A NEW SONG AND DANCE FOR CASTRONEVES Even a championship-caliber driver like Helio Castroneves finds new things to learn every now and then. It's never been more true for Penske Racing's star driver (and dancer) with time ticking down toward the...
A NEW SONG AND DANCE FOR CASTRONEVES
Even a championship-caliber driver like Helio Castroneves finds new things to learn every now and then. It's never been more true for Penske Racing's star driver (and dancer) with time ticking down toward the American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 at Road Atlanta.
It will be Castroneves' first race at Road Atlanta and first in the American Le Mans Series since last year's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He drove one of Penske's Porsche RS Spyders to a third-place finish in LMP2 with eventual Series class champions Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.
More than 18 months later, Castroneves finds himself back behind the wheel of a Porsche prototype. The former winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" will team with Penske IndyCar teammate Ryan Briscoe in one of three Penske entries for the October 4 endurance classic.
"I definitely have learned a lot," Castroneves said Thursday at Road Atlanta. "Of course it takes several laps to really become comfortable in the car and in the seat. Plus we have things like power steering and carbon brakes, which are great. It just takes time to understand what the car needs in order to make it go fast. The good news is that I am getting some track time today as well as testing the weekend before the race to better learn both the car and the circuit.
"I'm really impressed with the track," he added. "I have to say that it's probably one of the best maintained that I have ever been to. Everything is very neat and clean. It is nice to come here for a test and see the lines on the track and the curbing so clearly marked."
Castroneves is one of many marquee drivers entered for the annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race. He is in familiar company with fellow Indy 500 winners Gil de Ferran, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti in the paddock. The entry list also is ripe with past CART and IndyCar champions de Ferran, Dixon, Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Scott Sharp.
"It will be a really good circuit for the fans to watch such an exciting race," Castroneves said. "It's great to see guys like Gil, Tony, Marco, Ryan and Dario here. I've raced with and against so many of these guys before but this will be a new perspective.
"Sebring last year was a flat surface but very bumpy. Here the track is very smooth with so many elevation changes," he added. "It will be physical. The neck is really the part that gets the most work with the G forces. I did my first really long run today and I couldn't believe how much stress was on my neck. Of course there was no traffic as well and that will add another dimension to this race."
Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 is the 10th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Saturday, October 4 from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED will televise the race live with XM Satellite Radio airing live race coverage throughout the day on Channel 166. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.