The race is on: American Le Mans Series driving titles to be determined in Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga. - The stage is now set for the determination of American Le Mans Series driver, team and manufacturer championships for the...
The race is on: American Le Mans Series driving titles to be determined in Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
BRASELTON, Ga. - The stage is now set for the determination of American Le Mans Series driver, team and manufacturer championships for the 2003 season.
In 1,000 miles (or 10 hours) of racing in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 18, competitors will have their last chance at championship glory as the season concludes with the sixth annual running of what has become one of the most important sports car races in the world.
One of the tightest battles is in the LMP 900 (Prototype) class, where Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 drivers Frank Biela and Marco Werner are trying to win the driving title. They enter the Petit Le Mans with a slim 14-point lead over ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 driver JJ Lehto, the only driver with a chance of overtaking them in the title battle. All three would be first-time ALMS driving champions.
Lehto and co-driver Johnny Herbert won the most recent series event at Miami to narrow the gap on Biela and Werner, who finished second. If Biela and Werner finish sixth or better in their class in the Petit Le Mans, and complete at least 70 percent of the distance of the overall winning car, the driving title will be won, as will a team championship for Joest.
"The Petit Le Mans is a long race and anything can happen," said Lehto. "We had to win at Miami to have any chance and we did that and moved a little closer to them. It will be a good fight at Atlanta."
Lehto and Herbert won when the ALMS staged a shorter race at Road Atlanta in June.
Also to be decided in the Petit Le Mans is the driving championship of the LMP 675 class for smaller Prototypes. Chris Dyson, the current leader, scored his fourth class race win of 2003 at Miami in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG. He holds a 20-point edge over the duo of Jon Field and Duncan Dayton, drivers of the Intersport Lola-MG. Field was the class champion last year, but Dyson and Dayton are pursuing what would be their first ALMS titles.
In order for Field and Dayton to overcome Dyson, they would have to win the race or finish second, and Dyson would have to score no points. Both are entirely possible, as Field and Dayton have won the LMP 675 class in two consecutive races at Road Atlanta, including last year's Petit Le Mans, and Dyson's #20 Lola-MG has failed to finish in a points-scoring position in two races this season.
"Winning at Miami gave us some comfort zone, but obviously not enough," said Dyson. "I would have preferred to go into Atlanta focusing just on the race and not on the championship."
Also holding a mathematical chance of winning the title is Jason Workman, driver of the Essex Racing Lola B2K40-Nissan, who is 23 points behind Dyson in fourth place. He could leap from fourth to first if he wins the Petit Le Mans and Dyson, Field and Dayton do not score points in the race.
While factory Chevrolet Corvette drivers Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell clinched the GTS class driving championship by finishing fourth in the Miami race, the red-hot race between Chevrolet and Ferrari for the coveted Manufacturer's Championship in the class is still blazing entering the Petit Le Mans. Corvette started the season with five consecutive race wins, but Ferrari has won three straight and enters the race trailing by only eight points.
In the GT class, Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen have already clinched their second consecutive driving championship and Porsche has won the Manufacturer's Championship for the fourth time in the five years of the ALMS.
The Petit Le Mans begins at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Saturday, October 18, and will run for 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first. Practice, qualifying and support races will be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 15-17. Ticket information is available online at www.roadatlanta.com or by calling 1-800-849-7223.