CLOSE COMPETITION: 'IT'S NEVER BEEN BETTER' It couldn't get any more competitive, could it? The opening half of the American Le Mans Series was tantalizingly tight with the closest and fastest racing seen in the Series' 10 seasons. And last ...
CLOSE COMPETITION: 'IT'S NEVER BEEN BETTER'
It couldn't get any more competitive, could it? The opening half of the American Le Mans Series was tantalizingly tight with the closest and fastest racing seen in the Series' 10 seasons. And last weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, the world got a hint that the remaining seven rounds may be even better.
The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels set a new standard for competitiveness in the American Le Mans Series. In Saturday's second practice, the first nine cars were separated by just 0.999 seconds. It got even better in qualifying with the first nine cars only 0.853 seconds apart, by far the smallest such margin in Series history for such a crowded group.
The race proved just as nail-biting with five cars finishing on the lead lap. For those keeping track there have been 22 lead-lap finishers through four events this season, far and away more than in any other similar span in Series history.
"We definitely are seeing a high point in the history of the American Le Mans Series," said Scott Atherton, Series President and CEO. "A number of our teams and corporate partners commented last weekend that the level of competition and overall professionalism has never been higher. And they indeed are correct. I have no doubts that the thrilling action and intense competition we all saw at Miller Motorsports Park will carry over into the second half of our season.
"There are a few high-profile teams who are targeting a return to the Series following Le Mans and potentially a few new additions that will raise the bar even higher," he added. "We have a lot of positive momentum within the Series and we are going from strength-to-strength at this time. I couldn't be more proud of our teams and the American Le Mans Series and IMSA staffs - they are the ones who have made this happen."
That sentiment is shared throughout the paddock as well. Drivers, team owners and team personnel throughout the paddock over the weekend were ecstatic and bordered on being downright giddy.
"I'm really pleased to be here," said Simon Pagenaud, who finished third overall in his debut race with the legendary Gil de Ferran in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-01b. "This is much different than where I have been before. It is very open, very friendly but also very competitive. This is where I want to be in my career."
"I've been through of ups and downs with IMSA and the American Le Mans Series. I can tell you that it's never been better," said Dyson Racing team owner Rob Dyson, who started racing in IMSA 25 years ago and enters two Porsche RS Spyders. "The competition is just superb. The quality of cars from top to bottom is excellent. The sponsor support and fan support is great.
"What's most gratifying is that the Series is so much more relevant that it ever has been," he noted. "These are the kinds of cars and this is the kind of technology that not only can people understand, because it definitely keeps up with their road cars, but we're also doing a lot of things that are more advanced. The diesel Audis, all of the work we are doing with engines and the high ethanol content in our fuel - all of that is making it much more relevant. People are seeing great cars and great drivers at great venues around the country. It's just great to see how the Series is getting increasingly better."
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. The race is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race live as will XM Satellite Radio on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.