritual concept. Components like big-block engines, 12-inch steel brakes, and Can-Am intakes were just some of the historical elements we maintained in the NuArt CanAm car. Despite the tribute to the originals cars, at the same time, they are particularly relevant to the American Le Mans Series because we loaded them with modern technology. The technology is specifically to make them safe, have longevity, and be flexible for a wide range of driver skills.”
The format includes eight races; two 30-minute races on four American Le Mans Series circuits beginning in 2012. Cars will be fully prepped for the owner/driver by the URC series organizer and ready to race at each venue.
After the URC cars had their track time we were blessed with some vintage Mazda machinery the 1990 GTO Mazda RX-7
and the Mazda RX-792P, which roared around the race track. I was hoping the Mazda 787B would make it out on the track but today wasn’t its day, maybe next year.
To the race itself, it started with the Mazda on pole, however that wasn’t to be at the end of the race. Aston Martin Racing claimed its first overall win in the American Le Mans Series. The Dyson Racing and BMW Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan both secured driver and team championships in the GT class.
Stefan Mucke, Adrian Fernandez and Harold Primat won the six-hour event in their Aston Martin-powered Lola coupe. The Aston Martin battled all day with Lola-Mazdas fielded by Dyson Racing and Oryx Dyson Racing, as well as its sister car the Lola-Aston Martin fielded by Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing.
“It is a great result for us all. The team did a perfect job, as did the drivers,” Mucke said. “Nobody made a mistake and [the car] was fast today. It’s our first win in the American Le Mans Series, and the race started well, but then we had contact twice and after that, we never thought we could win. I am really happy and thanks to everybody.” The Aston had just arrived that week from England where it had competed the previous weekend at an endurance event at Silverstone.
Mucke passed Dyson’s Jay Cochran in the last hour of the race. However, Cochran brought the Dyson Lola-Mazda home in second place, good enough to wrap up the LMP1 driver championship for his teammates, Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. Dyson Racing also won its first ALMS teams’ championship since 2003 when it claimed the title in the old LMP675 class.
In GT, Long and Bergmeister swapped the top spot with the leading Ferraris and BMWs during the entire six-hour event, with Joerg making the final pass with less than 500 yards to go as the leading #62 Risi Ferrari ran out of gas just before the checkered flag. Last year, it was Long passing the #56 BMW late in the race, and, in 2009, it was Bergmeister edging the #4 Corvette right at the finish line. It seems that the drivers always like to leave it to the very last moment to make the move for first place.
After being the class champions for the last two years, 2011 has been a disappointing year for the pair with only one podium finish (Lime Rock) to their credit, so this first win of the season was a satisfying one, according to Bergmeister. “We have had a very good car on multiple occasions, only to have something bad happen, either our fault or someone else’s,” said Bergmeister, who also won the GT championship in 2008 with Flying Lizard Motorsports and co-driver Wolf Henzler.
Long pointed out that the Lizards’ strategy for this race was to protect the car and stay away from the pushing and bumping that had been creeping into the class, but it just didn’t work today.
“During Joerg’s opening stint, there was rough driving right from the start, and we laid back, choosing to let the officials handle the consequences. When things didn’t calm down, we just tried to stay on the track, race hard, and be there at the end, and we put ourselves in position to win with the right amount of fuel, good tires, and a fast car,” said Patrick.
After the race, the #62 Risi Ferrari was penalized 90 seconds for avoidable contact with the Lizard Porsche, which pushed them from third to sixth place. The other Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs did not have such a good day. The #17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Bryan Sellers (USA) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) aboard was hit by a GT Challenge car early in the race, shattering the water pump, crushing the airbox, and bending the chassis. The second Lizard Porsche (Seth Neiman/Marco Holzer was ninth, and the Paul Miller Racing Porsche of Sascha Maassen/Bryce Miller was tenth after shearing the pins to the wheel in the left rear upright. Although the Dirk Mueller/Joey Hand BMW clinched the driver’s championship, Porsche is still in the running for the top spot in the manufacturers championship.
The very impressive Porsche 911 GT3 R hybrid was the highest-finishing GT car although it officially competed as an unclassified entry. Romain Dumas and Richard Lietz completed 236 laps, the same as Bergmeister and Long. “The drivers like to say it’s about the power – the four-wheel-drive and 200 extra horsepower generated from stored braking energy, but the Porsche hybrid racing system is much more than that. It’s generating those things with fewer pit stops and more efficiency. Beating this world-class field of factory GT cars is really something special for us,” said Romain Dumas, French-born Porsche factory driver and former ALMS GT and LMP2 champion. Level 5 Motorsports debuted its new HPD ARX 01g with an LMP2 victory and a fourth-place finish overall. Luis Diaz, Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker split driving duties for the team. In the LMP Challenge class, Genoa Racing turned its good fortune into a victory and class championship lead. Elton Julian, Eric Lux and Michael Guasch finished just 0.329 second ahead of Core Autosport’s Gunnar Jeannette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Eric Lux. The result moved Genoa into the lead of the team championship and Lux into first place in the drivers’ chase. TRG’s Spencer Pumpelly beat Jeroen Bleekemolen for the GT Challenge victory by four seconds. Pumpelly took the lead in the last five minutes of the race.
1. Stefan Mucke, Germany; Adrian Fernandez, Paradise Valley, Ariz.; Harold Primat, Switzerland; AMR/Lola Coupe B09 60 Aston (1, LMP1), 248 laps
2. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, New York; Guy Smith, Bracken, Yorkshire, U.K.; Jay Cochran, Palm Beach, Fla.; Lola B09 86/Mazda (2, LMP1), 245
3. Butch Leitzinger, Rebersburg, Pa.; Steven Kane, Newtownards, Northern Ireland; Humaid Al Masaood, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Lola B09/86 Mazda (3, LMP1), 245
4. Scott Tucker, Leawood, Kan.; Christophe Bouchut, Paris, France; Luis Diaz, Mexico City, Mexico; HPD ARX-01g (4, LMP2), 241
5. Eric Lux, Jacksonville, Fla.; Elton Julian, Santa Monica, Calif.; Michael Guasch, Pleasant Hill, Calif.; Oreca FLM09 (1, LMPC), 241
6. Ricardo Gonzalez, Monterrey, Mexico; Rudy Junco Jr., Monterrey, Mexico; Gunnar Jeannette, Salt Lake City, Utah; Oreca FLM09 (2, LMPC), 241
7. David Ducote, Houston, Texas; Chapman Ducote, Miami Beach, Fla.; Kyle Marcelli, Barrie, Ontario, Canada; Oreca FLM09 (3, LMPC),239
8. Frankie Montecalvo, Highlands, New Jersey; Andy Wallace, London, England; Jon Bennett, Fort Mill, South Carolina; Oreca FLM09 (4, LMPC), 239
9. Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, Calif; Luca Moro, Amsterdam; Ricardo Vera, Ponce, Puerto Rico; Oreca FLM09 (5, LMPC), 237
10. Romain Dumas, Ales, France; Richard Lietz, Ybbsitz, Austria; Porsche GT3R Hybrid (6, UNC), 236
11. Patrick Long, Bellaire, Fla.; Jörg Bergmeister, Langenfield, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (1, GT), 236
12. Joey Hand, Sacramento, Calif; Dirk Müller, Monte Carlo, Monaco; BMW M3 GT (2, GT), 236
13. Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, Calif; Scott Sharp, Jupiter, Fla.; Ferrari F458 Italia (4, GT), 236
14. Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, Calif.; Dirk Werner, Kissenbruck, Germany; BMW M3 GT (5, GT), 236
15. Oliver Gavin, Yardley Hastings, UK; Jan Magnussen, Roskilde, Denmark; Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 (6, GT), 236
16. Jaime Melo, Cascavel, Brazil; Toni Vilander, Kankaanpaa, Finland; Ferrari F458 Italia (3, GT), 236
17. Anthony Nicolosi, Palm Beach, Fla.; Jarrett Boon, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jan-Dirk Lueders; Oreca FLM09 (7, LMPC), 235
18. Olivier Beretta, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Tommy Milner, Leesburg, Va.; Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 (7, GT), 235
19. Henri Richard, Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Rene Villeneuve, Woodland Hills, Calif.; Ken Dobson, Carmel Valley, Calif.; Oreca FLM09 (8, LMPC), 232
20. Guy Cosmo, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Ed Brown, Las Vegas, Nev.; Ferrari F458 Italia (8, GT), 231
21. Marco Holzer, Austrial; Seth Neiman, San Francisco, Calif.; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (9, GT), 230
22. Sascha Maassen, Lontzen, Germany; Bryce Miller, Summit, New Jersey; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (10, GT), 224
23. Spencer Pumpelly, Mason Neck, Va.; Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif.; Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, New York; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (1,GTC), 222
24. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Haarlem, The Netherlands; Tim Pappas, Boston, Mass.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (2, GTC), 222
25. Damien Faulkner, County Donegal, Ireland; Peter LeSaffre, Rye, New Hampshire; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (3, GTC), 221
26. Tony Burgess, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, Ariz.; Bryan Willman, Kirkland, Wa.; Lola B06/10 (4, LMP1), 220
27. Shane Lewis, Jupiter, Fla.; Bill Sweedler, Westport, Conn.; Brian Wong, Newport Beach, Calif.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (5, GTC), 220
28. Alex Welch, Englewood, Colo.; James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (6, GTC), 220
29. Dion von Moltke, Coral Gables, Fla.; Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, Calif.; Emilio Di Guida, Caracas, Venezuela; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (7, GTC), 216
30. Martin Ragginger, Salzburg, Austria; Carlos Kauffmann, Miami, Fla.; Henrique Cisneros, Miami, Fla; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (8, GTC), 215
31. Nick Ham, Evergreen, Colo.; Chris Thompson, Englewood, Colo.; Scott Blackett, Avon, Colo.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (9, GTC), 213
32. Lucas Luhr, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Klaus Graf, Dornham, Germany; AMR/Lola Coupe B08 62 (10, LMP1), 200
33. Bruno Junqueira, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Kenny Wilden, Oakville, Ontario; Jaguar XKR (11, GT), 186
34. Bryan Sellers, Braselton, Ga.; Wolf Henzler, Nuertingen, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (12, GT), 101 (crash)
35. Cort Wagner, Pacific Palisades, Calif.; Michael Aventatti, Los Angeles, Calif.; Bob Faieta, Tujunga, Calif.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (11, GTC), 96 (radiator)
36. P.J. Jones, Torrance, Calif.; Rocky Moran Jr, Ladera Ranch, Calif.; Jaguar XKR (13, GT), 5 (suspension)