American Le Mans Series Closing Sixth Season With "New" Monterey Event ALMS Racing at Night has Mystical Appeal Braselton, GA - The American Le Mans Series is closing its sixth season of operation in spectacular fashion next...
American Le Mans Series Closing Sixth Season With "New" Monterey Event
ALMS Racing at Night has Mystical Appeal
Braselton, GA - The American Le Mans Series is closing its sixth season of operation in spectacular fashion next weekend with a "new" event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Though the ALMS has raced at the famous Monterey road racing circuit since the inaugural season in 1999, the 2004 version of the Audi Sports Car Championships event will be quite different from past races and will explore a brave new world of darkness.
For the first time in its long history, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will host an event that runs into darkness when the American Le Mans Series begins its timed event of four hours at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16. Long before the event ends at 8 p.m., darkness will have descended upon the Monterey Peninsula and the ALMS drivers will circulate the 2.238-mile track aided only by their headlight beams and whatever ambient lighting there is around the circuit.
This is a huge departure from past events, which were timed races of two hours and 45 minutes and started and ended in daylight hours.
But racing in darkness is a tradition of Le Mans-style endurance sports car racing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the event upon which the ALMS is based, includes many hours of total darkness racing in the French countryside, and ALMS events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta are also run partially at night.
"The fans who come to the season finale at Monterey are in for a real experience," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the ALMS and formerly the general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
"One of the things that separates the American Le Mans Series from other forms of racing in North America is that our cars are designed to race in daylight and darkness," he said. "Our teams and drivers are used to racing at night and the fans who have attended Sebring and the Petit Le Mans love it. It creates an additional challenge for the racers and additional excitement for the fans.
"The fans will be able to see glowing brakes, flame belching from exhaust pipes, and sparks flying as cars bottom out in various sections of the track," he said. "It's a sensory overload that just makes the event even more interesting and thrilling."
While the drivers who compete in ALMS events rank as some of the world's greatest sports car racers, and most have raced many times at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, none have ever driven on the circuit in darkness.
"Laguna has always been one of my favorite tracks," said Johnny O'Connell, 2003 and 2004 GTS class driving champion of the ALMS and driver for the factory Chevrolet Corvette team. "It has great combinations of corners and good passing areas that really work for our style of racing.
"Getting to run around that place in the dark is for sure going to be one of the coolest things that has ever happened there," O'Connell said. "I can only imagine how much more intense running down the Corkscrew will be. Also, with it being the last race of the year, you can guarantee that every driver will be pushing hard."
"It is going to be a thrill to race at Laguna Seca at night," said Chris Dyson, the champion of the LMP2 class last year in the ALMS and driver of the Dyson Racing Lola Prototype. "With all its elevation changes, the track is very technical to drive in daylight hours. Running in darkness will only add to the challenge. It will be a great way to close out the ALMS season."
"We are looking forward to the next race at Laguna Seca," said JJ Lehto, driver of an Audi R8 for ADT Champion Racing and the 2004 LMP1 class champion. "It will be a different kind of race, in the evening, and driving in the darkness there will be something new for all of us. It will be a great way to finish the season."
The Audi Sports Car Championships event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will get the green flag at 4 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, October 16. The American Le Mans Series Radio Network will have live coverage that can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com, and MotorsTV will have live flag-to-flag coverage that can be seen in Europe beginning at 24:00 (UK) and 01:00 (Paris).
In North America, NBC Sports will have coverage of the event on a one-day tape delay beginning at 2 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, October 17.
Event ticket information is available online at www.americanlemans.com or by calling the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ticket office at 800-327-7322.