Washington, DC, July 20 - Speeds got real today at RFK Stadium as the American Le Mans Series cars battled for pole and the Trans Am Series battled for the honor of the inaugural victory. Star Mazda and Speed World Challenge GT also conducted...
Washington, DC, July 20 - Speeds got real today at RFK Stadium as the American Le Mans Series cars battled for pole and the Trans Am Series battled for the honor of the inaugural victory. Star Mazda and Speed World Challenge GT also conducted their races, adding more drivers to the list of winners in this inaugural weekend.
The track itself also emerged as a winner. Yesterday there was a consensus among the drivers that this is a great track, and the racing would be good. Their opinion was confirmed today. They also decided that, like all truly great tracks, it's a tough place.
The fastest driver today was 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Frank Biela, in his factory Audi R8. He qualified for the pole in tomorrow's American Le Mans Series Cadillac Grand Prix, with a record time of 1:03.287. After his run, he spoke of how tough it is.
"It's stop and go," he explained. "You go around the corner, you accelerate, you brake again, and these little straights are too short to relax. Because of the lack of downforce - you don't have high speed corners - the g forces are not so high, so that makes it a little bit easier than other circuits. But the other thing is you have to do a lot of laps, you have to work a lot of the car. Out of the corners you always get some power oversteer and spin the wheels. That makes it very difficult. You are in the car for one or maybe two hours. It's very, very hot, especially if it's a nice day like today. I think it's really one of the toughest circuits we've ever had."
As Butch Leitzinger predicted yesterday, the Trans-Am Series put on an exciting race. By mid-race, Paul Gentilozzi had worked his way from a sixth place start to second, right behind pole sitter Leitzinger who led from the start. The rest of the race was an all-out duel between the two, with Paul rarely more than a second or two behind Butch. Despite finishing second, Gentilozzi had nothing but praise for the track. "They've done an amazing job here", Paul said. "Heck, Henry Ford and I raced together, but this place and the job they've done is awesome. The track had incredible grip and not one corner pulled up or disintegrated. This was a great test. It was 158 degrees in the car. We brake the hardest and accelerate the quickest here of any track we go to. I'd like to race here again next week, and the week after...but I'd be happy to win."
Moses Smith, winner of the Star Mazda race, had never raced on a street course before, and didn't know what to expect. He relished his victory, and the opportunity to race here. "I tell you," he said, "this is an awesome facility. For them putting it together, and it being in a parking lot and everything else, it's absolutely smooth out there. It has great curbing, good visibility through the whole place. It's a world class facility."
Please don't tell Moses that they're not all like this.
With three excellent races in the books today, ALMS pole sitter Frank Biela expects more of the same tomorrow.
"It will come down to strategy - and staying off the walls," he said. "For the spectators, it will be an exciting race. A good driver in a bad car cannot win. You need a good setup, and on a good day you can win. The track is too short to relax, it will be one of the toughest races we've ever had. If you don't do it, the others will, and that makes it very risky. It will probably be tougher than Le Mans."
Smooth. Wide. Tougher than Le Mans. Mayor Anthony Williams and National Grand Prix Holdings seem to have achieved something here. And there are nine years to go on their contract.