New technical regulations LMP 675
The LMP 675 category is to be given a boost that will give 'junior class' competitors a real chance of winning the Le Mans 24-hours outright. New technical regulations were announced by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest last week, the most significant being that the cars will be allowed six-cylinder, 2 litre turbocharged engines (from four cylinders), or eight cylinder, 3.4 litre normally aspirated (up from six).
The new regulations widen the choice of engines, especially in the normally aspirated area where the Ford Cosworth DFL could return, or a specially prepared DFR.
Lola's chief designer Frank Dernie, who is designing a brand new car for MG's Le Mans 2001 programme that is to be fitted with a unique 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, claims that it is "almost too late to change the specification now. That does not mean that we would be at a disadvantage if we stick to what we planned."
The French ROC team that competed at Le Mans and at the Nurburgring in the American Le Mans Series this year with the VW Reynard LMP675, intends to return to Le Mans with the new VW 4-cylinder turbocharged engines installed in a lighter-weight Reynard 2KQ chassis. This comes despite a lack of budget which as forced them to cancel appearances in the remaining Le Mans Series events.
American Le Mans Series
Allan McNish will not benefit from Audi team-orders even if he wins the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta this weekend. The 30-year-old Scot, who has won three of the last four rounds of the ALMS, trails BMW's Jorg Mueller by five points at the head of the table with four rounds to go. "As long as I am not forced to interfere, I will not do so," says Audi's motorsport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "If you ask a driver to give second best, maybe he will give you fifth best. I don't want drivers falling asleep in their cars!" Ullrich did not rule out interference later in the season, however.
ALMS, Petit Le Mans
David Brabham and Jan Magnussen will start the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series at Road Atlanta as favourites this weekend after unofficially topping the times in testing at the weekend. Panoz was thought to have lapped the 2.6-mile road course a second faster than Audi.
Audi has never been to the Road Atlanta circuit before and the driver's were "finding their feet" in their R8s, according to Allan McNish, who predicts that the Audis will respond to changes and pick up speed in qualifying on Thursday. "Historically Brabham and Magnussen get closer as the weekend goes on," said McNish. "It is not a good start if they are faster than us before the weekend has begun!"
Jorg Mueller, with 182 points, leads the championship by three from co-driver JJ Lehto and is five ahead of McNish on 177. Dindo Capello is fourth with 171 points, Frank Biela sixth with 166 and Emanuele Pirro seventh with 165. The Petit Le Mans carries five extra points for each placed finish and, with points for fastest lap, laps led and most laps led, the winner has a potential haul of 33 points.
Audi leads BMW in the both the prototype chassis and engine manufacturers' table with 187 points to 176, and Audi Sport North America leads BMW Motorsport by the same 11-point margin. A total of 43 cars are provisionally entered at the Petit Le Mans this year, eight down on last year's 51.
Viper Team ORECA will field three cars at the event against two Chevrolet Corvettes. Belgian Marc Duez reforms last year's Petit Le Mans winners when he teams with Karl Wendlinger and Olivier Beretta. Tommy Archer will share with newly-crowned Porsche Supercup champion Patrick Huisman and Boris Derichebourg. David Donohue lines up with Jean-Philippe Belloc and Dominique Dupuy. A fourth Viper, run by Hugh Chamberlain, will be driven by Stephen Watson, Xavier Pompidou and Venezuelan lady driver, Milka Duno.
DaimlerChrysler leads Porsche in the GTS category for manufacturers, with 206 points to 158. Chevrolet is third with 66. In the GTS teams' table, Viper Team ORECA leads on 206 points, followed by Roock Motorsport NA with 148 and Corvette Racing is third on 66.
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich has confirmed reports that Audi plans to sell its successful R8 chassis to customers next year though a final decision has yet to be taken. "There are many lovely speculations around," he said, responding to a rumour that the cars would be sold to customers and that current team manager Reinhold Joest would be asked to run cars solely at Le Mans. "There is no way to give any comment. There is a plan to give cars to customers, and it has nothing to do with Mr Joest."
Ullrich confirmed that Audi is interested in racing series at a "higher level to Super Touring, but below Formula One," indicating a move to the European Super Touring Car Championship is not on Audi's agenda for next year. The company also has no car that is eligible for the DTM2000 series, Christian Abt's Audi TT having been awarded special dispensation to runthis year.
First Racing are to switch engine builders from Italians Italtechnica after a disastrous season with their Ferrari 550 Maranello that has yet to finish a race in the FIA GT Championship. The team suffered three water pump belt failures during the course of the most recent round at Brno, Czech Republic, despite the on-site presence of an Italtechnica engineer. "I am sure that we will change engine suppliers next year," said driver Fabien Giroix. The team is planning to enter a second Ferrari 550 Maranello at the final round of the championship at Magny Cours on October 22.
British GT Championship
David Clark and Tiff Needell won the penultimate round of the British GT Championship at the weekend in their Lister Storm. FIA GT Championship leader Jamie Campbell-Walter was leading with his co-driver David Warnock in their Lister before their car coasted to a halt with electrical failure.
Calum Lockie and Cor Euser were second in the Marcos LM600, a result that moves Lockie to the head of the drivers' championship table, ahead of Warnock with one race to go.
Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, round 9 American Le Mans Series, USA.