CORSA COMES HOME SEEKING GT2 GLORY The opening phase of the American Le Mans Series season has been one no one at Corsa Motorsports will ever forget.for both the right and wrong reasons. After withdrawing from the ...
CORSA COMES HOME SEEKING GT2 GLORY
The opening phase of the American Le Mans Series season has been one no one at Corsa Motorsports will ever forget.for both the right and wrong reasons. After withdrawing from the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Utah-based team has roared back with consecutive fourth-place GT2 finishes with its Ferrari F430 GT, excellent momentum heading into a home race at Miller Motorsports Park.
Gunner Jeannette and Johnny Mowlem will drive the Corsa Ferrari in Sunday's Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels. The familiar surrounding of Miller Motorsports Park is a welcomed sight for a team that has run the gamut of emotions in the first three rounds.
"This year we enter the event at Miller with race experience, a pair of proven drivers and a team that has had an opportunity to work together, develop chemistry and become comfortable in its skin," exclaimed team owner Steve Pruitt, who watched his team finish fifth in class last year. "We know the track at Miller very well. With the familiarity our drivers have with the track and the experience we have as a team, we think we have the potential to do very well."
It has been a winding road so far. First it started with the withdrawal from the season opener at Sebring, citing safety and competition concerns. And while the rest of the paddock was busy collecting much-needed championship points, the Steve Pruitt-owned team was wondering when the Ferrari would hit the track again in 2008.
The answer came three weeks later at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg where the now Dunlop-shod Ferrari made its first start with an impressive fourth-place class finish after starting eighth, The Long Beach round, another street race, offered the same result but different strategy. The team ran the full race on the same set of tires and showed competitive speed.
"Since St Petersburg and Long Beach we have made a huge leap forward and at Long Beach in particular we were legitimate top-five frontrunners on pace," said Mowlem. "Given that the American Le Mans Series has arguably the best GT2 teams in the world, it is no mean achievement given how young a team we are."
The game changes a bit this week though. Instead of the bumps and close quarters of a street circuit, Miller Motorsports Park is smooth, open and fast. Sunday's race also is a full two hours and 45 minutes, up significantly from St. Petersburg and Long Beach. And at 3.048 miles and 15 turns, the circuit will rank among the fastest tracks the Series visits. But one shouldn't necessarily believe the Salt Lake City-based team has a hometrack advantage.
"We've gone out on the outer track only once on the Dunlops," Jeannette said. "With the limited track time on a street circuit, we haven't had a chance to dive into car setup. We've been focused on making things work. Now that we've tested and had a little bit of time to get some more speed out, the thing we're most pleased with is that we've been closing the gap to the front collection of cars. The gap has closed significantly. This being a home race, we're looking to close the gap even more.
"The strategy will be different," he added. "The bigger thing for the team is that we ran the 2007-spec car at the street circuits. This will be the first race for the 2008 car. We had most of the updates done to the 2007 car for the street events. We had the aero package but we have done some brake testing with the new car, which is an improvement. We're salivating to get on the podium."
The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels is set for Sunday, May 18 from Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The green flag is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT with live television coverage on SPEED. Live radio coverage will be available on XM Satellite Radio Channel 144 and American Le Mans Radio at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.