Californian circuit, Laguna Seca, has played host to classic Indycar and International Motorcycling Grands Prix, but this weekend the stars of the 2000 Le Mans Series will have their own chance to tackle the fabled "corkscrew". Renowned as one...
Californian circuit, Laguna Seca, has played host to classic Indycar and International Motorcycling Grands Prix, but this weekend the stars of the 2000 Le Mans Series will have their own chance to tackle the fabled "corkscrew".
Renowned as one of the finest corners in world motor racing, the "corkscrew" is situated at the top of a long uphill rise, and provides drivers with a feeling akin a twisting head-first drop from a ten-storey building
For new Le Mans Series championship leader, Allan McNish, the Audi star is eagerly awaiting the chance to do battle at the Californian track.
"I love Laguna, especially the 'corkscrew'," McNish said.
"It's an extremely fast, steep, downhill section - ride over a kerb and unbalance the car and you're in big, big trouble. The Audi R8 will be ideal for this circuit."
While McNish will share the driving duties again with Dindo Capello, off-track McNish will have to let his Italian team-mate do all the steering with the Scot recently having his road licence stolen!
After being pushed in the early stages at the last round of the championship at Road Atlanta by the Panoz of David Brabham and Jan Magnussen, the Audi squad is aware they still have a dramatic fight on their hands for the title.
Had Brabham's team-mate Magnussen not become tangled with the GT car after a safety car period at Petit Le Mans, the Panoz duo could have have figured in the battle for the lead.
Magnussen finished second at Laguna Seca last year and is fully aware of some of the perils of the circuit.
"You have to take care not to put a wheel off as you lose all your grip due to the sand," Magnussen said.
"However, it's a great track to set up for and we have had some good races there in the past.
"With just three races of the series left, we are obviously hoping for another strong finish to build on our Championship points. We are closing the gap steadily on BMW thanks to the recent podium finishes we've had, and feel we can continue to push Audi as we did at Road Atlanta."
BMW will arrive with at Laguna a newly rebuilt chassis for Bill Auberlan and Jean-Marc Gounon. Auberlen suffered a dramatic flp at Road Atlanta - mirroring Mark Webber's Le Mans efforts from 1999.
"It is not a total write-off," said BMW Schnitzer team boss, Charlie Lamm.
"We will be building the car on a different chassis for Laguna Seca, because we haven't the time to repair the car properly.
"This work is being prepared in Germany and will then be completed in California."
BMW triumphed at the corresponding round here last year and Jorg Muller and team-mate JJ Lehto will be out to regain the championship lead this weekend.
The duo looked good for second spot at Petit Le Mans until late in the race when Muller spun off, tearing off the rear wing. The result the second successive disaster for Muller at the Georgian circuit, having spun out of the lead in the dying moments of the 1999 Petit Le Mans.
While the battle in the Prototype class will be fierce, the intense rivalry in the GTS division is set to intensify this weekend.
The Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette teams have been locked in a tight battle in recent rounds and the two U.S. manufacturers will be joined by a another American marque this weekend.
The Saleen S7 will make its series debut with multiple Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendal leading its driving squad.
Ford Mustang performance specialist Steve Saleen has now built his own self-named GTS machine and has enlisted Kendall to headline his squad.
Kendall has come out of semi-retirement to take up the drive. The Californian has previously raced in Australia, driving a Ford Falcon at Bathurst for the Dick Johnson team.
His diverse racing background includes competition in NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series racing, as well as numerous wins, records and championships in road racing. He, is no stranger to racing and winning at Laguna Seca. His accomplishments include two wins in IMSA GT events, as well as two poles.
The holder of 10 professional driving championships, Kendall enjoyed one of his finest seasons as a driver in 1997 when he won a record-setting 11 consecutive Trans-Am races.
Perth driver Rohan Skea will be hoping for better fortune for his Porsche GT class team after a shocking weekend at Petit Le Mans.
The team lost their first car after it was forced off the road into a tyre barrier by one of the Cadillac prototype drivers. It's second Porsche was also eliminated after striking debris from Bill Auberlen's BMW Prototype accident early in the race.
Race fans can tune into a live race commentary of the event at Laguna Seca via Radio Le Mans at http://www.americanlemans.com/pages/00live/index.html
The race will be staged on Sunday (local time) and kicks off at 4.30am Adelaide time on Monday, October 16.
Following Laguna Seca, the teams will contest the next round of the championship at Las Vegas before beginning preparations for the final round of the championship in Adeleiade from December 29-31.
PROTOTYPE POINTS AFTER ROUND NINE: Allan McNish (Audi R8) 210, Rinaldo Capello (Audi R8) 202, Jorg Muller (BMW) 202, JJ Lehto (BMW) 200, Frank Biela (Audi R8)192, Emanuele Pirro (Audi R8) 191, Jan Magnussen (Panoz) 188, David Brabham (Panoz) 175, Hiroki Katoh (Panoz) 143, Johnny O'Connell (Panoz) 133 .
2000 Le Mans Series
Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years - December 31, 2000