AUTOCON COMPLETES NEAR FLAWLESS TEST OF ITS LOLA PROTOTYPE Bakersfield, CA - It's not often a scheduled test ends a day early because things run so smoothly and the pre-test goals are accomplished ahead of plan. That was the pleasant...
AUTOCON COMPLETES NEAR FLAWLESS TEST OF ITS LOLA PROTOTYPE
Bakersfield, CA - It's not often a scheduled test ends a day early because things run so smoothly and the pre-test goals are accomplished ahead of plan. That was the pleasant outcome, however, for San Diego-based Autocon Motorsports in its first outing of the 2006 season earlier this week at Buttonwillow Raceway. The team turned nearly 150 laps in the Autocon Lola EX257-AER at the 1.43-mile, 12-turn track.
"This was very much a familiarity test, as much as anything," said team owner Michael Lewis. "The Lola is new to everybody on the team, from the crew to the drivers. The two days went about as perfectly as one could imagine."
Butch Leitzinger, who drove the Lola for Dyson Racing during the last three years, was on hand to assist in the assimilation. "I was impressed with how effortlessly everything went and how quickly Autocon has adapted," he said. "There's a difference between the older generation Riley & Scott the team campaigned last year and the Lola, and the team looks ready to make the change successfully."
Leitzinger turned in the top time, a 57.8-second lap that was near the unofficial east loop record. Showing how quickly it had adapted to the car, the best time from the Autocon trio of Lewis, Chris McMurry and Bryan Willman was 58.3 seconds. The only glitch during the two days was a broken shift linkage that took only a few minutes to change.
"Hearing Butch's insights on what the car likes and wants was super- beneficial," said McMurry, who's moving up to P1 after finishing second in P2 last year for Miracle Motorsports. "We all picked up some useful pointers we'll use all season. As everyone knows, he's a great personality and consummate pro.
"The jump from the Courage C65 to the Lola felt natural," McMurry added. "Both have the AER turbo and many similar characteristics. But as a driver you always want more, and the most rewarding differences were the better acceleration and braking of the lighter car, and the less physical experience of the paddle-shifting and power steering. The car is a pleasure to drive, and we all feel really good about what we'll accomplish this season."
Both soft and hard compound Dunlop tires were used during the test, and the team was happy with the results of both. "We had a little difficulty getting heat in the fronts, but that was more of a track issue than having anything to do with tires," Lewis said about the short, twisty circuit.
Now the team turns its sights to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in mid- March to start the 2006 American Le Mans Series. "After chasing (and sometimes beating) the Lola my entire sports car career, it's a great pleasure to actually drive it, at least after learning how to control the fire-breathing turbo," said Willman. "We'll have one of the most completely sorted cars in the P1 field going into a 12-hour race on the roughest permanent course in North America. If ever there was a time to catch the rest of the P1 field out, this will be it. I am very hopeful."
The American Le Mans Series begins its 2006 season with the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The 12-hour endurance classic is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EST on March 18 at Sebring International Raceway. It will be televised live on SPEED Channel in North America and MotorsTV in Europe. In addition, Greenlight-Television will distribute the race worldwide to more than 510 million households. American Le Mans Series Radio will have flag- to-flag coverage available at www.americanlemans.com, along with IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.