RALF KELLENERS LOOKING TO REPRISE PAST VICTORY AS RLR ALMS TEAM HITS LIME ROCK HILLIARD, Ohio - The first-year Rahal Letterman Racing American Le Mans Series team holds down a top-10 spot in the GT2 class standings, but team drivers Ralf...
RALF KELLENERS LOOKING TO REPRISE PAST VICTORY AS RLR ALMS TEAM HITS LIME ROCK
HILLIARD, Ohio - The first-year Rahal Letterman Racing American Le Mans Series team holds down a top-10 spot in the GT2 class standings, but team drivers Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner aren't done climbing the ladder as the 2007 ALMS season officially hits its halfway point with this weekend's Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
The sixth event on the 12-race schedule will take place this weekend on the 1.54-mile Lime Rock Park that is nestled in the hills of Lakeville, Connecticut. The track features elevation changes on both ends of the course and has provided a stern challenge for teams and drivers despite being the shortest track on the ALMS schedule in 2007.
Rahal Letterman Racing's #18 BellMicro Porsche will look to use the experience of the veteran Kelleners, mixed with the youthful enthusiasm of the 20-year-old Milner to brew up a first ALMS victory, and is returning to the site of Kelleners' first and only ALMS win, which came at the expense of his current manufacturer partner in 2004. Kelleners, who has 34 previous ALMS starts under his belt with 27 top-10 finishes and 12 podium results, teamed with Anthony Lazzaro to win the GT class at Lime Rock, stopping what was then a 21-race win streak for Porsche.
"I have fond memories of the track," Kelleners said. "It's small, bumpy and in the middle of the woods, and really provides a test for both the car and the driver."
Milner competed for the first time at Lime Rock Park just one year ago, finishing seventh while teamed with fellow youngster Gunnar Jeannette. Kelleners was slated to run Lime Rock last year but his co-driver crashed his car before Kelleners could belt himself in for his stint. The team continues to show improvement as the season progresses, setting season-high qualifying results in each of the last two races. The team matched its season-best race result in its last race, finishing sixth at the mammoth Miller Motorsports Park layout.
"We are going from one of the longest tracks in Miller to one of the shortest here at Lime Rock," Milner mused. "Track position is very important here as I learned last year. I was faster than the cars ahead of me in the middle part of the race but unable to do anything about it. A good qualifying session will definitely be important."
This will be the first race on the ALMS schedule since the middle of May as the series took its customary mid-season hiatus to allow teams to run in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. The RLR squad didn't take the time off however, and took the chance to do some testing in hopes of improving its lot in the second half of the season.
"We are coming off, not a strong result from Miller, but I'd say pretty strong pace, especially in comparison to the other Porsche teams," Milner said. "We've been testing during the break and found even more with the car, I think one of the biggest steps in improvement all season, so I hope that will translate well this weekend at Lime Rock. For sure the Ferraris will be quick but I think the improvements made to our car will close that gap."
This weekend's race takes place on Saturday afternoon beginning at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time. The race length is 2 hours and forty-five minutes. The race can be seen on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, July 8 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.
Milner and Kelleners form foundation of RLR GT2 program
A first year program leans heavily on the experience of its people and RLR's ALMS Porsche GT2 program is no different. One of the key components for Bobby Rahal in assembling this team was to find drivers who had experience in the ALMS and in the GT2 program. Rahal paired veteran drivers Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner to forge the foundation of his first year team.
Kelleners, a 38-year-old native of Dinslaken, Germany, has professional sports car experience dating back to the early 90s and has driven factory entries at Le Mans for Porsche and Toyota and for Ferrari at Sebring and Daytona. Last season he split his season between ALMS for Ferrari (3rd at Sebring) a one-off run in Grand-Am and a run in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring for BMW in Germany. Kelleners is a second-generation driver whose father Helmut was a three-time European Touring Car champion.
Milner, a 21-year-old native of Washington, Virginia, joins RLR with two full seasons of sports car experience, including last season in the ALMS GT2 series when he drove for Multimatic Motorsports and posted nine top-ten results in ten races. Milner is the son of Team PTG owner, Tom Milner and has spent his entire life in racing.
"In Ralf and Tom I think we have found a combination of experience and potential that will serve as an excellent foundation for our Porsche GT2 entry," said Rahal Letterman co-owner Bobby Rahal. "We had a lot of interest in these opportunities from drivers in ALMS and from other series. I feel strongly that in a first year program it is important to have a level of familiarity in the program with the series and the competitors. Our drivers will set the tone for our program and they will certainly have a wealth of input in our on-track efforts in 2007. Nobody at RLR is underestimating the enormity of the task that competing in GT2 will comprise."
Rahal Letterman Racing Notes:
RLR's has a pair of sixth-place finishes that serve as season high-water marks to this point. The team's sixth-place run in its inaugural race at Sebring was the second-best ever for a RLR team in its series debut. Danica Patrick finished third in the inaugural race for the team's Atlantic program at Monterrey, Mexico in 2003. RLR's ALMS debut came after several years of attempting to start a sports car program. Bobby Rahal, in addition to being a Hall of Fame open-wheel driver also won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1981 and the 1987 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Rahal won both of those events while driving a Porsche. Graham Rahal, the 18-year-old son of Bobby Rahal, was the third driver for the RLR driver team at Sebring. This marks RLR's first time racing of any kind at Lime Rock Park.