THE UPS AND DOWNS OF ROAD ATLANTA The penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series is traditionally one of the highlights of the season. The 1,000 mile or 10-hour (whichever comes first) Petit Le Mans event attracts an increased entry and...
THE UPS AND DOWNS OF ROAD ATLANTA
The penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series is traditionally one of the highlights of the season. The 1,000 mile or 10-hour (whichever comes first) Petit Le Mans event attracts an increased entry and offers as bait a guaranteed entry to the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans for each class winner. While Corvette Racing already has one of those coveted entries thanks to their win at this year's French classic, the importance of the Road Atlanta race is never underestimated.
While practice went firmly in favour of the two Aston Martins, it was an all yellow GT1 front row after qualifying. Oliver was pipped to class pole by his team mate Johnny O'Connell by two tenths of a second, and the Briton explained what happened. "I did five timed laps, only one of them was without traffic and I made a mess of it! I was coming out of turn 5 and got it wrong and lost about three tenths of a second. That's the way it goes sometimes and, to be honest, I wasn't too upset as qualifying position doesn't make a big difference when you are going into a ten hour race.
"Going into the race, Olivier, Jan and I knew we couldn't match the Aston Martins on pace so we had to use our heads, our strategy and be smart. It turned out to be a strange race and probably the best bit was the fight between all four GT1 cars in the early stages. It was good fun, with the advantage going backwards and forwards, and very fair.
"The 009 car seemed to be very fast throughout the race, while our cars and the 007 seemed fairly equal. We could hold them when our tires were new, but their extra horsepower and our extra weight killed us as a stint went on. What really made the difference to the result though, despite a good strategy and for us a race without any incidents and accidents, was the brake wear we experienced and the need to change the front brake rotors and pads.
"I seemed to do a lot of driving, being in the car for over four and a half hours, and my right foot was killing me towards the end. Hard braking over a long race, especially here at Road Atlanta, is tough on the feet -- not quite as bad as running a marathon though!
"Our eventual 3rd place in class left us with a very flat feeling, especially after winning here twice before, but it was enough to keep the Championship alive. We have to finish in 4th place or higher to win the Drivers' title for the second year in a row and Laguna Seca will be where it all happens in three weeks' time."