Laguna Seca: Porsche Friday report

MONTEREY, Calif. -- September 3 -- If you look at the GT point totals after six events in the 2003 American Le Mans Series, you will see that Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr are well on their way to repeat their 2002 drivers championship with the ...

MONTEREY, Calif. -- September 3 -- If you look at the GT point totals after six events in the 2003 American Le Mans Series, you will see that Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr are well on their way to repeat their 2002 drivers championship with the #23 Alex Job Racing McKenna mail2web Porsche 911 GT3. After all, they have a 32-point lead over their nearest rivals -- their own teammates -- and they have been in front at almost every race.

But the Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 7 finds the defending champions in somewhat desperate straits, having failed to reach the podium at both of the last two events due to bad luck, track incidents, and mechanical problems -- a trend they will try to reverse on race day in Monterey.

"The good news has been that, despite getting stuck in fifth gear at Road America, we were still able to finish fourth -- 10 points -- and despite an early-race accident, we battled back to finish fourth at Mosport -- 10 more points. But if we want to charge ahead towards the championship, we need a win at Laguna," said Luhr, who has combined with Maassen since 2001 to be the winningest driver combination in ALMS history. The pair has won the 12 Hours of Sebring three times, and this year added the 24 Hours of Le Mans to their list of wins.

The other Alex Job Racing Porsche 91 GT3 RS is being driven by German factory drivers Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard. Bergmeister/Bernhard won their first ALMS race at Road America a year ago, and have challenged their "senior" teammates all season, w inning events at Road Atlanta and Mosport in Canada. At the last event, however, a broken suspension upright caused a 28-minute pit stop, and the pair finished out of the points. They also joined The Racer's Group Porsche team for this year's Rolex 24 Ho urs at Daytona, scoring an overall win with TRG's Kevin Buckler and Michael Schrom.

The Las Vegas-based White Lightning/Petersen Motorsports Porsche has had great success in its limited racing schedule this year, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Alex Job, and finished second to the AJR Porsche at Sebring with Johnny Mowlem/Nic Jonsson /Craig Stanton at the helm. That Le Mans-winning car is back in the States, and Mowlem /Stanton are back with the team for the rest of the season, wasting no time taking advantage of the Alex Job Racing woes to score their first-ever ALMS win last month a t Road America. With more testing and car development, Mowlem and Stanton will again be podium candidates at Laguna.

Kevin Buckler and his Sonoma, Calif. -- based team, The Racer's Group, haven't had the best luck so far this ALMS season in their Porsches, but Buckler had more success at the beginning of the year than most teams have in a lifetime. As mentioned above, he and The Racer's Group regular Michael Schrom teamed with factory drivers Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard to win the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona outright in their Porsche -- the first time a GT car had won the event overall since 1977. Buckler is original ly from the Monterey Peninsula, and now lives in Novato, Calif.

Last year, besides winning the GT class at the Rolex 24 and the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, The Racer's Group captured wins at the ALMS races at Mid-Ohio (Buckler/B.J. Zacharias) and Mosport (Buckler/Brian Cunningham).  He and Schrom also won the
Grand-Am event at Fontana, Calif.  For 2003, Buckler and co-driver Cort Warner have two podium finishes -- a third at Road Atlanta and a second at Road America - to their credit.

The other two The Racer's Group Porsches will be driven by Schrom and Pierre Ehret, and Chris Gleason/Marc Bunting -- both cars finished in the top ten two weeks ago in Wisconsin.

The Jupiter, Florida-based Orbit Racing YES Network Porsche will be driven this weekend by Peter Baron and Leo Hindery. Earlier this month at Mosport, Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb, substituting for Hindery, came storming through the field to finish th ird, the team's first ALMS podium finish of the year. Lieb, Baron and Hindery drove together at the 24 hours of Le Mans in June, finishing second in GT. In February, Lieb put the Orbit car on the pole in GT at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. The second Or bit Porsche will be driven by the father-son team of Joe and Jay Policastro, who earned a third-place podium finish at the Grand-Am in Birmingham earlier this year in their Classic Industries Orbit Porsche.

Last week, Baron and Lieb were running in the top three when the car quit, causing a heart-breaking DNF.

The two-car British-based PK Sport Porsche 911 GT3 RS team is still looking to finish up to its potential, and will have PK Sport regular Robin Liddell and Monaco's Alex Caffi in one car, while San Rafael's Vic Rice will pair with British driver David Warn ock in the other Porsche.

Another team hungry for a podium finish is the J-3 Racing Porsche of Justin Jackson, and former SCCA World Challenge champion David Murry, who moved smartly through the field to finish sixth in Sonoma in July. They then scored their first podium finish of the year at Trois-Rivieres, only to be disqualified for an alleged bodywork infraction. J-3 appealed that disqualification, and their third place finish was restored. Murry's only ALMS win was with Johnny Mowlem in a Porsche RSR at Laguna in 1999; Mowlem had not won an ALMS race since either until two weeks ago at Road America.

Spencer Pumpelly and Andy Lally, whose best finish in their Zip Racing Porsche had been fifth so far this year (Trois-Rivieres), scored their first ALMS podium finish two weeks ago at Road America after a great battle with Sascha Maassen for the final winn er's circle spot. Pumpelly passed Maassen on the last lap to gain the podium. The team has entered a second Porsche for owner Steve Ivankovich and Romeo Kapudija

Race car builder Clayton Cunningham, known for his championship Nissan race cars from the 1980's and early '90s in IMSA, is back with the Inline Cunningham Porsche 911 GT3 RS, being driven by Oswaldo Negri and Scott Bader. This is the third race for Cunni ngham's entry, which finished sixth last month at Trois-Rivieres.

The Monterey Grand Prix will be broadcast live on NBC-TV starting at 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight time on Sunday, September 7 -- a two-hour show.  The entire 2-hour, 45-minute event, along with Saturday qualifying, will be broadcast live online on the American
Le Mans Radio Web, which can be accessed on the Web at www.americanlemans.com.  Live timing and scoring for qualifying and the race are also available at www.americanlemans.com on Saturday and Sunday.

The official Porsche media web site -- www.press.porsche.com -- will have racing results and photos for the Monterey event for the Porsches entered. Use the word "carrera" for both user name and password, then choose "motorsports news" to find the results. The same information is posted for consumers on Porsche's main site www.porsche.com/motorsport (click on Porsche Motorsports North America and "race reports").

The official race notes and results for all the classes at the Monterey event can be found on the official site for the American Le Mans Series www.americanlemans.com. .

Other Web sites that will follow the American Le Mans Series include Daily Sports Car (www.dailysportscar.com), The Race Site (www.theracesite.com), the Speed Channel site (www.speedTV.com), Motorsport.com (www.motorsport.com) , AutoSport magazine's site (www.autosport.com), AutoRacingDaily.com (www.autoracingdaily.com), Motorsport-news.com (www.motorsport-news.com), Crash.net (www.crash.net), racinglines.com (www.racinglines.com), EnduranceSportsCar.com (www.endurancesportscar.com), pitstop.com (www.pit stop.com); and Speed Arena (www.speedarena.com).

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Alex Job Racing