Two teams embark on the upcoming American Le Mans Series season with different programs but share similar attitudes and ambitions. Corsa Motorsports with its Hankook-shod Ferrari F430 GT and Vici Racing's newly announced Porsche 911 GT3 RSR...
Two teams embark on the upcoming American Le Mans Series season with different programs but share similar attitudes and ambitions. Corsa Motorsports with its Hankook-shod Ferrari F430 GT and Vici Racing's newly announced Porsche 911 GT3 RSR program with Kumho both aim to make strides in tire development in the highly competitive LM GT2 category.
After making two starts last year, Corsa Motorsports enters the 2008 season with a brand-new tire partner in Hankook. The South Korean-based manufacturer makes its debut in the series in the season-opening Twelve Hours of Sebring, a true test of man and machine. The Steve Pruitt-owned team has signed veteran road racers Johnny Mowlem, Gunnar Jeannette and Ralf Kelleners to steer its No. 48 Ferrari.
"We are all keenly aware that the Sebring race will be a very public 12-hour tire test for us," Mowlem said. "Both Corsa Motorsports and Hankook knew that they were taking on a big challenge, not just with the tire development program that they've committed to, but doing it in the most competitive sports car environment that they could have chosen: the American Le Mans Series."
Mowlem, who will share the Prancing Horse all season-long with Jeannette, has a realistic approach to the opening race. He feels that tire development will come over time, and strides made at Sebring will put the team in better shape as the season rolls on.
"This is a long-term program, and we couldn't ask for a better base to start from as Sebring is probably the most demanding racetrack in the world for any tire, especially in terms of its construction," Mowlem said. "Based on our last two tests, Hankook will be providing us with new construction, profile and compound variations to test during the (Sebring) week, and we should know more about our realistic prospects for this year's race by Wednesday of race week."
Corsa will face stiff competition from other Ferraris on the grid including defending class champions Risi Competizione, whom Mowlem drove in two races for last season. Tafel Racing's two F430 GTs as well as a brace of contenders from Porsche, Aston Martin, Panoz, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge will keep this small team on their toes. But Mowlem isn't worried about winning races just yet. Instead, he feels that will come over time.
"We just aim to go about our job in a quiet and professional manner and keep the program moving forward as efficiently as possible," Mowlem said.
Like Corsa, VICI Racing shares similar goals for their foray into the ALMS. The team announced Thursday that has linked up with Kumho Tire for a two-car Porsche program. One of the 2008-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs will be entered in the Twelve Hours of Sebring, with a second car joining the grid later in the season.
"We're delighted to announce this tire development program which will welcome Kumho Tire as a team partner," says Ron C Meixner, VICI Racing President and team founder. "Kumho Tire will fit perfectly with our strategic values. It is a young, very ambitious company, which has already achieved much success in the motorsport arenas it has tackled; and I have been thoroughly impressed with its focus, energy, and most of all, overwhelming desire to win."
The collaboration with Kumho will center on the evolution of new compounds specifically designed for the GT2 category. For the last two seasons, Kumho supplied tires to LM P1 and P2 teams including Intersport Racing and B-K Motorsports. For 2008, both teams have moved on to new tire providers.
"We're excited about the opportunity to work with VICI Racing and Porsche Motorsports," said Rudy Consolacion, motorsports manager for Kumho Tire USA. "Like Kumho, Porsche has a strong following amongst amateur racers because there are so many grassroots racers running Porsches in the Porsche Club of America, the Porsche Owners Club, NASA, SCCA and vintage racing. Porsche is the world's leading producer of factory built race cars."
Kumho is no complete stranger to the GT2 class, having worked with Woodhouse Performance in a one-off effort last July at Mid-Ohio. The team entered a Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, with hopes expanding the program into 2008. While that never came to fruition, Kumho became interested in ramping up its program to include the GT2 class.
"The Viper was a great test for us, and we've had good success with our racing tires in Japanese Super GT," said Consolacion. "GT2 cars are harder on tires because they're heavier than the prototype cars and they don't make as much downforce. They rely on mechanical grip rather than aerodynamic grip so the tire really has to perform."
The team recently completed a private test at Moroso Motorsports Park in Jupiter, Fla., making a first step in tire development. VICI is the second American-based team to campaign GT2 class Porsches, joining the three-car Flying Lizard Motorsports effort.
"We are eager to work closely with Porsche and VICI to develop a winning GT2 tire," Consolacion said. "GT2 is the most competitive class in the American Le Mans Series, so we'll be making some radical changes that will put our tire technology at the leading edge. We won't stand still."
Full details of the team's program, including driver lineups, will be announced at a later date.
"This will be a very tough development project, undertaken right from the start through a full racing program, and will require total dedication and a will to succeed," Meixner said. "With Kumho Tire I am completely satisfied we will achieve the project's goals."