Road Atlanta: Pre-race notes

The Grand Prix of Atlanta is set for April 15-17 at Road Atlanta Braselton, Ga. - This weekend's Grand Prix of Atlanta, Round 2 of the 2005 American Le Mans Series, marks the 26th professional sports car event at...

The Grand Prix of Atlanta is set for April 15-17 at Road Atlanta

Braselton, Ga. - This weekend's Grand Prix of Atlanta, Round 2 of the 2005 American Le Mans Series, marks the 26th professional sports car event at Road Atlanta. The 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course has played host to at least one major professional sports car event every year since 1970 including Can-Am, IMSA GT and more recently the ALMS.

In April of 1999, the second ALMS race in series history saw Mimmo Schiattarella and Eric Van de Poele drive to victory in the Rafanelli Riley & Scott MKIII-Judd. It was Schiattarella's first ALMS start.

· Drivers JJ Lehto (No. 1 Champion Racing Audi R8 LMP1), Jon Field (No. 37 Telesis Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 LMP2), Oliver Gavin (No. 4 Corvette Racing C6-R GT1) and Timo Bernard (No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR GT2) all are seeking second straight Grand Prix of Atlanta victories dating back to the last running in June 2003.

· Johnny O'Connell, from nearby Flowery Branch, is set to make his 55th start in 58 ALMS events at the Grand Prix of Atlanta. The last time O'Connell did not take part in an ALMS event was the 2001 Petit Le Mans. With Ron Fellows at the wheel, their Corvette took part in only two laps before it was disqualified for a rules infraction. O'Connell also missed one event in 1999 and 2000.

· Three drivers - Fellows, Lehto and O'Connell - can tie Sascha Maassen for most career ALMS victories (22) with a win in the Grand Prix of Atlanta. Lehto climbed to within one victory of the top spot with his first prototype victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 19 while Fellows and O'Connell encountered mechanical problems in their new Corvette C6-R. Maassen's last triumph came last year at Petit Le Mans, when he was third driver with Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard for Alex Job Racing.

· Two LMP2 teams that didn't compete at Sebring will debut at the Grand Prix of Atlanta and race at other ALMS events this year. The Mazda-powered No. 8 B-K Motorsports Courage will be driven by James Bach of Saukville, Wis., and Guy Cosmo of West Palm Beach, Fla. The No. 19 van der Steur Racing Lola B2K/40 AER will be driven by brothers Gunnar and Erik van der Steur, along with Ben Devlin. The former is a rookie ALMS team, while the latter has previously competed in the series, three times in 2004.

· Buford, Ga.-based J3 Racing is coming off its best-ever ALMS finish, a second at Sebring. The team accomplished that without lead driver Justin Jackson who was battling the flu and returns to its home track and the primary driver lineup of Tim Sugden and Jackson. J3 drove home fourth at Lime Rock and fifth at Road America in 2004.

· The Maserati MC12 factory GT1 team with drivers Andrea Bertolini and Fabrizio DeSimone will be seeing the fast and demanding 2.5-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta course for the first time. Maserati finished ninth overall and fifth in class in its maiden ALMS run at Sebring.

· The MC12 will have 30 kilograms of ballast added for the Grand Prix of Atlanta. The FIA GT Bureau has decided to add 10 kilograms, and IMSA will add 20 more kilograms for a total weight of 1,130 kilograms. At Sebring, the car had an extra 57 kilograms. The FIA also decreased the rear wing by 99.6 millimeters to 1,419 millimeters.

· Audi R8 race cars have won overall in six consecutive Road Atlanta ALMS races (2000-2004), a series record now tied by six straight Audi R8 victories at Sebring. Champion Audi has won three Road Atlanta ALMS overall events in a row, tying the record for consecutive overall ALMS race wins by an entrant set by Audi Sport North America at Laguna Seca (2000-02), Road Atlanta (2000-02), Mosport (2000-02) and Sebring (2000-02). Recent Road Atlanta winners for Champion Racing include Lehto and Marco Werner in the '04 Petit Le Mans, and Lehto and Johnny Herbert in the '03 Grand Prix of Atlanta and Petit Le Mans.

· Lehto has posted at least one victory in each of the nine events remaining on the 2005 ALMS schedule, including a 2003 Grand Prix of Atlanta triumph, his first prototype victory and the first for Champion Racing. Lehto has won three consecutive overall race titles at Road Atlanta and now shares the ALMS mark with Frank Biela, who won three straight at Laguna Seca from 2001 to '03.

· Werner, Lehto's teammate in the Audi R8, has claimed an overall victory at each of the eight venues and in eight of the remaining nine 2005 ALMS events - missing only at Atlanta in June of 2003.

· Maassen is one of only three drivers (Jan Magnussen and David Brabham are the others) to post at least one victory in six ALMS seasons. He is competing at Road Atlanta with the No. 43 BAM! Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Fellows and O'Connell also have a chance to join Maassen, Magnussen and Brabham with a victory this season. Maassen, who can win for the fifth time at Road Atlanta, and Magnussen are scheduled to race in the ALMS on a limited basis in 2005.

· With his win for Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing at Sebring, Lucas Luhr inched closer to his ex-Alex Job Racing teammate Maassen for career wins in GT2. Luhr now has 19 wins and trails Maassen by three. Luhr's ALMS plans beyond Sebring are undetermined.

· Several victory streaks came to an abrupt end at Sebring: Corvette Racing's nine-race streak came to an end when the Aston Martin DBR9 took the checkered flag at Sebring. Alex Job Racing had won six consecutive times in GT2, but both AJR cars were knocked out at Sebring. Additionally, the LMP2 victory by the No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage C65 of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry, Ian James interrupted a modest two-race win streak by the Telesis Intersport Racing team of Clint Field and Robin Liddell, who now is with Panoz Motor Sports.

· Fresh off its 1-2 finish at Sebring, Champion Audi has captured four consecutive LMP1 victories. Dyson Racing is the last LMP1 race winner other than an Audi, winning last year at Mosport with James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger at the wheel.

· The privateer Pacific Coast Motorsports GT1 team and drivers Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel, fresh from Road Atlanta testing, also will make its first ALMS Road Atlanta start in the Sportsbook.Com Grand Prix of Atlanta. The team's Corvette C5-R is no stranger to the track as it was the championship car of Fellows and O'Connell for Corvette Racing last season.

· ALMS regulars have taken the overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in four of the last six years since the inception of the series in 1999. In 2005, Champion Audi, an ALMS privateer two-car entry, will attempt to become the first American privateer team to win overall at Le Mans in the long history of the prestigious event dating back to 1923.


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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Ryan Dalziel , David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Robin Liddell , Guy Cosmo , Ben Devlin , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , James Bach , Ian James , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Marco Werner , Alex Figge , Clint Field , Chris McMurry , Jeff Bucknum , Tim Sugden , Andrea Bertolini , Erik van der Steur , Alex Job , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing