DETROIT DOMINATION: ACURA, AGR WIN ON BELLE ISLE Andretti Green Racing fulfilled the promise and potential it showed all season with its first overall victory in the American Le Mans Series on Saturday. James Rossiter and Franck Montagny won the...
DETROIT DOMINATION: ACURA, AGR WIN ON BELLE ISLE
Andretti Green Racing fulfilled the promise and potential it showed all season with its first overall victory in the American Le Mans Series on Saturday. James Rossiter and Franck Montagny won the Detroit Sports Car Challenge as Acura swept the overall podium for the first time in its two-year stint in the Series. Audi's Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner clinched the LMP1 driver championship when the race-winning Audi R10 TDI of Emanuele Pirro and Marcel Fassler was excluded after it failed to meet the required minimum weight in post-race technical inspection.
The day was about Acura, however. The manufacturer also posted its second overall race victory and took the lead in the LMP2 manufacturer championship by four points over Porsche.
The victory also ended a dry streak for Andretti Green which hadn't won in the Series since a debut win for the team and Acura at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2007.
"Everything went to plan," said Rossiter, who won in his third Series start. "I managed to make up one place and maintain that to the end of my stint. We managed to keep it clean throughout. The team is really good and did a great job. The strategy was perfect and they deserved for us to be in first place."
After Rossiter completed the opening stint, Montagny led the final 46 laps and drove the final two hours on the same set of Michelin street soft tires. The last stop was for fuel only.
The Frenchman beat Patrón Highcroft Racing's David Brabham across the line by 3.985 seconds. De Ferran Motorsports' Acura of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud finished third, 28.836 seconds behind the Andretti Green entry.
With their finish, Brabham and Scott Sharp pulled to within four points of the P2 driver championship lead, held by Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. They finished fourth in class.
Montagny and Rossiter drove only their third race together and were 12 minutes from a class win at Road America three weeks ago. Montagny crashed into a slower GT2 car that knocked the Acura out of the race. The duo has not been lacking for speed, and Andretti Green made its own luck with its strategic calls and dominating display.
"The team did a very good job in terms of strategy, which was especially good after Mosport where we struggled," Montagny said. "This time we were a little bit lucky. James did his stint with tires from qualifying and the car looked OK although there was a bit of understeer. The tires looked fine as well. We did put a lot of time on the tires, and I don't think they could have could have lasted another 10 laps or half-stint. It was very close all the time."
Intersport Racing took the LMP1 victory following the exclusion of the No. 1 Audi and Lucas Luhr's crash in the second R10 TDI. The trio of Jon Field, Clint Field and Richard Berry ended Audi's 30-race class winning streak that dated back to Sebring in 2006.
The win is Intersport's first of the year and its first since Clint Field and Liz Halliday won at Portland 2006 when they beat a pair of Penske Racing Porsches in LMP2. Jon Field's last victory came at Sebring in 2006, and Berry won for the first time.
The Fields also became the 20th and 21st driver in Series history to win in multiple classes.
Luhr and Werner claimed the P1 title with two rounds remaining and a 66-point gap over Pirro; only 55 points are available in the last two Series races. It is Werner's third championship and the fourth for Luhr, who becomes the first driver in Series history to win championships in three different classes (LMP1, LMP2, GT).
"Of course we would have prefered to have won the title under different circumstances," said Luhr and Werner. "But with seven consecutive victories already this season we certainly feel we have earned the title."
Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta won in GT1 for the first time since late March with more than a minute in hand to beat teammates Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. Three-time and defending class champions, Gavin and Beretta took the lead early when the No. 4 crew got the car out of pitlane ahead of the sister car during the first round of stops at the 40-minute mark.
"We have had some bad luck this year," Beretta said. "For the first time we didn't have any problems and we were the faster car. Ollie did a good job pushing the car up to the end. Our crew did a very good job and they have all three years. Michelin and Compuware were great this week. They are very strong and know what to do. They are experienced and have a winning spirit. They never give up."
The Bell Motorsports' Aston Martin DBR9 of Terry Borcheller and Chapman Ducote finished third in class for the third straight race.
The victory for Beretta and Gavin came in the shadows of General Motors' headquarters in downtown Detroit. They finished second last year and have had the speed to win more than twice this season. Luck was another matter.
"I haven't been so kind to the car the last couple of events and it was great to reward the guys for their hard work this year," Gavin said. "This is the place they want to win more than anywhere else. It is a fantastic team and they have themselves in a position that they know the car and the Series so well. It's one of the best sports car teams in the world if not the best."
Gavin and Beretta still trail O'Connell and Magnussen by 31 points in the class championship.
Flying Lizard Motorsports scored its third 1-2 finish of the season as GT2 championship leaders Jorg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler bolstered their class lead with their fourth win of the season. The pair of Porsche factory drivers stayed clean while Ferraris from Tafel Racing and Risi Competizione had their problems, and Johannes van Overbeek was hit while leading by Penske's Bernhard.
Henzler, the class polesitter, crossed the line 6.570 seconds ahead of van Overbeek who teamed with Patrick Pilet. Mika Salo and Jaime Melo, last week's winners at Mosport, finished third in Risi's lead Ferrari F430 GT.
"I said yesterday that my favorite part of the track was the start-finish line," Henzler joked after the race. "In my second stint I came out behind Johannes and I wasn't going to make a stupid move on him. Unfortunately he had an incident with a prototype and then it became hard to communicate with my pit crew. They couldn't hear me and I could barely hear them. I unplugged the radio, twisted it and suddenly it worked. At the end, another yellow came and I had to push a little more. Even after one lap, there was a big gap and it was easy at the end."
The Lizard duo saw their championship lead jump from 10 points to 28 points as the Tafel Ferrari of Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher lost time in the pits with a faulty ignition. They finished ninth in class.
The Lizards have been championship contenders since joining the Series since 2004 and finished second in both the team and driver championships last season.
"I don't want to jinx it," said Bergmeister, himself a two-time GT2 champion. "We are in good shape and still have to fight for race wins. You have to have luck to win a championship and everyone is trying their best. We're keeping our heads down and going forward."
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally new Mazda6. The Series' cornerstone round is set for 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 4 from Road Atlanta. SPEED will televise the race live with XM Satellite Radio airing live race coverage throughout the day. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.