BY THE NUMBERS: AMERICAN LE MANS AT MID-OHIO Braselton, Ga. - Whew. It's fair to say that the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio packed the most punch and excitement fans have seen this year. Granted, it was just Round 3 of the 10-race American Le...
BY THE NUMBERS: AMERICAN LE MANS AT MID-OHIO
Braselton, Ga. - Whew.
It's fair to say that the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio packed the most punch and excitement fans have seen this year. Granted, it was just Round 3 of the 10-race American Le Mans Series schedule for 2005, but anyone would be hard pressed to find more compelling storylines coming out of an event. And it gives fans a lot to talk about heading into the 73rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's greatest sports car race, on June 18-19 and the ALMS' critical July stretch.
Where to start? How about the big news of the weekend: Dyson Racing's first sweep of the top two spots on the ALMS podium. James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, in the No. 16 Lola EX257 AER gave Dyson its third overall victory in the series, with Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace less than 30 seconds behind in their No. 20 Lola.
Followers of the series have been used to seeing teams like Audi, Corvette Racing and Alex Job Racing go 1-2 in their classes over the years. This, though, was a breath of competitive fresh air and signaled the start of what should be an amazing duel down the stretch between the two Dyson cars and Champion Audi's pair of R8s.
As it stands, Lehto and Werner are tied for the lead in the driver's championship standings with 54 points. Wallace is third with 51 points. Another 2 points back are Weaver and Leitzinger, each with 49 points. Dyson, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro are tied for sixth with 48 points. In the chassis battle, Audi leads Lola by just 4 points, 59-55.
"The team works so routinely hard to get the job done and now we have the stamp that says we can beat the best," team owner Rob Dyson said. "From here, we go to the Lime Rock Park, which is our home circuit and I hope we can take it to them just like we did here."
NO. 23 FOR NO. 3: Thanks to their GT1 victory Sunday, Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell are tied for first in the ALMS record books with 23 career wins. That's one more than JJ Lehto and Sascha Maassen.
No. 23 almost didn't come for O'Connell and Fellows, who partner in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C6-R. The No. 4 sister car inadvertently blocked the No. 3 during a late-race pit stop and was the first of the two Corvettes out of the pits. The car, however, was penalized 20 seconds as a crew member left his visor up during the stop.
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"Both cars were running very close and needed a couple of gallons of fuel," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The No. 3 car came in first but didn't stop quite short enough; when the No. 4 pulled into its pit, the No. 3 couldn't get out."
WERNER OFF: For the first time in 21 ALMS starts, Marco Werner found himself watching the podium ceremony as a spectator. Werner and teammate Lehto finished fifth in LMP1 and 18th overall after their No. 1 Champion Audi R8 spent 35 minutes in the garage making repairs after an early-race wreck with the No. 51 Panoz Esperante at Mid-Ohio's tricky Turn 11.
But the Audi team showed why it is one of the premier teams in the ALMS and the world. Despite having to replace most of the front-end body work, clutch, hydraulics, pedal parts, left front suspension, nose box, side pod and brake caliper, the team returned to the track in what looked like a brand new car.
"Today was not our day. There was so much trouble," said Werner, who shared last year's driver's championship with Lehto. "First JJ's accident, and then I went off on the last lap because of the rain. It was difficult to be in the rain on slicks. The team did a great job getting us back in the race, which is important for us for the championship. The team did an incredible job in fixing the car and giving it to me in excellent condition. I had no problems with it."
ZYTEK IMPRESSES: When Hayanari Shimoda put the No. 15 factory Zytek prototype on the pole at Mid-Ohio, it marked only the second time since August 2001 that an Audi or Lola didn't sit on the pole. The Zytek went on to finish fourth in P1 and fourth overall.
"Our performance this weekend was a lot stronger than the final result might suggest," said Zytek team boss Trevor Foster. "We've seen some fantastic racing and, while we are committed to the European LMES this season, we're keen to see if we can come back to race in other U.S. events later in the year."
The only other makes to sit on ALMS poles include the Panoz LMP-1 (which was the last car other than Audi or Lola to start first), the BMW V12 and the Riley & Scott MK III.
FIRST FOR MAZDA: Sunday's P2 victory for the No. 8 Mazda-powered Sportsbook.com/B-K Motorsports Courage was the first in the ALMS for the Japanese engine manufacturer and the Wisconsin-based team. Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo already had claimed a runner-up finish at the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta in April.
"The car felt very good. (At the end) I was trying to go slow because I knew the conditions were slippery," Cosmo said. "I was embarrassed that I spun. Our whole team is very happy for the class win. They just kept the car going."
Cosmo also hinted that the No. 8 entry could see a dramatic increase in power and speed when the series rolls into Lime Rock Park for the Fourth of July weekend. "As we speak there are engines on the dyno and testing being done so that our next generation of engine with more power and more horsepower could be here as soon as Lime Rock," he said.
AROUND THE PADDOCK: The Mid-Ohio monkey is off Alex Job's back thanks to Timo Bernhard's and Romain Dumas' GT2 victory. It's the first victory for Alex Job Racing at Mid-Ohio. "The car ran flawlessly, and with everything going on out there on the track they were able to focus and bring it home for the win." . J3 Racing posted a third-place finish in GT2, its second podium of the season. . The No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche finished second in GT2, increasing its lead in the class' team championship standings. . The No. 63 ACEMCO Saleen posted its first podium of the season, a third-place finish in GT1. "It was fantastic to get on the podium," said Johnny Mowlem, who drove with Terry Borcheller. "We actually grabbed the lead for a while. We beat the Maserati fair and square, and that's no mean feat."
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. July 4 at Lime Rock Park. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED (3 to 6 p.m. EDT) and on MotorsTV in Europe, reaching 40 million viewers in 21 countries as well as at www.americanlemans.com.