FROM HOUSTON TO HOLLYWOOD Houston, Tx -- April 15, 2008. The historic Long Beach street course near Los Angeles in California is host to the third round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, and it is a venue that everyone looks forward to ...
FROM HOUSTON TO HOLLYWOOD
Houston, Tx -- April 15, 2008. The historic Long Beach street course near Los Angeles in California is host to the third round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, and it is a venue that everyone looks forward to visiting -- including the Ferrari of Silicon Valley-supported GT2 Champions, Risi Competizione.
With its picture postcard setting of sun, sea and palms, it is one of the top motorsport events in the USA, similar in many ways to the equally historic Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco. The 1.968 mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit is as challenging as any other, but its situation and atmosphere make it a favorite for competitors, visitors from nearby Hollywood, and the many fans who are able to see, hear and experience the most competitive and entertaining sportscar racing in the world.
Defending GT2 Drivers Champion, Jaime Melo of Brazil, now residing in Houston, has not had the start to the season that he and his team mate, Mika Salo of Finland, were either anticipating or hoping for.
"Our first two races this year were not the results we were looking for," says Melo. "But what has helped me to remain so positive is that we have a very competitive Ferrari 430 GT car and a great team behind us. I know that we all know our potential, so we must hope we won't have any problems this weekend.
"Long Beach is a little bit different from St Petersburg, but both tracks are bumpy so the most important thing is to have a good car over the bumps. I think we will keep the set up very similar to St Petes, but for sure it's going to be really hard and really tight. The race is short compared to normal, and strategy/what we do under any yellows is going to be very important. Our guys must be prepared for pit stops at any time, but they are very quick and slick on these; we cannot lose any time in the pits. We will need to push from the first to the last minute as Porsche will be strong again, as well as the other Ferraris."
Also looking forward to Long Beach is Risi's Californian driver, Harrison Brix. The San Jose resident, who will be taking his second start in the American Le Mans Series with team mate Patrick Friesacher of Austria, is no stranger to Long Beach.
"I've been to a bunch of prior races at Long Beach when my family ran an Indy car there, plus I raced a Daytona Prototype there with Doran Racing so fortunately I know this one. It makes a huge difference, especially when it's a street track and you have a profound advantage right out of the gate.
"It's a pretty challenging track," continued Brix, "especially when you are dealing with traffic which we will be. I think it will be a pretty tight race and a hard fought battle all the way through. I don't think you will see any one or two lap margins of victory as at some of the races.
"I was pretty happy with our result at St Petersburg. Any time you make a debut in a series and finish is good but to be classified in the top five is great. Patrick and I got along great and we are with a good team and have a well prepared car which makes it much, much easier for us; we have the best tools in GT2."
Risi Competizione's Chief Engineer, Rick Mayer, predicts that caution periods could well be a determining factor in the outcome of the race. "The event is 100 minutes long, the same as last year, and the minimum time that a driver must complete is 30 minutes. With fuel being good for about 60+ minutes, that leaves a big window for a caution flag, one-stop race. Last year, surprisingly, there was only one caution.
"The strategy should be pretty straight forward. Pit work will likely gain or lose the lead out of the pits -- and that's applicable to all the classes, not just GT2. A green flag stop (late race pit) will have the entire field short-filling on fuel and, any way you look at it, the pit stop will be critical here. The Risi team is very quick on tire changes and the drivers' change is fast. The pit work should be good, but we could use some luck at this event. We've consistently had fast cars, but we're 0 for 2 for the season and that needs to change."
The Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Round 3 of the 2008 season, is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 19 from the famed Long Beach street circuit. ABC will broadcast the race from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 20. XM Satellite Radio will provide coverage on Channel 144 from 7 to 9 p.m. ET Saturday, April 19. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage of the race at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.