Returning to the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was very much like putting on a worn glove, both familiar and comfortable, but the drivers were met with weather conditions that were far from friendly on Friday for the first practice session....
Returning to the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was very much like putting on a worn glove, both familiar and comfortable, but the drivers were met with weather conditions that were far from friendly on Friday for the first practice session. Despite blue skies and warm sunshine on Thursday for track orientation, Friday morning's practice session began in heavy rain. Standing water on the track made conditions impossible for some of the prototypes which remained in their pits for much of the session. However as the rain eased both the Dyson Racing LMP2 Porsche Spyders took to the track and as the 90-minute session came to a close the #20 Dyson car, with Marino Franchitti at the wheel, popped to the top of the timing charts by a huge 2.5 seconds over rest of the field. "The car was feeling really good, and the weekend was looking promising" said Marino at the conclusion of practice.
The second and final practice of the day came just prior to qualifying and it threw a completely different complexion on Marino's weekend. Butch Leitzinger, Marino's co-driver, was behind the wheel on slick tyres when heavy rain began falling once again and Butch was suddenly in the tyre wall! Damage was fairly extensive, and time was precious, the team did an amazing job and managed to complete the repairs, but without time to do any set-up procedures as qualifying had just commenced. Marino qualified the #20 car, but found it a handful. Despite that he still managed to get the Thetford/Norcold car into the top ten and 8th in class with a time of 1:16.554 around the 2.074 mile circuit.
When the teams arrived at the circuit for today's race, they found it cloaked in a blanket of fog which magically lifted as their race proceedings began. "The start of the race looked fairly promising" said Marino, but then added, "it suddenly went downhill". Up to the first cautionary period the #20 Dyson Racing Porsche Spyder had very bad understeer and progress was difficult. By the second full course yellow Marino had no grip left in the tyres and likened it to driving on ice. At the third yellow, just over halfway into the race, the team called Marino to the pits for a driver change, but as new tyres went on a wheel nut was dropped necessitating a "Stop and Go" penalty and causing the team to go a lap down. Then an unexpected puncture resulted in the loss of a further lap for the #20 car. However, the team regrouped and Butch eventually brought the car home 8th overall and 8th in class. "The weekend started with a lot of promise, then gradually got worse" said Marino. "It was a really tough race" he continued, "but now we move to Road Atlanta, and Petit Le Mans. The longer races seem to have suited us this season, and the track is another of my favourites, so I'm really looking forward to it".
The tenth round of the American Le Mans Series will be held on the Road Atlanta circuit on Saturday, 4th October, 2008.