Utah: Round five preview

The 2006 Utah Grand Prix marks the first automotive race in history at the new state-of-the-art, 4.5-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT, near Salt Lake City. The Miller Motorsports Park complex, developed by Larry H. Miller, ...

The 2006 Utah Grand Prix marks the first automotive race in history at the new state-of-the-art, 4.5-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT, near Salt Lake City. The Miller Motorsports Park complex, developed by Larry H. Miller, actually features two road-racing facilities - a 2.3-mile East track and the 2.2-mile West course. When combined for major events such as the inaugural American Le Mans Series event, the full track layout includes a 3,500-foot front straightaway. Miller Motorsports Park is the longest road-racing facility in North America, outdistancing Road America's 4.048-mile facility. The new facility opened in mid-June.

The Utah Grand Prix marks the return of one of sports car racing's most technologically advanced entries: the Audi R10 TDI. Two V12, diesel- powered prototypes - winners at Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans - will contest the remainder of the 2006 American Le Mans Series season. The team will be a combination of Audi Sport North America and Champion Racing. Series LMP1 championship leaders Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello will pilot on R10 TDI, while 2005 Series champions Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro are driving the other.

. For the second year in a row, the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall crown was captured by an American Le Mans Series entry - Audi Sport North America - with its innovative diesel-powered R10 TDI in a historic performance that included a 1-3 LMP1 finish. It was the sixth Audi overall triumph in the last seven races at Le Mans and third consecutive title. And, for the eighth straight year dating back to the founding of the American Le Mans Series including the last six years in a row, Series teams swept to multiple class championships in the world's greatest motor race.

Emanuele Pirro and teammate Frank Biela, 2006 Le Mans overall champions and defending American Le Mans Series overall champions from 2005, return to the Series at Salt Lake City for the first time since Sebring. This time, Pirro and Biela along with LMP1 point leaders Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello will be piloting the innovative diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs which debuted at Sebring last March and are 2-0 starts/victories.

In GT1, Corvette swept to a third consecutive GT1 Le Mans title after a race-long battle with Aston Martin, another Series mainstay. It was the fifth Le Mans victory for Olivier Beretta, the Series' all-time career victory leader, and the fourth Le Sarthe triumph for teammate Oliver Gavin. At Lime Rock Park (July 1), Gavin and Beretta, who won the first three races of the 2006 American Le Mans Series season in GT1 and had an eight-race winning streak dating back to July of 2005, saw their victory streak end when the Aston Martin team led by Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin swept to a class victory and also finished third on the GT1 podium. Lamy and Sarrazin join the list of 114 Series first-time winners. It was the first Aston Martin victory since Sebring in 2005.

In GT2 a Team LNT-entered Panoz Esperante GTLM, making its second Le Mans start, swept to victory to join marques such as Porsche and Ferrari in the Le Mans record book.

At Lime Rock, a new Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT Berlinetta driven by Finland's Toni Vilander, making his first career Series start, stunned a deep field of GT2 manufacturers and drivers with a pole start, and led the race before a crash. Petersen/White Lightning drove home first in a newly rebuilt Porsche GT3 RSR followed by the Flying Lizard Porsche then two BMW Team PTG BMW M3s, who found the podium for the first time this season. There have been four different GT2 winners in the 2006 American Le Mans Series through four events.

. Seven of the 12 2006 winners at Le Mans have American Le Mans Series victories as a part of their front-running resumes, and the 12 Le Mans winning drivers this year have amassed a total of 315 Series starts, a competitive compliment to the growth and status of the Series.

. Risi Competizione brings its Ferrari F430GT Berlinetta entry to Salt Lake with Formula One veteran Mika Salo and Jaime Melo returning behind the wheel after missing a start at Lime Rock due to scheduling conflicts. Risi's second Ferrari No. 61 has been withdrawn from Salt Lake City and Lime Rock to repair crash damage.

. Olivier Beretta, GT1 co-leader in the driver points championship, holds the all-time American Le Mans Series record for career victories (27) thanks to three GT1 wins to start 2006 - Sebring, Houston and Mid-Ohio. He is three ahead of Corvette mates Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell (24). JJ Lehto and Sascha Maassen are next (23). Maassen's teammate Lucas Luhr stands sixth all-time with 20 followed by Frank Biela (19) and Beretta's teammate Oliver Gavin and Rinaldo Capello (18), Timo Bernhard (16), Clint Field, Marco Werner and Jorg Bergmeister (14) and Emanuele Pirro (13) are next in the chase.

. Olivier Beretta and teammate Oliver Gavin's eight-race win streak (2005 Portland through 2006 Mid-Ohio) is an all-time Series record.

. Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who posted the first overall Series win in an LMP2 car with teammates Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr finishing second at Mid-Ohio, led the overall race at Lime Rock until the final 30 minutes and finished 1-2 in class and 2-3 overall. Penske Racing became only the second non-LMP1 team to win an overall race in the history American Le Mans Series. For the second race in a row, the RS Spyder's started 1-2 on the overall grid. Dyson Racing's James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger drove their P675 Lola to the only other overall win at Infineon in July of 2003.

. Liz Halliday has moved into a tie with Milka Duno for the most Series wins by a female driver (5) and can take the lead with a victory at Salt Lake City. She and Clint Field already have two victories and a pair of third place podium finishes, and maintain the LMP2 driver points lead through four events. Thirteen (13) women have competed in the American Le Mans Series in its history (Milka Duno, Belinda Endress, Davina Galica, Halliday, Kimberly Hiskey, Claudia Hurtgen, Cindi Lux, Melanie Paterson, Danica Patrick, Melanie Snow, Lyn. St. James, Amanda Stretton and Jennifer Tumminelli). In total, Series' female drivers have posted 67 starts, 14 wins, 26 top three finishes, 38 top five, 60 top 10, three Fast Qualifier and one Fast Lap. Halliday has already won the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, and leads all Series female drivers with eight top three finishes.

A total of 114 drivers have scored Series victories in the eight-year history of the American Le Mans Series to date (1999-2006), the latest being Aston Martin's Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin at Lime Rock Park. In the history of the Series, 673 drivers from around the world have competed in at least one race including first-time starts Mario Dominguez, Marc Gene and Toni Vilander at Lime Rock.

8 Johannes van Overbeek, the GT2 Drivers Championship points leader, mounted a furious late race charge to post a second an important second place finish at Lime Rock to build his GT2 driver championship point lead (74) over Flying Lizard Motorsports teammate Wolf Henzler (60) and David Brabham and Scott Maxwell (54) of Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz.

. Jan Magnussen is the only driver in the American Le Mans Series to win a race in each of its eight years (1999-2006). The Dane was part of the GT1- winning Corvette C6.R at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Sascha Maassen has a chance to join Magnussen in 2006. He will wheel the Porsche RS Spyder prototype for Penske Racing in full season. Jorg Bergmeister's win with teammate Patrick Long at Lime Rock established another precedent for the GT2 ace as he became one of seven drivers who have won a race in at least five Series seasons.

Jan Magnussen (Panoz, Ferrari, Corvette) and David Brabham (Panoz, Ferrari, Aston Martin) are the only drivers in American Le Mans Series history to win races for three marques. Twenty-five (25) drivers have won for two different marques.

. Jon Field, Jan Magnussen, Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen, David Brabham and Timo Bernhard have won in different race car or chassis/engine combinations.

The season also sees the full-season debut of the Porsche RS Spyder in LMP2, two of which will race under the banner of Penske Racing. The car won in class during its debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October 2005 and is Porsche's first factory prototype to race since 1998.

A third factory prototype program is on tap for 2007 with Acura's announcement that it will construct P2 engines, followed by a complete chassis-engine program in 2008.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Milka Duno , David Brabham , Rinaldo Capello , Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Marc Gene , Mika Salo , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Claudia Hurtgen , Lucas Luhr , Scott Maxwell , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Jaime Melo , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Johannes van Overbeek , Clint Field , Melanie Paterson , Romain Dumas , Amanda Stretton , Belinda Endress , Olivier Beretta , Liz Halliday , Wolf Henzler , Toni Vilander , Cindi Lux , Melanie Snow , Danica Patrick , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Multimatic Motorsports , Flying Lizard Motorsports , Team LNT