Detroit, Michigan - There was disappointment for VICI Racing at a hot and sunny Detroit this afternoon as the ...
Detroit, Michigan - There was disappointment for VICI Racing at a hot and sunny Detroit this afternoon as the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR suffered a broken driveshaft after 41 minutes of the race; however it wasn't before the team had been able to demonstrate a major step forward in competiveness and we can take away a lot of positives from this performance. The season- long tire development program carried out with Kumho Tires has made huge strides, and today Marc Basseng, who was the starting driver for the race was able to run consistently around 1 to 1.5 seconds off the front running pace in the GT2 class.
It's been a very long week for the Miami, Florida-based team who are in their inaugural season in the American Le Mans Series. Last weekend at the Mosport Interactional Raceway the #18 car suffered accident damage that left the crew with several very late nights in the temporary paddock here on Belle Isle once the transporter had made the 250 mile journey from the Canadian circuit to Detroit. However a bit push by the whole team plus speedy assistance in parts supply by Porsche and the black, white and red liveried car was ready for action when the track went live yesterday morning.
The ALMS series has returned to the streets of Belle Isle this week for the second consecutive year, and just like 2007, the sports cars are racing as part of a double-header, with the Indycars which race here tomorrow. Safely through the two weather-blighted practice and qualifying sessions yesterday the team had more work to do last night as data revealed concerns with the engine. Today was due to get underway with the 25 minute long morning warm- up session (9:50-10:15 AM). The Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch, round 9 of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, would get the green light at 2:35 (ET). The chequered flag was due to be waved on the 2 hour 45 minute duration race at 5:20PM. However fog clung moodily over downtown Detroit and out onto Belle Isle early this morning, slightly delaying the cramped timetable today, so the warm-up was rescheduled for 10:10-10:35 AM.
It was however clear blue skies and rising temperatures as the pre-race warm up session got underway with Nicky Pastorelli getting the chance to learn the 2.09-mile, 14-turn temporary course, which is a tricky mix of concrete and asphalt, in the dry after running just a couple of laps in the rain yesterday. The Dutchman's quickest lap of 1:28.573 (lap 7 of 8), run at an average speed 84.13 mph, was just 1.880 seconds away from the fastest GT2 class car (the #73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430GT); it is the closest gap we have had all season, and a clear demonstration that the year-long hard work put into the tire development program is race-by-race showing strides forward.
With the traditional pre race festivities over and the fans cleared off the grid, the command to start engines was given at 2:29 PM, and at 2:35 PM the lights went out on the pace car, the green flag fluttered, and the 2 hour 45 minute long race got underway. With track temperatures at 78 degrees and air temperature at 101 degrees this was going to be the hottest ALMS race of the year so far.
Marc Basseng was chosen to start the race and he made up one place up at the start, passing the #007 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 to move up to 8th place as the cars came round at the end of the first lap, which he ran in 1:30.971. His second lap was a 1:30.927 before, after just 4 minutes of racing, the Aston Martin hit the barriers. At 2:53 PM (18 mins of running) the race went back to green with 8 laps now completed. With the #21 Panoz Esperante Ford and the #44 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR both pitting under the caution, Marc was elevated to sixth place as the race went live again.
The experienced German sports car driver was setting a very good race pace now, on lap 9 he ran a 1:30.127 followed by a dip into the 1:29s with a 1:29.515. The next lap he was into the 1:28-bracket, with a 1:28.747, and his pace was consistently around 1 to 1.5 seconds off the GT2 leaders. Now dropping into the sub-1:29 times, Marc turned in a 1:28.679 (lap 12), 1:28.287 (13) and 1:28.295 (14) which he followed up with a 1:29.236 (15) as he came under pressure from the recovering Panoz. Sixth became seventh as the #21 Panoz squeezed past on lap 16 (1:34.011), followed by a 1:29.030 (17), 1:28.634 (18), 1:28.602 (19) and a 1:28.861 (20). Lap 21, as the clock ticked to 3:12 PM, saw the yellows being waved again as #2 Audi prototype ended up in the barriers.
Circulating around behind the pace car Marc reported an unexpected driveshaft problem over the radio, and at 3:16 PM (41 mins of running) the #18 car arrived in the pits where the problem was confirmed. It was a disappointing end to the proceedings, but keen to use the track time to continue testing tires, the driveshaft was replaced, and just under an hour later Nicky steered the car back onto the circuit at 4:09 PM (1 hr 34 mins running). The car ran successfully until 4:43 PM (2 hr 8 mins running) before the former Jordan and Midland F1 test driver brought the #18 machine into the pits and the team's participation in the 2008 Detroit Sports Car Challenge was wrapped up.
For the record the #18 car completed 38 laps (22 for Marc; 16 for Nicky) this afternoon in Detroit with the quickest of these being a time of 1:28.287 (on lap 13) posted by Marc, at an average speed of 84.39 mph.
It was a disappointing end to the intensive August schedule for VICI Racing, three races in four weeks, and made it a tough two weeks for the team. However there are big plus points to be drawn as the innovative and challenging tire development program continues to make tangible progress each time out and here in Detroit the #18 car was running closer to the pace than at any time this season. Now, after several weeks located at a temporary base provided by team partner LuxuryMotors.com in Chicago, the team makes the long journey back to Miami, Florida to begin preparing for the Petit Le Mans on October 4th.
Marc Basseng (Germany): "I'm really disappointed, the car was running well and we had been at a good race pace. The tires were ok and I was enjoying driving on this circuit. I felt the driveshaft go while we were under the pace car, it's a shame to have the race end this way and I think we could have had a nice finish without this problem. I'm now looking forward to Petit, the team has a lot of work to do in the meantime and I will hope we can get a good result there."