Detroit: Rahal Letterman Racing preview

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING LOOKS TO TRIPLE UP ON ALMS PODIUM SUCCESSES HILLIARD, Ohio - Like a yearling colt, the first-year Rahal Letterman Racing GT2 program competing in the American Le Mans Series took a few wobbly steps right out of the gate,...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING LOOKS TO TRIPLE UP ON ALMS PODIUM SUCCESSES

HILLIARD, Ohio - Like a yearling colt, the first-year Rahal Letterman Racing GT2 program competing in the American Le Mans Series took a few wobbly steps right out of the gate, but showed promise in nearly every step.

Now, just a few short months later, that colt is sprinting like a thoroughbred and is surging toward the front.

The Bell Micro-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 RSR heads to Detroit's Belle Isle race circuit this weekend, riding the momentum of consecutive podium finishes for the first time in its brief history, and has propelled drivers Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner to within just 13 points of the third spot in the driver standings. Last weekend saw the team power from a sixth-place starting spot to finish third at Mosport, ending the day as the top-running Porsche for the second consecutive event.

This weekend's trip to Belle Isle will mark the first time that the ALMS cars will run on the long-time Champ Car circuit, and is the 10th stop on the 12-race ALMS schedule for 2007. The 2.125-mile, 14-turn layout has been refurbished since major auto racing left the island in 2001 and is expected to host tens of thousands of fans at this weekend's Detroit Sportscar Challenge Presented by Bosch.

This will be the first time the ALMS cars have run on a temporary street-style circuit since May, when RLR finished eighth in class in Houston. The RLR car however, had run well on the street courses, including Long Beach and St. Petersburg before various problems blunted victory charges.

"Up to now, we have not had a lot of luck on street circuits with a crash in St. Pete and a driveshaft failure in Houston, but we were actually set up pretty well for those races," Kelleners said. "We have learned a lot more about the car since Houston and hopefully we will translate that into a competitive package this weekend. It is a new track for me, but it is the same for most of the drivers. I hope to get into a rhythm early on so I can give the engineers the feedback they need to get us to the front!"

The driver duo of Kelleners and Milner vaulted into fourth place in the GT2 class pilot points after their podium run at Elkhart Lake, and last week's result moved them to within just 13 points of third-placed Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell with three races to run. Only the class-leading Ferrari of Jamie Melo and Mika Salo have scored more points than Kelleners and Milner over the last two races, and Milner hopes to maintain that momentum.

"Lets hope we can continue the momentum we have right now into Detroit. Another podium would be great. It'll be interesting to see how we do," Milner said. "We've really got a good car for the road courses but at the last street track we were at, we had trouble. I think we've learned enough about the car though since then, so I feel that we can be much improved at Detroit. I'm pretty sure no one has driven the track so we are all starting from scratch."

Things get going this afternoon for the ALMS teams as they get a chance to get up-close-and-personal with the new track during a 30-minute track orientation on Thursday. This gives the teams a chance to walk the circuit and get a feel for what it will take to be fast once the engines fire on Friday. The ALMS team will qualify Friday afternoon, with the race set for a 3:15 p.m. start on Saturday afternoon. The 165-minute event will be aired on a same-day basis on SPEED, beginning at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

-credit: rlr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Mika Salo , Robin Liddell , Wolf Henzler