Detroit, Michigan - VICI Racing and development partner Kumho Tires arrived on Belle Isle in Detroit this week ready to bounce back from last weekend when the most competitive weekend of the inaugural American Le Mans Series (ALMS) year for the...
Detroit, Michigan - VICI Racing and development partner Kumho Tires arrived on Belle Isle in Detroit this week ready to bounce back from last weekend when the most competitive weekend of the inaugural American Le Mans Series (ALMS) year for the team ended abruptly less than a third of the way through the race after the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR crashed out following a suspension component failure which was beyond the team's control.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for everyone and followed on from the team's best qualifying showing of the year, which came despite limited practice time on the Canadian circuit; and the car and tires were showing very well during the opening stint of the race. But motor racing delivers highs and lows, and the step forward in competiveness at Mosport was a pretty good reward in what has been a demanding first year in the series.
VICI Racing is now hoping that lady luck will smile more favourably on the Miami, Florida based team this weekend in unique, and so far warm and sunny, setting of Belle Isle in Detroit. Back-to-back races are demanding of any team in the most optimum of circumstances, but with a car that has hit the tires barriers at high speed it becomes an even more testing undertaking. However for a team that prides itself on its professionalism and attention to every detail it has simply been a case of methodically working through the relevant issues once the team's brand-new transporter had made the 250-mile road trip from the Mosport International Raceway (Toronto, Canada) to Belle Isle (Detroit, Michigan) where it arrived in the temporary paddock here early yesterday morning.
The driver line-up in the #18 car, which is supported by Hughes Telematics, Hughes Network Systems, LuxuryMotors.com and Wempe this year, remains unchanged going into the ninth round of 2008 ALMS this week. Nicky and Francesco Pastorelli will start their fifth consecutive race for VICI Racing, the rapid Dutch pair being joined once again by experienced sports car star Marc Basseng, who will be entering his third ALMS race with the team, having joined at Mid-Ohio.
None of the drivers have taken part in this race or seen the track before; however Nicky does has street circuit experience, having raced in ChampCar at street circuits including San Jose, Long Beach, Denver and Long Beach, as well as tracks in Europe. Team Manager Tim Bumps has been coming to Belle Isle since 1992, and was on the winning team here in 1996, so he brings experience of this unique challenge.
The ALMS series is returning to the streets of Belle Isle for the second consecutive year, and just like in 2007, the sports car are racing on a double-header with the Indycars. A 982-acre island in the Detroit River, Belle Isle, was home to the Detroit Grand Prix from 1992-2001, utilizing a temporary street circuit that was constructed specifically for the CART races. In 2007, it once again hosted world-class racing with both the open- wheel cars of the IndyCar Series and the sports cars of the American Le Mans Series competing at the event. Connected to Detroit by the MacArthur Bridge, various entities call Belle Isle home, including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Detroit Boat Club, the Detroit Yacht Club, a municipal golf course, an aquarium and a Coast Guard post. The island also includes a half-mile swimming beach, the only one in the city, and a nature center.
Roland Wall, Technical Director, VICI Racing: "I was satisfied by how well we were running at Mosport before the incident. To go out at that point was a disappointment, but the important thing was that we made further progress all round. It was also satisfying that we found a good pace although many teams tested at the track earlier in the week and in fact we also missed out on the Thursday sessions. This is a development year using the races foremost as testing opportunities, we're not targeting eye-catching results, but we want to make real, tangible progress at every race and this was the case at Mosport. Now we have to carry this competiveness into Detroit this week and face the challenge of a completely different type. Belle Isle is a mix of concrete and asphalt surfaces and we expect it to be a bit slippery to start with. But I think we can get a good set up for the race and the team has bounced back well from the damage at Mosport."
Tim Bumps, Team Manager VICI Racing: "We've all worked really hard to get here and have the #18 car repaired in time for the first practice sessions which start on Friday. The logistics of being away from our Miami base for most of August have been tricky and having to repair a damaged car this week has added to our schedule, but we have a very strong crew under crew chief Alex [Zaric] and the guys have pulled together superbly as I know they would. I've been coming here since 1992 and enjoyed some very good results so I hope we can get another solid one this weekend and this time load up an undamaged car at the end of it. I must also say that the improvements to the venue made last year by Roger Penske have been excellent and provide a very welcome upgrade."
Nicky Pastorelli (Holland): "I'm looking forward to this race, I like street circuits generally and this one looks very interesting for sure. I was disappointed not to get to drive at Mosport but the car was working well there and it's important that we are making steps forward. For sure we had a good set up and race strategy but these things happen. We have quite a way to go but we are going in the right direction and for me it's both exciting and very challenging being a part of this big development project. I enjoyed my time as a test driver in F1, and this project this year is very motivating for sure. Now we're all focused on Detroit, and I hope to help the team to a good result on Saturday."
Marc Basseng (Germany): "The race [Grand Prix of Mosport] was going great, the strategy went right and we were more competitive, and as in Road America, the car felt very good. The crash was bad luck for all in the team. However the damage wasn't too bad so I was happy for the team and now I'm pleased to be racing in Detroit. Thanks to the whole Team and Porsche that they managed the repair the car and get the parts quickly. It will be my first race in Detroit so that's going to be interesting. I feel really involved and pleased with the team and I'm impressed by Engineer Roland [Wall]. I hope my team mates and myself, we can show a good result like we wanted to do in Mosport."
Francesco Pastorelli (Holland): "It wasn't ideal for me at Mosport as I didn't get a lot of track time in the car in practice and then our race ended before my stint. However I hope that it goes better for me this week and I get much more cockpit time. I haven't driven on a street circuit before so I'm quite excited by driving here, the circuit looks to be nice from videos that I have seen. I hope I can contribute to a successful week for the team and we can all put Mosport behind us."