Laguna Seca: Post-race report

BY THE NUMBERS: MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS Braselton, Ga. - So ends the 2005 American Le Mans Series season, and what a fast one it was. Not in necessarily in terms of time (didn't we just get back from Le Mans?), but rather in terms...

BY THE NUMBERS: MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS

Braselton, Ga. - So ends the 2005 American Le Mans Series season, and what a fast one it was. Not in necessarily in terms of time (didn't we just get back from Le Mans?), but rather in terms of speed.

Particularly impressive were the efforts ALMS teams put forth during qualifying during the 10-race schedule. Saturday's Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the season in a nutshell from that perspective. For the fourth time this season, all four class track qualifying records fell during a race weekend (Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock and Portland were the others).

In three cases, it wasn't just that new marks were set.it was by how much. In LMP1, LMP2 and GT1, the new marks were at least 0.7 seconds better than the previous ones. Tom Chilton's lap in the No. 15 Zytek 04S set a new P1 standard by beating Rinaldo Capello's time by nearly 0.9 seconds, and Sascha Maassen torched James Weaver's time in Porsche's new RS Spyder P2 by about the same time.

In GT1, Terry Borcheller beat Olivier Beretta's mark in the ACEMCO Saleen S7R by 0.7 seconds. Romain Dumas bested teammate Timo Bernhard's previous record by about 0.1 seconds in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche.

"The quality of racing on the race tracks I don't think has ever been better," said Scott Atherton, president at CEO of the ALMS. "This championship has never been better for our fans."

THREE CHEERS FOR OLIVIER: With his GT1 class championship with Oliver Gavin, Beretta became the second driver in the series to win three class titles. He joined Corvette Racing teammate Ron Fellows, who was going for his fourth straight title before finishing second with Johnny O'Connell.

"I didn't take any risks because my main focus was to finish the race, to score points and to win the championship," said Beretta, who tallied his 24th career ALMS victory, tying the series record held by Fellows and O'Connell. "I was trying to be very calm and to wait for the right spots to overtake. I was thinking about all the effort the crew had made this year. They really deserved the championship and I didn't want to make a mistake."

Had they won championships, O'Connell and Champion Racing's Marco Werner could have won their third championships. Werner finished third in P1 with JJ Lehto.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: It has been awhile since a chassis other than an Audi or Lola won overall in the American Le Mans Series.at least before Saturday. You must go back to the Grand Prix of Washington in 2002 when David Brabham and Jan Magnussen won in the Panoz LMP01.

How about before the Panoz? Go back to Silverstone in 2000 (when the ALMS ran twice in Europe), when JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller won with the BMW V12 LMR. Prior to that, duo won at Charlotte, the last stateside overall win for a car other than the Audi, Lola or Panoz.

The Zytek chassis became the 15th different marque to win in the ALMS (and sixth in P1), and its engine is the 13th different one to post an ALMS victory (sixth in class).

FIRST TIME, PART II: Shortly after Chilton and Shimoda took the checkered flag, the Porsche RS Spyder scored its history-making first LMP2 victory in the American Le Mans Series on a number of levels.

Porsche became the first manufacturer in the series to win in three of its four classes (the others are GT1 and GT2).

Porsche and Lola are the only marques to post two class wins in the same race. Porsche has now actually done it twice, the first time in 1999 at Sebring when Martin Snow, Melanie Snow and Patrick Huisman drove a Porsche 911 Turbo to a win in GT1. Kelly Collins and Cort Wagner won in GT2 behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 RSR that day.

Lola posted victories in both prototype classes at Mosport in September. James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger won overall in their No. 16 Dyson Lola EX257, while Clint Field and Liz Halliday won in the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola B05/40.

The 2006 American Le Mans Series season begins with the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 18 from Sebring International Raceway. It will kickoff a 10-race schedule for the ALMS.

-alms-

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