Braselton, GA - The American Le Mans Series will hold one of its biggest events of the season, Chevy presents Petit Le Mans, at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., Sept. 22-25. Some news and notes from the event and the series follow. * Established...
Braselton, GA - The American Le Mans Series will hold one of its biggest events of the season, Chevy presents Petit Le Mans, at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., Sept. 22-25. Some news and notes from the event and the series follow.
* Established in 1998, Chevy presents Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta has quickly grown in stature to where it is now considered one of the top three sports car endurance racing events worldwide, along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The race was designed to be a smaller or "Petit" version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, bringing much of the European flavor of Le Mans to America, and to be a race that started in daylight hours and ended well after darkness had fallen. The inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998 was so successful that it led to the formation of the American Le Mans Series in 1999.
* The unique format of the race calls for 1,000 miles (394 laps) or 10 hours, whichever comes first, making the Petit Le Mans the only ALMS race of 2004 that is distance-measured rather than time-measured. In the six previous editions of the Petit Le Mans, the longest event on time has been nine hours and 48 minutes in 1998, while the shortest on time has been eight hours and 56 minutes in 1999.
* One of the two biggest races on the ALMS schedule, Petit Le Mans is a "must attend" event for sports car racing fans around the country, as well as around the world, and attendance has steadily grown each year. Campers and fans are parked inside and all around the 2.54-mile track, many of them arriving very early in the week of the race.
* Road Atlanta is the only track on the ALMS schedule that has ever hosted more than one race in a single season since the formation of the series in 1999. In addition to the Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta has twice (1999, 2003) hosted "sprint" events for the ALMS early in the season.
* Road Atlanta has the unusual distinction of having some of the oldest track records in the American Le Mans Series. The LMP1 and GTS class track qualifying records have stood since 2000, and the GT class record has been on the books since 2001. Records at many of the other tracks on the series are broken each year as cars and tires advance in technology. Opinions vary as to why the Road Atlanta records have stood for so long, but many expect the GTS record to fall this year.
* Jon Field and Duncan Dayton have performed very well at Road Atlanta in the past two seasons. The drivers of the Intersport Racing Lola B01/60-Judd won the LMP2 class in the 2002 running of the Petit Le Mans, then won the class in the 2003 version as well as in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta held in June of 2003, giving them a three-race winning streak. The Intersport team now races in the LMP1 class and will be pursuing the overall win in the Petit Le Mans.
* In the five previous runnings of the Petit Le Mans as part of the ALMS, the most winning driver has been Sascha Maassen, who has three GT class wins (1999, 2000, 2002) and will go for a fourth win with Alex Job Racing this year. Several other drivers who are entered in this year's Petit have scored two wins in the prestigious event, including Jon Field (2002, 2003 LMP2), Duncan Dayton (2002, 2003 LMP2), and Kelly Collins (2000, 2001 GTS).
* The Petit Le Mans will be a "home track" event for several ALMS teams that are based in the Atlanta area, including Krohn-Barbour Racing and Panoz Motor Sports, both located in shops on the grounds of Road Atlanta. The J-3 Racing organization is also headquartered in the Atlanta area. The entry list for the event is still growing and other Atlanta-area teams could also join the field.
* Several drivers who regularly compete in ALMS events also live in the Atlanta area and will be racing at "home" for the Petit Le Mans, including Johnny O'Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.), Terry Borcheller (Gainesville, Ga.), David Murry (Cumming, Ga.), Justin Jackson (Alpharetta, Ga.), and James Gue (Athens, Ga.). The entry list for the event is still growing and other Atlanta-area residents could also join the field.
* Chevrolet Corvettes had won the GTS class in Chevy presents Petit Le Mans every year from 2000 until being beaten in 2003 by the Prodrive Ferrari. Corvette's wins started with the dramatic race of 2000, when Corvette's Andy Pilgrim made a bold pass of one of the factory Dodge Vipers in turn one on the next-to-last lap of the event. Ron Fellows also engineered an exciting comeback win in 2002, taking the class lead only moments from the end of the race.
* Audi has a four-year winning streak in the Petit Le Mans, having won for the first time in 2000 when the Audi R8 Prototype was in its first year of competition. Although the car make has been the same for those four years, the only Audi driver who has scored multiple wins in the event is Rinaldo Capello, a winner in both 2000 and 2002 with different co-drivers.
* JJ Lehto's win in last year's Petit Le Mans helped him erase some of the heartbreak of 1999. In that event, Lehto and co-driver Jorg Muller dominated the event in a BMW V12 LMR Prototype only to lose when Muller spun the car and became stuck in a gravel trap less than 15 minutes from the finish. David Brabham, Andy Wallace and Eric Bernard inherited the lead and went on to score victory in a Panoz LMP1.
* Road Atlanta has been kind to Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister, drivers for Alex Job Racing in the GT class. Bernhard and Bergmeister swept both ALMS races held at Road Atlanta in 2003, including the Petit Le Mans (with third driver Romain Dumas) and the one-off Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta. They will be joined in this year's Petit by Sascha Maassen, the most winning driver in ALMS history (21 wins) and a three-time Petit winner.
* Among the competitors at Road Atlanta will be three (of four) class winning teams from this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, including Clint Field and Intersport Racing (LMP2), Corvette Racing (GTS) with Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta and Petersen/White Lightning Racing in GT.
CHEVY PRESENTS PETIT LE MANS ALMS NOTES
* JJ Lehto's win in the most recent ALMS race at Road America was his 15th overall race win, the most of any driver in the history of the ALMS. He had previously been tied with Frank Biela and Rinaldo Capello for the most overall wins at 15. Lehto is also tied with Biela for the most LMP1 wins (15) in series history. Biela, who is not scheduled to compete in any more ALMS events this season, got his 15th career LMP1 win in the 2004 season opener at Sebring. One of Biela's 15 career LMP1 wins was not an overall race win.
* The Alex Job team's GT class race win at Road America made it the first team to win four straight this season in the ultra-competitive GT class. Job drivers Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister started the streak with a win at Infineon Raceway, then teammates Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas won at Portland before Bernhard/Bergmeister won again at Mosport and at Road America. The Job team is trying to win the ALMS GT class team championship for the third straight year.
* Their win at Road America in the GT class made Alex Job Racing Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister the first back-to-back winners this season in the GT class.
* Intersport Racing's three-race winning streak in the LMP2 class was snapped when Miracle Motorsports won in the most recent ALMS event at Road America. Clint Field and Robin Liddell won their third straight race in the LMP2 class at Mosport after also winning at Infineon and Portland. The Mosport win was the fourth this season in the ALMS for Intersport, which also won at its home track, Mid-Ohio, in June.
* Clint Field and Robin Liddell are one win away from tying the ALMS record for the most LMP2 class wins in a single season (five) that was set in 2001 by Didier de Radigues. Chris Dyson had four wins in 2003 and shares second place with Field and Liddell.
* Audi's streak of 19 consecutive LMP1 class race wins came to an end at Mosport when the Dyson Racing Lola took the LMP1 and overall wins. But Audi started a new streak when JJ Lehto and Marco Werner won the most recent ALMS race at Road America for Audi. Prior to the Mosport race, the last time a non-Audi had won in the top class of the ALMS was in July of 2002 at Washington, D.C., when a Panoz LMP1 scored the victory. All but one of the 19 straight LMP1 wins for Audi were also overall wins; Dyson's win at Sonoma, Calif., in 2003 came when the team's Lolas were still classified as LMP2 cars.
* Johnny O'Connell made his 50th start in the American Le Mans Series in the recent event at Mosport, becoming the first driver to reach that plateau. He has competed in all but three of the 54 races held for the series since its formation in 1999. While O'Connell was physically present at the other three races, he did not get credit for competing in them because the cars he was to drive retired from the event before his driving stint. The races he did not get credit for starting were an April, 1999, event at Road Atlanta, the 2000 event at Adelaide, Australia, and the 2001 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
* Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell reached the 20-win plateau in the American Le Mans Series with their GTS class win for Corvette Racing in the July 25 ALMS event at Portland. However, after losing the last two races to Corvette teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, they are still one win away from tying Sascha Maassen for the top spot in all-time career wins in the series with 21. Maassen, who has been racing in Europe this season, has returned to the ALMS and will run all of the remaining races this season. JJ Lehto scored his 19th ALMS win in the most recent event at Road America and is next in line, followed by Lucas Luhr with 18 and Olivier Beretta with 17.
* Ron Fellows has the longest current streak of consecutive ALMS starts with 34, dating back to the 2000 season. The record for the most consecutive ALMS starts is 40, shared by German drivers Frank Biela and Sascha Maassen. Both drivers made their 40th consecutive start in the 2004 ALMS season opener at Sebring but then did not compete in the next event on the schedule, ending their streaks.
* With his GTS class pole position in the most recent ALMS race at Road America, his third of 2004, Olivier Beretta has now moved within one pole of tying Corvette teammate Ron Fellows for all-time leadership in ALMS pole positions (fast qualifiers) with 14. Beretta and Dirk Muller are tied for second place with 13 but Muller is not active in ALMS competition this season. The mark for most pole positions in a single season (6) is jointly held by Beretta (2000, GTS), Muller (1999, GT) and Fellows (2002, GTS) and is in no danger of falling this year.
* Ian James won his first career ALMS pole in the most recent event at Road America, becoming the 45th driver in series history to win a pole. James won the LMP2 class pole in the Miracle Motorsports Courage C65.
* Dyson Racing entries have won three consecutive pole positions in the LMP1 class this season. The poles (Portland, Mosport and Road America) have been won by three different drivers: Andy Wallace, James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, respectively.
* Among ALMS drivers competing in 2004, Sascha Maassen is the only driver to win a race in all six years of the American Le Mans Series, including a victory at Sebring to open the current season. Kelly Collins, David Brabham and Jan Magnussen can join the group with a win in the remaining races of 2004. Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell, Frank Biela and JJ Lehto have won at least one race in five of the six ALMS seasons and Lucas Luhr (4) needs a victory in 2004 to climb into that second place group.
* Porsche has posted more all-time ALMS marquee victories (46) than any manufacturer followed by Audi (38), Corvette (29) and Lola (25).
* Porsche will look to extend its record of most all-time ALMS pole positions (47) at Road Atlanta, a streak that was extended in the most recent ALMS event at Road America. The last GT pole not won by Porsche was in 2001 at Petit Le Mans and was produced by JJ Lehto in his Schnitzer BMW M3 GTR.
* In all-time ALMS pole positions, Audi ranks second with 37. Corvette is third with 25.
* Champion Audi, the entrant for JJ Lehto and Marco Werner, has produced nine overall victories in the last two years - four (4) times in 2003 and five (of seven times) in 2004, finishing second at Sebring behind Audi UK and second at Mosport behind the Dyson Lola.
* Marc Lieb scored his first-ever ALMS win when he and Romain Dumas co-drove to victory in the GT class at Portland for Alex Job Racing. Lieb became the 99th different driver to win a race in the six-year history of the ALMS. There were no first-time ALMS race winners at either ALMS race run since then.
* Olivier Beretta's Corvette win in GTS at Lime Rock Park in July vaulted him into an exclusive group of 14 drivers who have won ALMS races in two makes of cars. At Lime Rock, Beretta won for the first time in his Chevrolet Corvette. All of his previous wins had been in Dodge Vipers. Beretta has won twice since then and now has 17 career ALMS wins.
* Courage became the 13th different chassis marque to win an ALMS race with its LMP2 class victory in the most recent ALMS race at Road America for Miracle Motorsports. The others are Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ferrari, Lola, Panoz, Pilbeam, Porsche, Riley & Scott, Reynard and Saleen. Ten engine marques have notched victories including Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Judd, MG, Nissan and Porsche.
* The Courage victory also stopped a winning streak of 18 races in the LMP2 class for Lola chassis.
* Alex Job Racing continues as the all-time ALMS leader in entrant victories with 30, while Corvette Racing is second with 29. \
* With their win at Road America in a Courage C65, Ian James and James Gue became the 15th and 16th drivers in series history to have won races in two marques of car. Thirteen of the 16 drivers who have won ALMS races in two types of cars (marques) are entered in the Petit Le Mans:
Olivier Beretta (Dodge & Corvette) JJ Lehto (BMW & Audi) David Brabham (Panoz & Ferrari) Johnny O'Connell (Panoz & Corvette) Clint Field (Lola MG & Lola Judd) Johannes Van Overbeek (BMW &Porsche) Kelly Collins (Corvette & Porsche) Jan Magnussen (Panoz & Ferrari) Jon Field (Lola MG & Lola Judd) Oliver Gavin (Saleen & Corvette) Andy Wallace (Panoz & Lola) Ian James (Lola-Nissan & Courage) James Gue (Lola-Nissan and Courage)
Drivers competing at Road Atlanta who have won in two different classes include JJ Lehto (LMP1, GT); Johnny O'Connell (LMP1, GTS), Butch Leitzinger (LMP1, LMP2), David Brabham (LMP1, GTS), Jan Magnussen (LMP1, GTS), James Weaver (LMP1, LMP2) and Andy Wallace (LMP1, LMP2).
* The 1-2 GTS class finish by Corvette Racing in the most recent ALMS event at Road America was the 16th for the team, the most 1-2 finishes by any entrant in series history. The former factory Audi team stands second on the all-time list of 1-2 finishes by an entrant at 12. Alex Job Racing and the former factory Dodge Viper (ORECA) team are tied for third with 10.
* Porsche had a 21-race winning streak in the GT class stopped earlier this year when Ferrari won in the event at Lime Rock Park. Porsche has started another streak since then, winning four straight. The previous streak dated back to the first event of 2002 at Sebring. Ferrari became only the third marque to score a victory in ALMS GT competition, joining Porsche and BMW. The last non-Porsche win had been by a BMW M3 GTR in the 2001 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Boris Said, Bill Auberlen and Hans Stuck drove that car. The Ferrari 360 Modena became the 20th different race car model type to score a victory in the ALMS and the seventh to do so in GT. Four types of Porsches have won in GT (911 RSR, 911 GT3 R, GT3 RS, GT3 RSR).
ALMS records or streaks of note:
Corvette C5R: 7 straight wins in GTS
Johnny O'Connell continues to lead in all-time starts (51) followed by David Brabham (48).
JJ Lehto is the all-time top 3 finishes leader (39) over Ron Fellows (37)
Lehto and O'Connell continue to lead in all-time ALMS top 5 finishes (44), followed by Fellows (42).
O'Connell leads in all-time top 10 finishes (49) with Fellows and Lehto second (46) and Brabham in third with (45).
ALMS ALL-TIME COMPETITION 'BY THE NUMBERS'
* 54 All-time championship races
* 606 Drivers have starts in at least one ALMS race
* 99 Drivers have won at least one race
* 219 Drivers have at least one top three finish
* 332 Drivers have at least one top five finish
* 504 Drivers have at least one top 10 finish
* 45 Drivers have won at least one pole (fast qualifier)
* 54 Drivers have posted fast laps in an ALMS event