O'CONNELL HOPING MOSPORT WILL GIVE HIM FIVE Braselton, Ga. - When it comes to records in the American Le Mans Series, Johnny O'Connell is one of the first names mentioned. Whether it's career starts (he leads with 60), victories (tied for first...
O'CONNELL HOPING MOSPORT WILL GIVE HIM FIVE
Braselton, Ga. - When it comes to records in the American Le Mans Series, Johnny O'Connell is one of the first names mentioned. Whether it's career starts (he leads with 60), victories (tied for first with 24) or top-10 finishes (first again with 58), he is nearly unmatched.
This weekend at the Grand Prix of Mosport, O'Connell can tack on yet another bullet to his ALMS résumé. A GT1 victory in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R would be the fifth of his career at the Canadian track, making him the only driver to win five times at two different ALMS venues.
He and teammate Ron Fellows won for the fifth time at Infineon Raceway in July. At Mosport, they teamed to win every year from 2001-03. In 1999, the first year of the American Le Mans Series, O'Connell co-drove to an overall victory (his first in the ALMS) with Jan Magnussen in a Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S.
"It's just a circuit I love. There is so much to be said," O'Connell said. "The Canadian fans are knowledgeable and love it, and the circuit has so much history. You have a lot of huge "brave" corners, which I love, but also technical corners. It really enables drivers that have a softer touch to show what they can do."
Given the high-speed corners and similarities to tracks like Road Atlanta, where the No. 3 car won in April, there could be yet another celebration in the Fellows/O'Connell pit Sunday at Mosport.
"He absolutely loves racing there," said Fellows, the hometown hero who knows a thing or two about the track. "His driving style is very well suited at that place. I think that's one of the reasons we've been successful there. He's also bucking for honorary citizenship here, which we'll gladly give him."
EAGER WEAVER: Speaking of success at Mosport, Dyson Racing's James Weaver has had his fair share there. Weaver owns two LMP2 track records, is the defending race champion along with Butch Leitzinger and has won two straight pole positions.
Do tell, James, what's the secret?
"Mosport is an exciting place to both watch and drive an ALMS car," Weaver said. "The Lola is very good on fast corners, and we think our car is better aerodynamically than the Audi. As a team, our preference is for the traditional high-speed circuits. They allow these types of cars to 'stretch their legs,' and really show them at their best. "
Leitzinger and Weaver again will team up in one of the two Dyson entries, the No. 16 Lola. They won last year by 16.319 seconds over Champion Racing's JJ Lehto and Marco Werner. The pole-sitting Weaver also posted the race's fastest lap.
In 2003, Weaver qualified the AER/MG-powered No. 16 Lola (then an LMP675 car) on the overall pole with a lap of 1:07.906 (130.363 mph). Before the car developed alternator problems, Weaver set the class' track record for fastest race lap - 1:09.479 (127.411 mph).
"We treat Mosport with enormous respect as there is no room for error either in driving or for mechanical failure," Weaver said. "Small changes in set up also make a big difference so you have to be on top of your game here to get a good lap time."
REPAIRED AND READY TO GO: It took some hard work, but the Intersport Racing crew has its No. 37 Lola B05/40 fully repaired and operational for this weekend. The car caught fire early in the Road America race with Liz Halliday at the wheel.
By the time the fire had been put out, much of the rear of the chassis was in flames. Clint Field, who drives with Halliday, said most of the repairs were to the bodywork and inner lines.
"It was a pretty serious fire, one of the worst we've had," Field said. "Our guys have been working on it since we got back. They did a great job getting the car back together."
AROUND THE PADDOCK: Mosport International Raceway was the site of the closest finish in ALMS history. In 2000, on a track that was drying after a rain shower, the Audi R8 of Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish edged the BMW V12 LMR of Lehto and Jorg Mueller by just .148 seconds. . Mosport holds the distinction of being the fastest ALMS venue along the world-class sports car trail. In August of 2002, Audi R8 pilot Frank Biela established the qualifying mark of 131.793 mph. . Emanuele Pirro's three wins in 2005 ties his previous career single-season high in 2000-2002, the last time he raced on a regular basis in the ALMS. He will not soon forget Mosport after a grinding last lap crash during practice in 2002.
The Grand Prix of Mosport is set for 3 p.m. EDT Sept. 4 at Mosport International Raceway, with live coverage on SPEED Channel. Qualifying is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. EDT Saturday.