Mid-Ohio: Pre-race notebook

AMERICAN LE MANS AT MID-OHIO NOTEBOOK Lexington, Ohio - It took a little work, but van der Steur Racing is on the grounds of Mid-Ohio. The Maryland-based team spent a couple of days making repairs to its AER-powered Lola B2K/40 following the...

AMERICAN LE MANS AT MID-OHIO NOTEBOOK

Lexington, Ohio - It took a little work, but van der Steur Racing is on the grounds of Mid-Ohio. The Maryland-based team spent a couple of days making repairs to its AER-powered Lola B2K/40 following the Lone Star Grand Prix before heading north.

Team principal and driver Gunnar van der Steur said his team worked like mad to have the car prepared for the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, Round Three of the 2006 season. The Reliant Park street circuit in Houston did a fair bit of damage to the car, which finished fourth in LMP2, just one lap off the class podium. The "Little Lola That Could" kept pounding out laps, falling shy of passing the leading Porsche RS Spyder from Penske Racing.

"It tore this little car to pieces," admitted van der Steur, who said the team replaced some engine components and chassis bolts. "We didn't have any idea there was this much to fix. But we've got it all back together and fired the car up. No oil leaks or anything, so we're ready to go."

The van der Steur Racing operation is one of the most popular in the paddock among Series fans. The team and its many followers are anxious for the delivery of a Radical SR9 chassis that is expected to debut at Petit Le Mans. Van der Steur said fellow driver Ben Devlin likely will meet with Radical personnel at Le Mans next month, and the team will test the car at Snetterton before bringing it to the States.

A FLYING FIRST: The Porsche contingent in GT2 is expected to be strong again at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Flying Lizard Motorsports' two entries could be among the favorites, given the team's history.

Two years ago in just its second American Le Mans Series race, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty piloted one of the Lizard Porsches to a class victory at the twisty Mid-Ohio circuit. van Overbeek currently leads the GT2 drivers championship with consecutive runner-up finishes at Sebring and Houston, and the team is second in the class team standings, too.

"Mid-Ohio in 2004 was definitely a race to remember," said team principal Seth Neiman. "Everything came together for the No. 45 car and we surprised everyone, including ourselves, with our first win."

A NEW MID-OHIO: The American Le Mans Series gives Mid-Ohio's well-documented repaved surface its first test this weekend. Paving was completed in early April, and a few teams already have tested at the track since then.

"It is one of those tracks that is difficult to get the setup exact," said Justin Marks of BMW Team PTG, which has two BMW M3s entered in GT2. "Even on my pole laps I always felt I had left some time behind. The new surface is certainly an X-factor this year. Historically, we have had a hard time getting grip over the concrete patches so the new surface could prove to make a big difference for us."

Among the highlights:
* 50,000 tons of new asphalt
* 4,000 feet of curbing
* 700 steel posts were replaced
* 2,300 feet of catch-fencing was replaced
* 6,000 linear feet of tire wall was replaced

All totaled, the work required 181 days and 8,996 man hours.

IMSA NEWS: This weekend also marks the resumption of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin with a strong field of 44 Porsche Cup cars entered. Kevin Roush won the caution-free season opener at Sebring. Type 997 and Type 996 Porsche Cup cars will compete in separate classes but in the same race.

The first-year IMSA Lites series will hold its third and fourth rounds this weekend after debuting last weekend at Road Atlanta. The series, with more than 30 cars entered at Mid-Ohio, is a proving ground for prototype drivers who have an interest in moving up to the American Le Mans Series.

AROUND THE PADDOCK: As always, there will be plenty to do in the American Le Mans Series paddock. Among Saturday's highlights are the Driver Autograph Session (11:45 a.m. in the paddock), a Tech Talk with Alex Job Racing (11:15 a.m. at the team's transporter), a fan forum (12:15 p.m. in the Honda Classroom) and a sunset movie in The Esses. . On Sunday, there is the usual open grid prior to the noon race start and an autograph session with the Pirelli Girls (10 a.m. at the American Le Mans Series Merchandise Marquee in the paddock). . Rob Dyson on last year's celebration of his team's 1-2 overall finish at Mid-Ohio: "I have never had that much champagne spilled on me at any one time. It was nice, but after an hour or so it does start smelling a bit." . Friday sees a two-hour test session for the American Le Mans Series from 1:25 to 3:25 p.m. EDT. . There have been four different GT2-winning entrants in the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio: BMW Motorsport (2001), The Racers Group (2002), Flying Lizard Motorsports (2004), and Alex Job Racing (2005).

The American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, the third round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series, is set for noon EDT on Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It will be broadcast on CBS Sports at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday, the second of five straight races on the network. Qualifying is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. EDT on Saturday. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA Live Timing & Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.

-alms-

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