ACEMCO Le Mans spotlight

ACEMCO READY FOR RETURN TO TRACK Braselton, Ga. - His team was so very close to ending Corvette Racing's stranglehold on the American Le Mans Series' GT1 class last season. This year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jeff Giangrande is hoping his ...

ACEMCO READY FOR RETURN TO TRACK

Braselton, Ga. - His team was so very close to ending Corvette Racing's stranglehold on the American Le Mans Series' GT1 class last season. This year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jeff Giangrande is hoping his ACEMCO Motorsports team will break through this time.

The Michigan-based squad has spent the last eight months preparing the ACEMCO S7R for its assault on Le Mans. Regular team drivers Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem will be joined by Christian Fittipaldi at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The ACEMCO gang has opted for a long period of testing and development to prepare the S7R for the most grueling challenge in motorsports.

"We've spent the whole winter working on development and testing - aerodynamics, restrictor placement, engine development, refined chassis development," Giangrande said. "We're basically taking a lot of things after racing for two years against the Corvettes. We think we have a better car than we have ever had. Our expectations are that if we get lucky, we should do well. If we stay out of trouble and no one takes us out, we'll have a strong chance."

The team has been testing the car periodically this season. The S7R's last test before being shipped to Le Mans came in the form of a quick shakedown about two weeks ago. The team also tested the car at Sebring the Monday after the 12 Hours.

"It went well," Mowlem said. "We were running the same race pace as the Corvettes and Astons without running low fuel or new tires."

The ACEMCO S7R hasn't put in a green-flag lap since the Series' final round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last season. A power steering failure negated a class pole run, but the progress ACEMCO had made since the Infineon round last July was crystal clear. The team found more horsepower and an aero package that suited the car much better than before.

"(Sears Point) was the start of it," Borcheller said. "The car and the team was getting better as the team went on, so we were at our best at the season's end. Then we had the power-steering issues that we hadn't seen before. It took away from a lot of what we could have done. Part of that is that we weren't able to do proper testing. We were stressing things in ways we hadn't stressed out before."

That may have been a blessing in disguise. No race in the world taxes and stresses a car and a team like 24 hours at Le Mans. Rarely does the fastest car win the race, much less finish. That's something that's not lost on Giangrande, his drivers and his teams.

"We've done a few things to make the car better for Le Mans - straightaway speed, engine, air flow," Borcheller said. "Everything that we have done will help in regards to performance and speed, and to some degree reliability. Will it be enough? I really don't know. We won't know for sure until the test day. What we have to go off of is how we ran against the Corvette last year. The Corvette is better than it was last year, and we're better in testing than we were last year."

"The thing is that is the most challenging is that it is so long," Mowlem said. "You might only go through each corner 10 or 11 times during two or three hours of practice time, so you can't afford to waste too much time finding a good set-up. There are also many high-speed corners - Indianapolis, the Porsche Curves, Tetra Rouge - that require maximum concentration. Obviously many people will list the Corvettes as the favorite, and the Astons will have a tremendous advantage in straightline speed. But I think we're a darkhorse for it."

The 24 Hours of Le Mans starts at 5 p.m. local time on Saturday, June 18 and finishes at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 19. The race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel in North America and in Europe on MotorsTV. Live radio coverage will be available at www.radiolemans.com.

The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for July 1 at Lime Rock Park. The race is scheduled for a 3 p.m. EDT start. CBS Sports will televise the event from 4 to 6 p.m. EDT on July 2. Live coverage will be available at americanlemans.com with American Le Mans Radio and IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Johnny Mowlem
Teams Corvette Racing