Long Beach: Rick Mayer technical preview

RICK MAYER'S INSIDE TRACK: LONG BEACH Risi's technical director looks at Round 2 of 2010 championship As he has for the last few seasons, Risi Competizione technical director Rick Mayer gives an in-depth look into the pre-race thinking for the...

Risi's technical director looks at Round 2 of 2010 championship

As he has for the last few seasons, Risi Competizione technical director Rick Mayer gives an in-depth look into the pre-race thinking for the team's Ferrari F430 GT throughout the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron championship. Mayer is one of the many cogs that have propelled Risi to worldwide dominance in GT racing.

Like Sebring, the car count will be up with the continuation of the Challenge classes - LMPC and GTC: 35 cars for the race. The extra cars will add more traffic to one of the tightest circuits we race on. This will increase the chance of caution periods and we'll likely see more than one in the race. The slower traffic could help overtaking (or increasing a lead) if you're clever using it, but it's always tough to pass here. Street courses always have a high risk of damage as there is little room for error. With the LMP class (LMP2 and LMP1) combined, the cars should run at closer speeds to each other. But GT will be the class of the show all season...GT racing doesn't get better than this!

The track

Long Beach is a tight circuit and passing is always tough on street circuits. The 1.97 mile, 11-turn temporary course is a favorite for most of the competitors due to its situation and atmosphere. Qualifying up front will be critical as it's a short, 100-minute race. The front strait is fast for a street track - top speed (GT) should be 255 kph/158 mph - but the last corner (hairpin) is SO SLOW (40 kph/25 mph) and it's the same speed for all the classes; power and downforce, and surprisingly tire size, don't influence this corner. This has been a bottle neck in the past as the GT cars are actually a bit better than the LMPs here mid-corner; it's hard to get the LMPs to turn in to this tight corner, and their more stiffly sprung setups reduce their ultra low speed grip.

The setup

Setup wise all the likely winners have raced here before and all the drivers but our own Gimmi Bruni have raced here in GT. No one should struggle with a setup. The Long Beach track is smooth enough to run the car to the limit of the ride height rule (55mm minimum) and although you need good brakes, the track isn't particularly hard on brakes. There's enough distance between corners (brake applications) to cool them down. The rear tires get a work out due to the slow nature of the corners; we'll set up and tune around this traction requirement while trying to not increase understeer.

The car needs platform support for the change of direction only in the Fountain Turn and the ability to brake into the 90-degree corners. It's a new track for Gimmi, but not a hard one and he learns tracks quickly... at least, that's what he says! There's not much track time here and the race is later in the day than the bulk of the practice time, which may leave some tire strategy/longevity questions unanswered. This track, like most temporary ones, "rubbers in" and should gain grip as the weekend progresses. There's also change of tarmac with some concrete and asphalt sections of track. The grip varies as you traverse these sections.

The length of the race, with a 30-minute minimum driver time rule, will make it a short, one pit-stop race for all the GT cars. Any yellow after 30 minutes will bring all the cars into the pits to change drivers, and take fuel and likely take tires. There would be few reasons to stop before 30 minutes into the race, and we hope we don't experience any necessity to do so.

The GT race

The BMWs will have straight-line speed on the GT field as they continue to enjoy their air restrictor rules break continued from last year (Ed's note: They will have 30 kgs of weight added). The BMWs took second and third at Sebring - some of that gifted by competitor misfortune - but they were always competitive. The Corvettes will be determined and tough competitors as always, rebounding from their unfortunate pit accident which took both cars out of contention early at Sebring. The Porsches are always quick at point-and-squirt street tracks as they brake and get the power down really well; their traction control system is one of the best in the field. You can never count them out, and they are eager to put their Sebring misfortune behind them as well. The Falken-shod Porsche could be very competitive here if the yellows go their way as their tires aren't quite endurance worthy yet, but this is a short race.

This GT race will come down to pit stops, qualifying position and some luck; you always need luck at street tracks. The Risi Ferrari has won here before, and we're coming off a good result at Sebring making it six major endurance wins in a row. Let's just hope we can qualify up front and stay there for 100 minutes. It's time to start winning the short races again, and not just the long ones. We're in front of the points currently; let's just hope we can stay there longer than one race.

The Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach is the second round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron. The race, set at the historic Long Beach street circuit, is scheduled for 4:40 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 17 with coverage on SPEED set for 8 to 10 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche - a production of Radio Show Limited - as well as Sirius and XM. Visit the Series' schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.

-source: alms

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Series ALMS
Teams Risi Competizione