VICI RACING - PETIT LE MANS PREVIEW Miami, Florida - VICI Racing and development partner Kumho Tires are ready for their biggest challenge yet this year as they head for the Petit Le Mans, the late season jewel in the crown of the American...
VICI RACING - PETIT LE MANS PREVIEW
Miami, Florida - VICI Racing and development partner Kumho Tires are ready for their biggest challenge yet this year as they head for the Petit Le Mans, the late season jewel in the crown of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the penultimate round of the 11-race series, which takes place this coming Saturday (Oct 4). It is the team's toughest assignment so far, and the next step in a fast-moving season that has seen the ambitious development tire program making tangible steps forward at each race. VICI Racing and Kumho Tires knew this season would be demanding, but we will arrive at Road Atlanta after the most recent two races, at Mosport and Detroit, where the year-long hard-work started to reap serious dividends with a considerably improved race pace, although in both cases cruel mechanical luck stopped the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from finishing the races.
The Florida-based team will thus pitch up in Road Atlanta looking to build further on these most recent improved performances; and where the #18 Hughes Telematics, Hughes Network Systems, LuxuryMotors.com and Wempe- supported Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will be driven once again by Dutchmen Nicky and Francesco Pastorelli, and German Marc Basseng, the trio blending youth and experience, budding talent and a proven winning pedigree, raw speed and pace-setting reliability.
With a month-long hiatus in the 2008 ALMS since the street race in Detroit, the team has had time to prepare for the tough, car-breaking challenge of Petit Le Mans. Since it was first held 10 years ago, the prestigious Petit Le Mans, which is run for 10 hours or 1,000 miles (whichever comes first), has become one of the most important endurance races in the international sports car calendar and the roll call of winners over the last decade is a real Who's Who of leading drivers and manufacturers. Held on the 2.54-mile (4.088-km) Road Atlanta circuit at Braselton, Georgia, the road course has 12 turns that include the famous 'esses' between Turn 3 and 5, as well as the tricky Turn 12, a sharp downhill, diving bend. Changes have been recently made: the entire track was resurfaced less than two years ago, and last winter Turns 4 and 12 were slightly reconfigured.
VICI Racing and Kumho Tires teamed up this year to run this new tire development program in the ALMS, and it's been a fast-moving season for a project which has been carried out in the full glare of the racing spotlight. Fresh out of the box and with most staff members unfamiliar with each other's names at Sebring, the team far exceeded its own expectations during the famous 12-hour marathon as the new #5 car ran in a podium position for over four hours, and eventually clinched a sixth place finish after overcoming a catalogue of late race dramas that were outside the team's control. However, motor racing brings highs and lows, and at St. Petersburg (round 2) the team came crashing back to earth and went home early after a practice accident which caused damage that couldn't be repaired at the track. Following that setback a huge dose of professionalism and hard work, in between a long journey, was called for to make the grid at Long Beach (round 3) a fortnight later, and another helping of points was a perfect reward for many late nights. Round four in Utah saw the line up double as the #18 car joined the #5 in the paddock, and getting both cars to the finish in the points sent the team into the early summer break continuing to make steady progress. The team skipped round 5 at Lime Rock to concentrate on technical developments, before another points finish at Mid-Ohio (round 6) beckoned, and again at Road America (round 7), just as a hectic August hove into view. Following a brief week-and-a-half long break, the ALMS series moved on to another classic North American race track, Mosport (Canada) before just one week later it took to the streets of Belle Isle, Detroit. Although the team showed another step forward in competitiveness, sadly mechanical issues sidelined the #18 car in both races, leaving potential unrealised. Now we face the challenge of Petit Le Mans.
Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: "Petit is our biggest test so far this year, and although we've had a month's break since Detroit, the on- going job of building the team has meant that we have been really hectic. This has been a challenging project, but one that has been rewarding, although factors outside our control have prevented us from recording better results during the summer races. However, we have shifted the benchmarks with each time on track, and we are pushing hard towards the goal of hitting the front-running pace. In the last two races [Mosport and Detroit] we have closed the gap so that we can maintain a race pace that's about 1 sec a lap off the front. From where we started, that's a huge achievement, but we have a long way still to go. I'm pleased with the way Nicky, Marc and Francesco have integrated themselves into the team, they have all shown the ability to contribute to the tire development, so we seem to have evolved to a good driver line-up. I think they will all prove quick at Petit, and be able to run a good race pace. Road Atlanta is a tough track, posing many questions for the engineer. Our race pace is stronger than our qualifying performance so this will help us as this is 10 hour race. The tires are becoming much more durable so we expect them to last well which is another important factor. This is a fast track, hard on the car, and we will need a pretty stiff setup. Sachs has worked wonders this year and we will are looking to carry our suspension evolution forward here. Strategy is going to play a bit part, and of course, with any endurance race, a bit of luck is necessary. Let's hope everything gels together and we can notch up a solid result."
Tim Bumps, Team Manager VICI Racing: "This is a real biggie for us, and we're relishing fighting for a result at Road Atlanta. We were literally thrown straight into the mix at Sebring; but now we have most of a season behind us as we approach Road Atlanta, so everyone is working together pretty well now. However because we are building up the team for ALMS all year, much of September has been spent on making more steps forward. We're all relishing this race, and being a smaller team, the big endurance races are more of a lottery and the unknowns raise our chances. We look to arrive prepared and ready for a long week. I'm delighted with the way all our new personnel have integrated into the set-up, everyone has pulled their weight and everyone is motivated and focused. We have Laguna Seca a fortnight after Petit so I also hope we can get through the week without any major damage as we are straight into final preparations for the final race the moment Petit ends."
Jason Myers, Motorsport Development Director, Kumho Tires: "We are looking forward to Road Atlanta after disappointing setbacks from the last two races. Kumho tires have shown great progress each race, and we continue to work on the tires for the last two races on the schedule. Petit Le Mans brings unique circumstances since its ten hours, and runs into the night. The track has slow speed corners, and very high speed corners with elevation changes. It's important the drivers have confidence in the tires so they can concentrate on hitting their marks and maintaining concentration over ten hours. The drivers have shown good speed and continue to give valuable feedback to improve our product. Kumho will have multiple options available for the weekend for various track conditions and changing temperatures. Roland is very good at race strategy so I think it will be important to get underway, settle in, and maintain pace with the leaders. Anything can happen during this race, we need to be in a position at the end of the race to compete for the podium."
Nicky Pastorelli (The Netherlands): "I'm looking forward to Petit for sure. It will be my first long-distance sports car race and it has a big reputation. We had some unfortunate results in August which was a pity as I think we made some good improvements. Kumho are working hard and the tires were improving at Mosport and Detroit for sure. This race should be pretty good as we will get more track time and I think that with a bit of luck we can keep clear of trouble so we can turn in a good race and maybe surprise a few people."
Marc Basseng (Germany): "I did Petit Le Mans last year for the first time and I was very happy to have finished third. It was also the best result for the team last year in the ALMS. I'm looking forward to the Petit as we have a more time for testing and more time to set up the car. My teammates are great, so with three strong drivers maybe it will be our best result. The track is very good, and I loved driving it last year. The last turn is special, it's nearly flat every time, or the 'esses' down the hill. It's great track and just right for the second biggest race in the ALMS."
Francesco Pastorelli (The Netherlands): "Well, Petit will be a big step for me; it's one of the most famous sports car races in the world, so to be driving in it is going to be exciting. I'm also looking forward to having more track time next week, the summer races didn't work out well for me in terms of getting much time in the cockpit. I want to build up experience of the RSR and get used to it, so Petit should be really good for this too. Racing in the dark will be a new experience for me too, it looks to be fun. Nicky and Marc are excellent drivers; the technical team led by Roland [Wall] is very efficient and taking us in the right direction. So I think we can form a strong team all the way."
Four days of action on track at Road Atlanta get underway on Wednesday (Oct 1st) with 90 minutes of testing. The session goes to green flag at 1:10 PM with 60 minutes of track time which is open to all ALMS classes (P1, P2, GT1 and GT2) followed by a further 30 minutes (2:10-2:40 PM) which will be reserved for the GT1 and GT2 competitors. Thursday (Oct 2nd) kicks of with an hour long practice session in the morning open to all classes (10:30- 11:30 AM) followed by another hour in the late afternoon (3:05-4:05 PM) which is again open to all classes. The day will wrap up with two hours of night practice (7:00-9:00 PM), again open to all competitors. Friday (Oct 3rd) stars off with an hour long practice session (9:05-10:05 AM) before the 25-minute qualifying session for GT1 and GT2 cars gets underway in the mid-afternoon (3:25-3:50 PM). Race day (Saturday Oct 4th) gets underway away bright and early with an 25-minute warm up session (8:15-8:40 AM) before the 10 hour or 1,000 mile Petit Le Mans, the 11th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series goes to green flag conditions at 11:15 AM. SPEED TV will televise the entire race live, and the radio broadcast can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.