ASTON MARTINS, CORVETTES READY FOR ROUND III AT PETIT LE MANS Braselton, Ga. - Their first meeting at Sebring was a classic, and their second at Le Mans was just as memorable. As the days tick down toward Petit Le Mans and the third battle...
ASTON MARTINS, CORVETTES READY FOR ROUND III AT PETIT LE MANS
Braselton, Ga. - Their first meeting at Sebring was a classic, and their second at Le Mans was just as memorable. As the days tick down toward Petit Le Mans and the third battle between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing, the sports car world once again will have an eye on one of the most intriguing GT1 clashes in the American Le Mans Series.
The hype surrounding Round III of the Aston Martin-Corvette battle might be comparable to the Super Bowl, such is the amount of talk and attention coming from series fans. The Aston Martin gang, however, is keeping its attention on the race track.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Darren Turner, who will partner with David Brabham and Jonny Kane in the No. 57 DBR9. "Obviously at Sebring, we were off the pace a little bit but still snatched the win away. At Le Mans, we had the speed but didn't get to the end. I don't really know what to expect at Atlanta."
The other DBR9, the No. 58 entry, will find Tomas Enge, Peter Kox and Pedro Lamy behind the wheel. The same threesome drove at Le Mans together, and Petit Le Mans will mark their first reunion since the famed French endurance classic, which saw Corvette Racing sweep the top two spots in GT1.
"Atlanta and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the home ground for the Corvettes. They were in Le Mans on our home ground and have done a really good job," Enge said. "We know we've been a little bit faster but we haven't done a perfect job to beat them. It's a long race. It's not about speed but also about consistency and reliability. Obviously we'll try to go flat out but will try to take care of the car. I still think we have a little bit faster car and we can challenge them more than the Saleen or Maserati."
Ah yes. Both Enge and Turner are quick to point out the two cars that have come closest to challenging the Corvettes in the ALMS rounds since Sebring. Both cars will have smaller air restrictors for the final two ALMS rounds. But with both races being more endurance than sprint, reliability factors more and more into the equation.
"You have to keep an eye on the other competition. If we go there thinking that's the only battle we have, that's wrong. We have to make sure we go there with the best possible package we have," Turner said. "We've had races, like in Silverstone, where we definitely didn't have a speed advantage, but what played to our favor was the teamwork. We were spot-on in the pits."
The car's debut at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring couldn't have gone much better. The Aston Martin actually stole a page out of Corvette Racing's book by running a clean, mostly trouble-free race. Then the two-car team went on to finish 1-2 at Silverstone nearly two months later.
Talk about your hot starts.
"It has been more than I'd expected," Turner admitted. "It was all very low-key when the development started last October. The build-up was nice and steady, making sure everything was right. Certainly, to have a win this season would have been more than anyone expected, so the Sebring result was incredible.
"Having Aston Martin back is what a lot of the British fans have wanted," he added. "The support that the team has received has been fantastic. Everyone likes how it looks, how it sounds and how quick it is. It's capable of winning any place it goes."
The DBR9s picked up a great deal of speed heading into Le Mans, but the Corvettes ultimately came out on top by running a nearly faultless race, being more concerned with strategy than straight speed. Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen finished first for the second year in a row.
"Aston Martin and Prodrive is a phenomenal team, but it doesn't look like they're as good as Corvette Racing," Gavin said. "We maximized every single bit of our setup and what we had available to us. At times, it was looking like they were going to be 2-3 seconds faster a lap than us. But we looked at our strategy. Olivier and Jan drove extremely fast during their stints. We pushed them so hard that we pushed them into a number of errors."
So here we go, into Round III. Normally, third-generation sequels lose a lot of luster (Jaws 3 comes to mind). It's safe to say that Petit Le Mans won't be a box-office bust.
The ninth round of the American Le Mans Series is the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans, scheduled for 11:20 a.m. EDT Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. Qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 30. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.