Lehto, Werner Lead Friday American Le Mans Testing at Portland PORTLAND, OR - JJ Lehto and Marco Werner, the hottest drivers this season in the American Le Mans Series, didn't let a scorchingly hot day bother them Friday as they led the first...
Lehto, Werner Lead Friday American Le Mans Testing at Portland
PORTLAND, OR - JJ Lehto and Marco Werner, the hottest drivers this season in the American Le Mans Series, didn't let a scorchingly hot day bother them Friday as they led the first day of testing for Sunday's Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway. The race will mark the first ALMS event at Portland since 2001.
With a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest sending temperatures above 100 degrees Friday, Lehto turned the 1.944-mile, 12-turn track in a time of 1:05.977, averaging 106.073 mph in the Audi R8 Prototype he will share with Werner in Sunday's race. The two drivers have a three-race streak of overall race wins in the ALMS and can set a series record for the most consecutive overall wins if they win Sunday's timed two-hour, 45-minute sports car race.
"It's a nice track," said Werner, the ALMS champion last year in the top Prototype class, who is competing at PIR for the first time. "I'm just now learning it but I think I'm at a competitive pace. We'll do some minor setup changes and hopefully be even quicker (Saturday). It's much different from Infineon (Raceway, where the series raced last weekend) but change is good. The heat is not so easy for us but at least it's the same for everyone."
"The track is pretty simple," said Lehto, who raced at PIR in the ALMS events that were held from 1999-2001 as well as in CART in 1996. "There's some nice, long corners where you really need to find a good setup for the car. It's always hard on tires as well. But with the Audi we don't really need to work on the setups as much as just finding the right tires and just fine-tune the car all over."
The main competition for the Audi in Sunday's race is expected to come from the two Dyson Racing Lola EX257-AER/MG machines, and the car driven by James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger was second in Friday's testing at 1:06.805. The other Dyson Lola of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace was third at 1:07.312.
In the GTS class, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows, winners of three of the four races held this season, led the way in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. O'Connell's lap of 1:10.974 just beat the 1:11.134 posted by the team Corvette of Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin. The ACEMCO Saleen S7R of Johnny Mowlem and Terry Borcheller was third at 1:11.338.
"The car is working very well here although it's much different from the kit we ran in 2001 at this track," said O'Connell. "I really like Turn 7 and our car is working very well through there. One of the benefits of these high temperatures is that we can bring our tires up to speed very quickly. Ron and I have a few more things we want to change on the car, but I think we're happy with our first day on track."
The GT class was led by the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Romain Dumas, fastest qualifier for the past two ALMS events, at 1:14.727. He will co-drive in Sunday's race with Marc Lieb.
Second-fastest in GT was the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Darren Law at 1:14.878, followed by the BAM! Porsche of Lucas Luhr and Leo Hindery at 1:14.933.
The Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd of Clint Field, Jon Field and Robin Liddell, winner of last week's event at Infineon Raceway, led the LMP2 class with a time of 1:10.515, fourth-fastest overall speed. Second in class was the Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91-Nissan of Chris McMurry, Bryan Willman and Jeff Bucknum at 1:12.866, followed by the Miracle Motorsports Lola-Nissan of James Gue and Ian James at 1:13.032.
Official practice and qualifying will be held Saturday, along with a driver autograph session and ALMS Fan Forum. Sunday's race starts at 1 p.m. (PDT) and will be televised live in North America by SPEED Channel. MotorsTV will have live TV coverage in Europe.
The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage of Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race online at www.americanlemans.com.