Detroit: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

DRIVELINE TROUBLE ENDS TOUGH WEEKEND FOR RLR ALMS SQUAD Racing officially returned today to Detroit's Belle Isle for the first time in six years as the American Le Mans Series staged the 10th race of its 2007 schedule today on the 2.07-mile ...

DRIVELINE TROUBLE ENDS TOUGH WEEKEND FOR RLR ALMS SQUAD

Racing officially returned today to Detroit's Belle Isle for the first time in six years as the American Le Mans Series staged the 10th race of its 2007 schedule today on the 2.07-mile temporary road course constructed on the picturesque island in the middle of the Detroit River.

But while the race fans turned out in droves, the Rahal Letterman Racing GT2 team was never quite able to get in the spirit.

"Frustrating would be the word I would use to sum it up," lamented team co-driver Tom Milner. "We just seemed to be a little off all weekend."

The Bell Micro-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 RSR qualified seventh for today's 165-minute event, but seventh was as close to the front as the team would get as problems cropped up on the very first lap of the race.

Ralf Kelleners was in position to start the race behind the wheel for the RLR squad - which was looking for its third straight podium finish and its third consecutive race as the top-finishing Porsche - but things went south just as the starter was preparing to flash the green flag.

A suspension problem forced Kelleners into the pits for repairs on the first race lap, where the Bell Micro team diagnosed the problem. Unfortunately the problem was such that it took nearly 30 minutes to repair, setting the team 20 laps behind the remainder of the GT2 field right out of the gate.

"I felt it two corners before we got to the green," Kelleners reported. "You could feel something was wrong, but when the rear tires were loaded (meaning that the majority of the car weight was over the rear wheels), the car felt OK. That made it hard to immediately diagnose the problem, but you knew something wasn't right."

The team got the #18 Porsche back on track after the repairs with Kelleners soldiering around the 14-turn course hoping to capitalize on any trouble that the rest of the GT2 competitors might encounter.

The plan seemed to be working as Kelleners moved up to 9th in the GT2 class at the race's halfway point. The team got a big break soon after the halfway mark passed when the second-placed Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek had contact with the #71 Porsche of Robin Liddell. The contact could not have been more fortuitous for the RLR team as the cars involved were two of the three machines that were ahead of the Kelleners/Milner pairing in championship points. Liddell's car was retired with the contact while van Overbeek made one more lap before flames began licking out the back of the car, eventually resulting in a conflagration that caused a delay of more than 20 minutes to clean up.

Milner took over during the lengthy caution and moved up to seventh place with 30 minutes to run when the final bit of trouble reared its head. A driveline failure left the RLR Porsche stranded on the side of the track, meaning that three of the top-four teams in GT2 points would fail to finish the race.

"I felt a tire rub and we thought we had a flat tire," Milner recalled after the team was credited with a ninth-place finish. "But when I went back to power, there was no drive there."

The ALMS squad will take the next month to prepare for its second-longest event of the year, the Petit Le Mans. The race, which covers 1,000 miles or 10 hours - whichever comes first - will take place October 6 at Road Atlanta.

-credit: rlm

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Robin Liddell , Johannes van Overbeek