Road Atlanta II: Petit Le Mans pre-race notebook

B-K Motorsports' Mazda-powered Courage finished second in its debut race at Road Atlanta, site of next weekend's Petit Le Mans. Braselton, Ga. - Road Atlanta always will hold a special place in the hearts of those at B-K Motorsports. That was ...

B-K Motorsports' Mazda-powered Courage finished second in its debut race at Road Atlanta, site of next weekend's Petit Le Mans.

Braselton, Ga. - Road Atlanta always will hold a special place in the hearts of those at B-K Motorsports. That was where its Mazda-powered Courage C65 debuted in the spring, marking the team's entrance into the ALMS and the Japanese engine maker's return to prototype sports car racing.

Both are back at the Braselton, Ga., track for Petit Le Mans, the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series. In April, Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo drove the No. 8 entry to a second-place finish in class. But Petit Le Mans is the event most have been targeting as one of the races to better suit the reliable Mazda three-rotor engine.

"This is where the car made it's first appearance, which was such an emotional outing," Cosmo said. "The fact that the car and engine are as reliable as they are is a great thing for us. We want to see what kind of progress we've made."

Since Atlanta, the team has had its highs (a win at Mid-Ohio in May) and disappointments (a DNF at Road America, the team's home track). At Mosport, the car finished third, but well back of the winning Intersport Lola and runner-up Miracle Motorsports.

In the weeks since Mosport, the car has been at the shop of Dennis Spencer, the renowned engine builder, based near Road Atlanta. Cosmo said Spencer not only has been working on the engine but other aspects of the setup, as well.

"Dennis has gone out of his way to help the team in whatever way possible," Cosmo said. "Any development we're doing right now is coming out of his shop. He's doing everything we could possibly ask of him."

For Petit Le Mans, Cosmo and Bach will team with veteran Elliott Forbes-Robinson, who made quite a name for himself as a Mazda factory driver.

LIZ IS BACK, TOO: Friday marked Liz Halliday's return to the track where she first tested the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola. A two-time LMP2 winner with Clint Field this year, Halliday had her first test in the Lola during testing prior to the Grand Prix of Atlanta.

Halliday said she was about two seconds quicker right off the transporter Friday, adding that being at a track she knew helped immensely. She'll share duties at Petit Le Mans with Clint and Jon Field. Intersport is second in the class' team championship standings, and Clint Field is second in the drivers championship.

LIZARDS FLYING IN LONGER RACES: Of the two endurances races in which it has competed this season, Flying Lizard Motorsports has finished on the GT2 podium in both.

First was a third-place finish at the exhaustive Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, with Johannes van Overbeek, Darren Law and Jon Fogarty doing the driving. Three months later in the team's first visit to Le Mans, van Overbeek, Seth Neiman and Lonnie Pechnik ended the day by looking down on the vast crowd after a third-place finish in class.

So if trends hold up, we can expect a similar result at Petit Le Mans, although the team certainly isn't going to settle for third place.

"The car always has been reliable," van Overbeek said. "(Crew chief) Tommy (Sadler) and his guys have done a great job for us. The way we look at it, it doesn't matter how fast you are if you have a mechanical problem and don't finish."

JOHNNY'S AUCTION: Once again, Johnny O'Connell will hold a Friday night auction to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association of Georgia and The Guest House, a Gainesville, Ga., facility that supplies day care to senior citizens.

The auction, an annual Petit event since 2001, includes items donated by various race teams and drivers, along with assorted other items. Last season, O'Connell says, the auction raised more than $130,000.

"I really started it as I learned a lot about Alzheimer's as my father had it and realized the need for funding to both find a cure and take care of those with it and their families," said O'Connell who will drive the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R with Ron Fellows and Max Papis at Petit Le Mans.

"I also viewed it as a great opportunity to expand on the ALMS' theme of 'For the Fans,' letting them have the opportunity to acquire racing items they might not otherwise be able to acquire," O'Connell added.

AROUND THE PADDOCK: JJ Lehto is on a four-race winning streak at Road Atlanta following his victory with Marco Werner in the No.1 Champion Racing Audi R8 at April's Grand Prix of Atlanta. Lehto has won the last two Petit Le Mans events and also won the 2003 Grand Prix of Atlanta. . Thirteen drivers who entered the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998 are entered in this year's running: Eric van de Poele and Emmanuel Collard (who teamed with Wayne Taylor to win in a Ferrari 333SP), Ralf Kelleners, Butch Leitzinger, David Brabham, Andy Wallace, Darren Law, Ron Fellows, Terry Borcheller, Bill Auberlen, David Murry, Jon Field and Didier Theys. . Other notable ALMS competitors who were at the first Petit Le Mans include Bob Wollek, Michele Alboreto, Allan McNish and Yannick Dalmas. . Dalmas will always be remembered in Petit Le Mans lore for being at the wheel of the Porsche GT1-98 that flipped on the long Road Atlanta backstretch while leading the race. The car had led 234 of the first 235 laps.

Petit Le Mans is the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series. The annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. EDT Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. Qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 30. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , David Brabham , Allan McNish , Butch Leitzinger , Didier Theys , Yannick Dalmas , Max Papis , Jon Fogarty , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Emmanuel Collard , Wayne Taylor , Eric van de Poele , David Murry , Bill Auberlen , Guy Cosmo , Jon Field , Terry Borcheller , Darren Law , Michele Alboreto , Marco Werner , Johannes van Overbeek , Clint Field , Seth Neiman , Lonnie Pechnik , Liz Halliday , Bob Wollek , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports