PIT CALL SENDS WEAVER, LEITZINGER TO SECOND STRAIGHT VICTORY AT MOSPORT Bowmanville, Ontario - Concerned that an off-track excursion would cost his team a victory, James Weaver need not worry. He had the fastest driver on the track as a ...
PIT CALL SENDS WEAVER, LEITZINGER TO SECOND STRAIGHT VICTORY AT MOSPORT
Bowmanville, Ontario - Concerned that an off-track excursion would cost his team a victory, James Weaver need not worry. He had the fastest driver on the track as a teammate.
Butch Leitzinger's driving plus a brave pit call by team owner Rob Dyson equaled the second victory of the year for the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola, this one coming at the Grand Prix of Mosport, Round 8 of the American Le Mans Series. The duo won for the second time in a row at Mosport International Raceway.
Leitzinger held off the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Marco Werner over the final quarter of the race for a 3.625-second victory. Third was the No. 2 Champion Audi of Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, who maintain their lead in the LMP1 drivers championship.
Weaver and Werner locked horns (almost literally) at the 51-minute mark as they tried to split a slower GT2 car in the esses coming into Turn 10. The two cars came together, with Werner pushed toward pit lane and Weaver taking the car straight off track and into the outside tire barrier.
The damage appeared minimal as Weaver backed the car out of the barrier and rejoined the race in second. Meanwhile, Werner opened up a nearly 30-second lead as the pit stop cycle began. But toward the midway point, teammate JJ Lehto made an unexpected stop sensing a vibration in the front of the car. That allowed Leitzinger to reclaim the lead.
Weaver's thoughts on his chances to win when he went off? "Zero, until I saw Butch do about five or six laps," he admitted. "It was pretty obvious that as soon as he got in the car, he was going to dig us out of the hole. I was going to make that pass on the outside, but the Panoz went wide. As I went into the corner, I was hot, and thought he was going to go into pit lane but he came back. I thought that was the end of that. But Butch dug us out."
The climatic moment came with 35 minutes left. Leitzinger pitted with a 40-second lead, took on fuel but did not take on tires. He exited pit lane with Lehto right behind him, and the two cars battled down to the wire.
"The way the wall is here, you can't see," Leitzinger said. "As I was leaving the pits, they told me JJ is coming. Leaving the pits isn't the easiest thing here because of all the rubber. It was all about getting in front of JJ. We hadn't run that long on a set of tires before. It was a crapshoot and our only choice. It was pretty unproven and quite a chance. Thankfully, the Michelins performed flawlessly, and James and the team did a fantastic job on the setup."
In LMP2, Clint Field and Liz Halliday teamed for their second victory together this season in the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola B05/40. Down much of the day to the No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage, the Lola weaved its way through traffic and sped through the field for its fifth victory of the season.
"It's good to come to Mosport and win after a bad week at Road America," Field said. "The big thing going into Petit and Laguna is reliability. I think we do have the car to beat. The Miracle car is always pushing. They're really good on strategy and pit stops. Liz really held close to Jeff and kept us close."
Field pulled with 2 points of the class drivers championship lead, held by Miracle's Jeff Bucknum and Chris McMurry, who teamed to take second. Field said Halliday's increasing comfort in the car was a key in the early part as she was able to keep pace with Bucknum in the first stint.
"Jeff had an amazing start. I was only about 6 seconds off coming off the track, which isn't that bad," she said. "I really enjoyed it and the car was perfect. I found it a little tough with the traffic, but I think that's because I didn't know the track that well."
Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta took over the GT1 drivers championship lead for the first time as they won for the fourth time in five ALMS events (five of six counting the 24 Hours of Le Mans). The No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C6-R was hounded all day not by just the No. 3 sister car of Johnny O'Connell and local hero Ron Fellows, but also by the pole-sitting No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7R of Johnny Mowlem and Terry Borcheller.
Eventually, pit execution won out as the two Ollies gave credit to their team for speedy stops.
"The economy of our car played a part in winning us the race. We could pit 4 or 5 laps later in the race than the Saleen," Gavin said. "It was a hell of a race, flat out the whole way for me. Olivier did a great job at the start. He got very unlucky with some traffic. We got behind the No. 3 car, and coming in for a stop, the guys did a terrific job getting me out ahead. I just tried to push as hard as I could. The strategy and the pit work that all the boys did won us the race because they got us out ahead of the Saleen. The C6-R was not the fastest car on the track. It was the Saleen."
Gavin and Beretta now lead Fellows and O'Connell by a single point, with 49 possible points remaining in the last two races: Petit Le Mans and the Monterey Sports Car Championships.
"The momentum has really gotten us going," Gavin said. "We've raced well, but we've also had some luck. We do like a similar car. We work well together and have a good understanding of what it takes to win races. All of the boys on the No. 4 car have been working so hard for so many years. I'm really pleased that the Saleen pushed us so hard during the race."
In GT2, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister won for the second straight week and recaptured the points lead, handing the team championship lead back to Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing. Long and Bergmeister took advantage of a broken alternator wire on the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.
Long and Bergmeister dodged a huge bullet, though. The left-rear wheel came off the car on the final lap in Turn 2, and the car went into the outside tire wall. The No. 24 AJR Porsche of Ian Baas and Darren Law were set to take their first victory of the season, but they needed one more lap to take the checkered flag.
"The emotion at the time was instantaneous shock," Long said. "I thought the race was gone from our hands. Needless to say, I was completely shocked in the emergency vehicle when they said I was needed on the top step of the podium. I'm extremely thrilled. Can't say enough about the job Jorg did. It was an incredible stint, and the guys did a great job in the pits."
The No. 31 and No. 23 cars had been closely matched all day, neither with much more than a five-second lead. But the broken wire broke the back of the No. 23 Porsche, which finished sixth in class. Heading to Petit Le Mans, Long and Bergmeister lead the drivers standings by 12 points. The difference in the team standings is the same.
"Both the final races produce extra points," Long said. "So it is far from over. We know how strong the No. 23 car has been over the years. We can't settle down and become content."
Founders Cup award-winners were Ian Baas (first), Justin Jackson (second) and Seth Neiman (third). The awards go to the privateers who best demonstrate the ideals of "Gentlemen Drivers" in the ALMS.
The ninth round of the American Le Mans Series is the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans, scheduled for 11:20 a.m. Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. Qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 30. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.