FROM LE MANS TO LIME ROCK: AN ALMS ODYSSEY Braselton, Ga. - From 24 hours to just under three and an 8.3-mile track to one that's just 1.5 miles. And don't forget the long flight across the pond from Europe. It's all part of the journey from Le...
FROM LE MANS TO LIME ROCK: AN ALMS ODYSSEY
Braselton, Ga. - From 24 hours to just under three and an 8.3-mile track to one that's just 1.5 miles. And don't forget the long flight across the pond from Europe. It's all part of the journey from Le Mans to Lime Rock for 11 teams from the American Le Mans Series that competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and are entered in the New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
The renowned Connecticut track is playing host to Round 4 of the ALMS on July 4, just three weeks after series teams won three of the four classes at Le Mans. ALMS squads also took eight podiums, the most in the seven-year history of the series.
For those teams who are making their way back from France, there is much work to do and less time in which to do it.
For example, the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing team will completely tear down and rebuild the No. 31 Porsche once it arrives at Lime Rock after landing at New York's JFK International Airport. The only work done to the car following Le Mans was the removal of its nose, rear bumper, and raising the car up for travel. Once on site at Lime Rock, the crew will replace the car's engine and gearbox, as well as closely check everything else that may need repairing.
"Because the car was not damaged during the race at Le Mans, and no mechanical repairs had to be done to the Porsche during the actual 24 hours, we should be in good shape to get everything changed pretty quickly," said team public relations director Tom Moore.
Of course, the Petersen/White Lightning gang has done this before, having participated at Le Mans in previous years and going through the two-week turnaround last year. But for first-time entrants like Miracle Motorsports and Flying Lizard Motorsports, the task can seem a little daunting. But that's where planning and preparation come in handy, said Flying Lizard team manager Eric Ingraham.
"We started planning for Le Mans over six months ago," he said. "We knew that the Mid-Ohio-Le Mans-Lime Rock swing of races was going to be tough logistically. One of our objectives was to make sure that our Le Mans effort did not interfere with the ALMS races. Coming off of a 24-hour race in France to Lime Rock just two weeks later is definitely a challenge. But we had enough planning to make it work. We'll be ready to race in full form next week."
But it's nice to get back into the regular routine. Several series drivers said they were looking forward to getting back to the familiar ALMS format of two-hour, 45-minute sprint races and the shorter tracks in the series. It takes less of a toll on the teams, cars and minds.
"I actually enjoy Lime Rock. It's a fun track to drive," said Corvette Racing's Ron Fellows, who finished second in GT1 at Le Mans with Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis. "It's like going from a super speedway to a short track. It's so different than a lap at Le Mans that's nine miles around. I think everybody probably is happy to get back to the sprint races. With the strength of the Aston Martins and perfect weather at Le Mans, there wasn't a whole lot of letting up by anyone. There was an awfully strong pace for that race. But everyone is looking forward to getting back."
Petersen/White Lightning driver Patrick Long agrees. He said both tracks have a history behind them, and that Lime Rock is pretty quick and a fun track to run although it's tight and on the short side.
"The bottom line is I really like both tracks although, to be honest, I am a little concerned about traffic at Lime Rock," said Long, who finished second in GT2 at Le Mans with Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard. "The people are great and the scenery is terrific in Lime Rock. It's our only race in the New England, and I think it is a great location for the holiday weekend. I'm really excited about going there."
The New England Grand Prix, Round 4 of the American Le Mans Series, is set for 3 p.m. July 4 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED Channel will provide live coverage, along with American Le Mans Series Radio at www.americanlemans.com.