IN THEIR OWN WORDS: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD "It's all downhill from here." Such an expression no doubt was circulating through the American Le Mans Series paddock following the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. America's...
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
"It's all downhill from here." Such an expression no doubt was circulating through the American Le Mans Series paddock following the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. America's greatest sports car race traditionally has been the first event on the Series schedule and it prepares a driver, car and team to a degree that no other race in the world can for the grind of a full-season effort, which continues April 5 in St. Petersburg. Here's how some of the newer faces in the Series paddock viewed Sebring and the rest of the 2008 season.
Christian Fittipaldi, Andretti Green Racing Acura ARX-01b (LMP2)
"The track was very quick. Running laps in the 1:45 and 1:46s was so physical. The hardest part was on the shoulders and neck. That's especially true in the open-cockpit cars. The lateral G-forces you are pulling in the open cars are much greater than you could get in a closed GT car. The whole package is about a second and a half quicker this year than last.
"Talking to some guys on the team and to Bryan (Herta), I think we are going to be more successful on the street circuits and the tighter road courses. The advantage the Porsche had on us at practice on the straightaways in practice didn't affect us much in the race. That was a good encouragement point for races like Salt Lake City and Elkhart Lake. It's going to be tough no matter where we go. The Porsches aren't going to back off and the other teams are going to be just as tough. I never expected three cars to be on the lead lap at the end of the race. It was competitive and tough; I think the shorter races are going to be even harder."
Joel Feinberg, Primetime Race Group
Dodge Viper Competition Coupe (GT2)
"The 12 Hours was great. We were pleased that the car went as well as it did. It had never been run in that type of race. All the work we did converting the car to the GT2 rules made the difference. Going into the race, I said I would have been thrilled with anything in the top-five. And that's where we ended up. It's not about how fast you can go but how long you can go and how clean you can keep the car. We hit a home run on all three fronts. It definitely gave us a good baseline for the rest of the season as far points for the car. It gives us a better gameplan for sure going into Petit Le Mans and the other long-distance races.
"Physically it was as demanding as anything I have ever raced. This race beat me up. You have to be on your game at every turn. We're all jacked up for St. Petersburg and Long Beach. We ran the car in World Challenge at Long Beach last year and it'll be a different world running the GT2 configuration there. We're looking forward to it."
Lord Drayson, Drayson-Barwell Motorsport
Aston Martin DBRS9 (GT2)
"I made a mistake (in the race) and, as I was told at the beginning of the week, 'Make a mistake at Sebring and the circuit bites back.' Nevertheless, it (was) an excellent week. I am really pleased how well the team and the car have performed - running faultlessly on E85 bio-ethanol fuel. Everyone at Sebring has been very friendly and the American Le Mans Series family has made us feel very much at home. This really is world-class racing - very difficult but very rewarding when you get it right."
Doug Peterson, LG Motorsports
Corvette C6 (GT2)
"It was more difficult than I first thought. My helmet has a bunch of scratches from my head hitting the rollbar through turns 17 and 1. But I love the track and I was able to drive OK. I definitely could have done better. The endurance brake pads were more difficult for me. I'm a left-foot braker, and I'm pushing on the pedal and pushing down on the pedal, and you're slowing down. But if you do it too hard, you go into a spin.
"The races from here will be less stressful. The car will hopefully have much better setup to it. We'll be able to concentrate more on actual racing. It should be much easier from here."
Chapman Ducote, Bell Motorsports
Aston Martin DBR9 (GT1)
"I think Sebring is a great venue and phenomenal test bed for the car. Considering the length of the race and the difficult surface of the track, teams discover just how durable their equipment actually is. While it is tough as a season opener, I think it is a good idea because it jump starts teams to have their effort together. You cannot go into this race unprepared, and the preparation for this race carries over to the rest of the season. Also, being a Florida (Miami Beach) resident, this is kind of a home track for me. I have plenty of laps there and really enjoy the circuit.
"But most importantly the historical significance is awesome. All the manufactures that have raced there over the past 50+ years is mind boggling. The place has tradition. Being able to advance the podium after all the great drivers before me was truly an honor."
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. The green flag is scheduled for 1:25 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 5 from the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be broadcast on ABC from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET on April 5. American Le Mans Radio coverage will be available on XM Satellite Radio Channel 144 and americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.