Titles in all classes up for grabs over final three ALMS rounds
With three rounds to go in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, the vast majority of driver, team and manufacturer championships remain up for grabs. This weekend’s Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT takes on added importance as a result. Class winners in Baltimore receive 20 points with 46 available over the final two rounds – VIR and Road Atlanta.
Here’s how things look heading to Charm City…
What may have seemed like a foregone conclusion two weeks ago isn’t any longer. A stirring victory by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith for Dyson Racing at Road America put the defending P1 champions squarely back in title contention. Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Muscle Milk Pickett Racing remain in control on the strength of five straight wins between Long Beach in April and Mid-Ohio earlier this month.
Short of a non-points paying finish – which would be disastrous for either group – Muscle Milk can clinch with one more victory and two podium finishes over the final three rounds.
Honda Performance Development (chassis and engine) and Michelin (tire) lead their respective categories. The scenarios are the same in those as for the team, driver and manufacturer championship.
Corvette Racing is in the driver’s seat heading to Baltimore. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner – winners thrice in 2012 – lead teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen by 18 points. Dirk Müller, defending class co-champion, sits third for BMW Team RLL with a season-opening win at Sebring to his credit; he is 24 points behind the Gavin/Milner pairing.
The race for Müller’s third-place spot is hotly contested with seven drivers within 13 points.
Corvette Racing’s lead over BMW Team RLL is 18 points in the team championship; Flying Lizard Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports are jockeying for third place with 11 points between them. Chevrolet owns a 13-point lead in the auto manufacturer race; BMW, Porsche and Ferrari are within 19 points of each other for second. Michelin leads the tire manufacturer category by 12 points over Dunlop.
Here’s where the ALMS finds its closest fight. Defending champions Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Level 5 Motorsports are locked in a tough battle with Conquest Endurance’s Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier-Hansson. Tucker and Bouchut have four wins in seven races but lead by only five points. ‘DHH’ and Plowman won two of the last three rounds including at Road America where Tucker and Bouchut placed third.
In the team standings, running a two-car operation has played in Level 5’s favor, giving the team a slightly more substantial 12-point gap.
The focus in Prototype Challenge is now on the driver’s championship. That’s because CORE autosport wrapped up its second straight team title with a 1-2 finish at Road America. It likely will come down to CORE teammates for the driver’s crown with Alex Popow leading the pairing of Colin Braun and team owner Jon Bennett by 12 points. Consistency is Popow’s strength with podium finishes in all seven rounds so far.
RSR Racing’s Bruno Junqueira leads the race for third place; he remains in title contention although he needs all three CORE drivers to implode over the final three rounds.
Cooper MacNeil has a firm grip on the GT Challenge driver’s championship and could clinch this weekend. He needs a victory with Leh Keen for Alex Job Racing and have Green Hornet Racing’s Peter LeSaffre and Damien Faulkner score zero points. Like Popow in PC, consistency is playing into MacNeil’s favor; he has stood on the podium in five of seven races.
Alex Job Racing appears on the way to its first ALMS title since 2004 when it won in GT. With three victories this year, AJR leads TRG by 28 points and Green Hornet by 29.
Source: American Le Mans Series