Three Lynx racing drivers, two current and one alumnus, went to Road Atlanta last weekend to participate in that million-horsepower circus called the Petit Le Mans -- and all three of them finished fifth. Lynx Racing's latest graduate, Memo Gidley, took a break from his duties as driver of the #71 Herdez/Payton-Coyne car in the CART FedEx Championship to make his debut as a sports car driver with the Panoz team. The #1 Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S of David Brabham, Eric Bernard and Andy Wallace won the 1,000-mile event when the leading BMW of Jorge Mueller spun off with just 7 miles to go. Gidley, fellow CART driver Jan Magnussen and Panoz regular Johnny O'Connell were the drivers of the #2 Panoz, and considered themselves fortunate to still be running at the end of the race as high water temperatures meant that Jan Magnussen had to make two additional pit stops in the last hour in order to top up the water level. A collision with a slower car while O'Connell was exiting the pit lane, along with two penalties for pit lane infringements meant that they finished the race some 11 laps behind the winning car. "It was a wonderful experience with a thoroughly professional team and a really great race car," said Gidley. "It was an education for me also, because getting used to the car itself in testing is one thing, which I was able to do pretty easily. But getting out there with so many cars and so much speed differential between them is something else altogether. It's a completely different kind of driving than CART cars, and I actually learned quite a bit about judging traffic and modifying your driving rhythm to suit the track and traffic conditions. This is probably my only race for Panoz this year, but we all got on well together, and I'd love to do something again with them next year." Current Lynx Racing driver, Mike Conte, who competes with the team in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, fielded his #17 Porsche RSR in the GT Class through his own Contemporary Motorsports team. Conte, along with co-driver Bruno Lambert, scored a podium finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this year. "Endurance races are a terrific challenge to both cars and drivers, and just to finish one is a considerable accomplishment," said Conte. "The Contemporary Motorsports team did a tremendous job to bring the car home fifth, particularly considering the strength of the opposition, including several semi-factory teams. With three races in a row, Atlantics at Laguna Seca, the Porsche at Petit Le Mans and then the Atlantic season finale at Houston, my driving skills are getting a real workout and it feels great!" Sara Senske is the third member of the Lynx trio, and she was competing not in the Petit Le Mans itself, but rather in a support race called the Women's Global GT series. Created by Indy 500 driver Lyn St. James and Don Panoz, owner of both the Panoz racing team and the Road Atlanta track, WGGTS features the top female drivers from around the world competing in identically-prepared Panoz Esperante sports cars. Senske won the third round of the WGGTS, at Portland International Raceway, from the pole. She also led every lap, drove the fastest lap of the race and won by a margin of 27 seconds. "It was a real crash-fest out there, and I took home a suitcase full of hard lessons," says Senske. "The track was as slippery as an ice rink when we went out, and all three of the top cars, including me, went off. I got back on in eighth place and worked my way back up to fourth when there was another crash and another full-course yellow. The whole race came down to a one lap sprint at the end, and I just didn't have the car to get back in front. A tough day, but useful in an educational sense."
Prototype Class Top 5
Fin. Qual. Drivers Car Laps Comp. 1 1 David Brabham/Eric Bernard Panoz LMP1/Ford 394 Andy Wallace 2 4 Steve Soper/Bill Auberlen BMW V12 LMR 393 Joachim Winkelhock 3 2 JJ Lehto/Jorge Mueller BMW V12 LMR 393 4 8 Butch Leitzinger/James Weaver R&S MkIII/Ford 384 Elliott Forbes-Robinson 5 3 Jan Magnussen Panoz LMP1/Ford 383 Johnny O'Connell/Memo Gidley
GT Class Top 5
Fin. Qual. Drivers Car Laps Comp. 15 33 Cort Wagner/Dirk Mueller Porsche 911 347 Sascha Maassen 16 38 Boris Said/Hans Stuck BMW M3 344 17 19 Jim Downing/Howard Katz/ Kudzu/Mazda 344 Franck Freon 18 39 Brian Cunningham/Brian Simo BMW M3 339 Peter Cunningham 19 41 Johannes van Overbeek/ BMW M3 339 Mark Simo/Darren Law 20 43 Mike Conte/Bruno Lambert Porsche 911 RSR 332
Note: Finishing positions are overall. Conte and Lambert finished 5th in the GT class. Average speed is that of overall winner, as are Margin of Victory and Fastest Lap.
Weather Conditions: First light, then DARK!! Time of Race: 8:56.31.991 Average Speed: 111.914 MPH Margin of Victory: 1 lap plus .060 seconds Fastest Lap: 1:12.653 by #42 Lehto/Mueller in Lap #2 Track Length: 2.5400 Miles
Women's Global GT Series Top 5
Fin. Qual. Driver Sponsor Laps
1 1 Divina Galicia KML/Crystal Rock Water 19 2 4 Belinda Endress Xtreme Island Designs 19 3 6 Cindi Lux Cobalt/DealerNet 19 4 5 Milka Duno MRW/Pits 39/MLP 19 5 2 Sara Senske Christmas Decor 19
Weather Conditions: warm and sunny Time of Race: 45 min 2.215 sec Average Speed: 64.293 mph for 19 laps/48.26 miles Margin of Victory: .487 seconds Lap Leaders: #18 1-6; #4 7-8; #18 9-19 Fastest Lap: #4 Allison Duncan 1:42.739/89.002 mph (RECORD) Track Length: 2.5400 Miles