T-MOBILE® VICI RACING MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIP AT LAGUNA SECA, PREVIEW
Monterey, Calif. - T-Mobile® VICI Racing will hit the track late tomorrow morning in the dry autumn heat and ever-present dust of Laguna Seca, California for their final racing appointment of the year, the tenth and last round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with the objective being to wrap up this year's racing programme with another competitive showing. However this demanding 4-hour race, which is always a highly popular date on the series' calendar, will in fact be rather a first port of call in our close-season test and development programme than a battle to the checkered flag for a top result, as the team's complete focus is has now switched to 2010, meaning the 2.238-mile circuit complete with its famous "corkscrew", will provide a final opportunity of the year to run in full race conditions over a longer distance, and with the Miami, Florida- based team having a number of important objectives to work through during a hectic three day programme on track.
As Technical Director Roland Wall puts it, "Laguna Seca will in effect be the first stop in our winter test programme and will provide the perfect platform for some interesting developments for next year to be tried out as well as putting some new team methodologies into practice in a full racing environment and bedding in some new crew members and a new driver." Team President and veteran Porsche long-distance racer Ron C. Meixner adds; "We would really like to turn in a good result to wrap up our year and give everyone a lift as our partnership with T-Mobile® gears up for an exciting 2010, we've had a good start, spirits are good, but now we must focus on next year and that has already started. We all know the big task in hand to be competitive in what is the toughest sports car class in the world today."
Richard Westbrook and Johannes Stuck will once again share the cockpit of the #18 T-Mobile® Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the British and German pair having formed an effective partnership in the ALMS this year; they will however be joined this weekend for the first time in the magenta-and-white car by German youngster Lance David Arnold.
Richard's huge experience and winning record, particularly with the Porsche brand, combined with Johannes' speed and clearly emerging talent, have produced results that have exceeded the team's projections, particularly as Johannes is learning all the tracks from scratch while Richard has only been familiar with a handful of North American tracks. The T-Mobile® VICI Racing partnership has proved to be immediately competitive, highlights of the first season include Richard muscling his way unceremoniously past one of the factory BMWs on the concrete-lined streets of Long Beach to kick the year off with a fighting fourth-place finish, Johannes wresting control of a full speed moment in the high altitude dry heat of Salt Lake City, Utah, to bring the car home safely in fifth, or Richard nursing a leaking radiator which sent the temperatures through the roof in the dying laps of the Lime Rock round, fought out in the rolling green countryside of Connecticut, to hand the team a third consecutive top-five finish.
The new face in the team this weekend (although certainly not a new face to the team) will be that of Lance David Arnold. With the plan being to use Laguna Seca as a starting point to focus on next year it makes perfect sense to give Lance a run out in what will racing conditions. The German youngster is familiar with the team, his services were called upon during our winter test programme last year, with the RSR, and has raced Porsches since the start of his career, so we are expecting him to slot in very well, although he will be thrown in at the deep end by Laguna Seca, as will our other drivers. "Lance is very capable, we have always been close to his career, I'm convinced he will be a star of the future, and he slots into our longer term plans," says Ron Meixner. "With the team focused this weekend on gearing up for a big challenge next year, it makes perfect sense to give Lance his first ALMS race start. He won't be under any pressure as we aren't chasing a top result, so it will give him a great opportunity to bed in with the team, the series and learn the track. I'm confident that he will do an excellent job and that he will surprise a few people in the future."
The 22-year-old from Duisberg in Germany started his career as a youngster in karting, winning titles as a junior between 1994 and 2002. In 2002 he moved up to race in Formula BMW/ADAC and in 2004 stepped into the VW Polo Cup. His obvious talent brought him to the attention of Porsche Motorsport bosses and with it came a coveted seat in the UPS Porsche Junior Team in the Porsche Carrera Cup in 2005. He didn't disappoint either, winning the rookie of the year title and taking fifth place in the overall championship. A year later he finished seventh in the Carrera Cup after a part season and spread his wings further, taking part in races in the Porsche Michelin Supercup, the VLN series, as well as in the Nurburgring 24 Hours and a first appearance in the United States in the 24 Hours of Daytona. In 2007 another busy season beckoned as he contested another part season in the Porsche Carrera Cup, as well as taking in Supercup races, the VLN and the Nurburgring 24 Hours, while he finished a very credible fourth in the GT class in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Lance's diary got even fuller last year as again programmes in the Porsche Carrera Cup, Porsche Supercup, 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, 24 Hours of Daytona and VLN [Langstrecken Meisterschaft Nurburgring] beckoned as well two races in the ADAC GT Masters where he was in winning form, and an appearance in the Italian GT Championship, where on his first visit to Monza and first time in a GT2 class car he planted the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR firmly on pole and comfortably led until he handed over to his team mate at half distance. He has also squeezed in instructing at the Porsche Driving School.
The Laguna Seca Raceway in California is a famous and demanding venue and the traditional final date on an ALMS calendar that is littered with some of North America's finest and most challenging motor racing circuits. The four hour race on Saturday, which ends with the cars racing into the gathering dusk, will be the perfect way for the team to round out the season, the first in partnership with T-Mobile(R). It will be pose a superb test for us, and for all three drivers it will be their first time at the 2.238-mile track that boasts a bit of everything, including sharp elevation changes and of course the famous downhill 'corkscrew'.
"Laguna is a four hour race, says Roland, "which means there are a few things we can gain just by a proper set-up, and the track is pretty tricky, so that too is in our favour, it has some slow corners like the famous corkscrew and some pretty fast parts like finish straight left hander; as well as some nice bumps on the fast back straight for instance. It means I have to find a smooth but stiff setting to get the best out of the tyres and to have a good car, so I have to look for mechanical grip and not to waste too much energy hunting for downforce. Last year with the car on 996 type Dunlops we got the job managed pretty well so we will get it managed even better this weekend on competitive Michelin tires. This year we have a slightly different programme to get through particularly with a new driver and new faces in key positions in the crew, and some testing to be carried out so this will have to be factored into the equation."
Richard and Johannes are looking forward to this weekend as well: "I'm glad to getting to race on another track in the states, especially in Laguna, a great track with the legendary corkscrew," says Johannes. I'm very happy to be teaming up with Richard again, as we have had some pretty good races together this year," the son of sports car legend Hans-Joachim adds. I'm looking forward to this race," comments Richard. "I hope we can carry the momentum of this season forward. We had a good start to the year at Long Beach so let's hope we can wrap the season up with another good showing. It's been a good year for everyone, we have learnt a lot, and we now confidently have one eye on next year."