1 Practice Sessions . Running has now taken place in both dry and wet conditions, and all four drivers have had turns at the wheel. The Ferrari 550 Maranellos posted the two quickest GTS times in the Saturday morning wet session, and set ...
1 Practice Sessions .
Running has now taken place in both dry and wet conditions, and all four drivers have had turns at the wheel. The Ferrari 550 Maranellos posted the two quickest GTS times in the Saturday morning wet session, and set second quickest time in Friday's dry running - just one tenth of a second behind the Corvette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell. An engine problem for car 80 yesterday curtailed its track time slightly but this was replaced during the afternoon and both cars ran perfectly today.
For Le Mans GTS class winners, Tomas Enge and Peter Kox, the return to Road Atlanta offers an opportunity to revenge the narrow defeat of last year's Petit Le Mans. All agree the racing tomorrow will be close and highly competitive.
2 New girls and boys .
Usually the combination of a new track, a new car and a new team presents a fairly steep learning curve for drivers. Prodrive Ferrari's two new signings, however, have put paid to that myth.
Danica Patrick benefited from some private track time earlier in the week to familiarise herself with the Ferrari, and has acquitted herself extremely well in the eyes of all in the team. Not only has she turned in some very impressive lap times, but she has also shown a good technical understanding of what is required and has adapted well to the vigorous physical demands of the bigger, heavier car.
Her team mate, Jerôme Policand, has a slight advantage over Danica in that he raced a Ferrari 550 Maranello at this year's Le Mans event so knows the car. He has also visited Road Atlanta before, once in 1998 - before changes to the track took place.
Although not tall by basketball standards, Policand is some 9 inches taller than his diminutive team mate so some compromises have had to be met to fit them both in the car. Danica has a more substantial seat packer to secure her tiny frame in the seat, and Jerome has had to accustom himself to looser seat belts than normal (to accommodate the seat packer), but he has been enormously impressed with the young American's ability to muscle the car around the track. Having gained much of his sportscar experience in prototypes, the Frenchman compares the Ferrari very favourably to the lighter, faster cars, saying that the response and feel of the 550 is much the same as the prototypes.
3 Quick turn-around to cross the Atlantic .
The last few weeks have been somewhat hectic for the Prodrive Ferrari team, particularly those responsible for the logistical and transport side of the operation.
The logistical planning for both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Road Atlanta event just two weeks later has been a challenge to many teams in the pitlane. At Prodrive, Chief "Truckie", Paul Field, and Team Administrator, Fiona Moore, have successfully moved over 16 tons of freight and more than 50 people around the world since the beginning of June and not one person or item has been misplaced!
Twelve tons of freight was sent in two team transporters to Le Mans to cover the gruelling week of testing and racing - all that was necessary to provide a home-from-home for the team in terms of workshop, spares storage, pit and garage equipment. At the same time preparations had to be made to transport 4 tons of airfreight and ship two 40ft articulated truck loads of equipment and parts to cover not only this event but the remainder of the American Le Mans Series. One team transporter is present in Georgia, and a second will be arriving with more equipment next week to supplement the team's facilities in the US.
The engineers and mechanics have had a far from quiet time too. The crew on the Le Mans winning car 88 had just a few days to strip it down and re- prepare for the Atlanta Grand Prix. Their fellow crew members took delivery of the Luc Alphand Aventures Ferrari 550 back at the team's Banbury, England base days after the race and had to complete the same process in just two days. This car replaces the #80 Maranello which was heavily damaged in the Le Mans crash that befell Anthony Davidson in the early hours of the morning. While it was not damaged beyond repair, more time was required to be spent on it than was available last week.