(Eric van de Poele is the defending champion of this event and finished second in the 1997 inaugural round, both times with co-driver Wayne Taylor. van de Poele, driver of the #0 Team Rafanelli Riley & Scott Mk III/Judd Prototype entry, is ranked 25th in the Prototype class with 43 points going into the final race of the 1999 American Le Mans Series schedule at Las Vegas. With co-driver Domenico "Mimmo" Schiattarella, van de Poele led the most laps and recorded the fastest lap en route to victory at Road Atlanta's spring race. The San Diego, Calif., resident was injured at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and missed the next three ALMS rounds. He made his return to the cockpit at the Petit Le Mans, finishing sixth.)
A LAP OF LAS VEGAS By Eric van de Poele
Introduction: Generally speaking, I would like to say racing at Las Vegas is quite good for everybody because it's another part of the world, something different there. I'm talking now about the hotels, things like this. It's very special. Also, it will be the first track of the year where we're going to be at a speedway. It will be something new for everybody. We will have to work on this and especially for tires, it will be quite hard and warm there. There are very long corners and acceleration when you go on the speedway portion of the course. I am also very happy to be returning to Las Vegas because the last two races I did there were quite good. We won last year. We beat the Panoz team and the race was fantastic. The year before, we finished second.
Our Start/Finish line is the normal Start/Finish line of the Speedway. It's kind of the straight of the race track which would be the fastest part of the track but it's still in a little bit of a corner. There are several places where you can go . You can drive over the banking or not. We must be very careful because of camber change and when you are in traffic, sometimes cars spin just for this reason. Generally speaking, we stay inside.
Turns 1/2: This first chicane, a left-right combination, is very fast. We shift down to a very high second gear. It's quite quick for a chicane and we need a really good speed at the exit.
Turns 3/4: This is a very long left-hand corner that takes you into the infield. It's quite slow in the beginning but you accelerate in third gear. It's all in the acceleration which is very hard for the tires. The corner (3) opens until we join the back straight of the oval where the top speed is quite fast as we are then in fifth gear. In this particular left-hand corner (4), it's quite narrow and also there's some grass and no curbs at the exit. You must be very careful not to put your wheels off there.
Turn 5: Then, we have a very hard brake for the hairpin, a left-hand corner, which is turn 5. It's a great place for overtaking! Now we are in the infield. Here, we have to work a lot on the car to really find good speed and traction in this twisty corner.
Turns 6/7: From the hairpin, we shift up two gears to third (with a five-speed gearbox) for turn 6 which is a left-hand corner and then prepare for turn 7 on the right which is a medium-speed corner. When you finish (turn) 6, you stay flat in acceleration for turn 7 providing you have the right set-up for the car.
Turns 8/9: Then, you have another brake for turn 8, a right-hand corner, which is taken in second gear. If I remember, it's really a tricky corner because (turns) 8 and 9 act like one corner and also again, it's in acceleration. Basically, the car must be set up for an acceleration corner. At turn 9, you finish this right-hand corner very fast and close to the wall on the left. It's a high speed corner and a fun corner which we like very much.
Turn 10: We have a short straight going into turn 10 which is an impressive corner because we're approaching it very quickly and braking very late. We have to slow down all during this right-hand corner. It's very, very long and acts like three parts of a corner. We get the sensation that every lap, we could be better through there. You have to reduce your speed very much for turn 11.
Turn 11: This is a tight left-hand corner, very slow and the slowest part of the track which is taken in first gear.
Turns 12/13: From there, we begin to shift up through all the gears as we come back on the main straight of the Speedway. You never stop to turn on the left and to slalom around the slow cars. It's very hard for the front-right tires. It's all in acceleration again, up to fifth gear and top speed (through turns 12 and 13), cross the Start/Finish line and win the race! PSR