PORSCHE RS SPYDER, 911 GT3 RSR NEED NEW SET-UP FOR MODIFIED MILLER MOTORSPORTS COURSE NEAR SALT LAKE CITY; PORSCHE-ACURA AND PORSCHE-FERRARI RIVALRIES CONTINUE ATLANTA -- May 13 - When owner Larry Miller had famous sports car course architect...
PORSCHE RS SPYDER, 911 GT3 RSR NEED NEW SET-UP FOR MODIFIED MILLER MOTORSPORTS COURSE NEAR SALT LAKE CITY; PORSCHE-ACURA AND PORSCHE-FERRARI RIVALRIES CONTINUE
ATLANTA -- May 13 - When owner Larry Miller had famous sports car course architect Alan Wilson design Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City four years ago, he wanted to make sure the facility was versatile enough to accommodate many different needs - sports car racing, motorscycle racing, club racing, corporate and private facility rentals and more.
For the first two years of the American Le Mans Series' appearances at Miller Motorsports Park, the cars ran the full course, which was a 24-turn, 4.5-mile race circuit - the longest on the 11-race schedule. Other configurations include breaking up the full course into two 2.24 mile circuits, each with their own challenges, but for the ALMS feature race this Sunday, the teams will use the fourth choice - a 15-turn, 3.048-mile course which goes around the outer section of the full course, eliminating all of the infield turns.
Sunday's event, known as The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels will start at 3:05 PM EDT, and will be carried live nationally on SPEED channel (3:00 PM - 6:00 PM EDT). All track sessions starting Friday morning will be scored live on www.americanlemans.com, and qualifying and race action will be broadcast on American Le Mans radio, also at www.americanlemans.com. Photos and race stories on the Porsche competitors will be filed at www.porschemotorsport.com (click on motorsports news).
Despite the shortened version of the track, the twisty circuit is still regarded as one of the most demanding on the calendar.
"It has actually become more difficult to find the optimal set-up," says Sascha Maassen (Germany), who secured overall victory with the Penske Porsche RS Spyder last year after claiming an LMP2 class win at the debt on this track in 2006. With his team mate Patrick Long (USA) he tested here in Salt Lake City last month as the engineers tried to find the best possible set-up for the 476 hp sports prototype from Weissach for this new challenge.
His impressions: "A great track. Despite the shortening of the circuit there are still a lot of corners that suit us very well. But you also drive on the long straight more often and that is certainly not to our advantage."
Patrick Long agrees with this assessment but is equally as optimistic: "We don't have to take a back seat. In the past we have found solutions to tougher problems than this."
Penske Racing, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, will field two RS Spyder at Miller - Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long will drive the #6 RS Spyder, with their teammates Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) in the matching #7 car. The Bernhard/Dumas tandem are first in the LMP2 class point standings after the first three races of the season, with an overall win (Sebring) and two class wins (Sebring and St. Petersburg). Porsche in the also first manufacturers chassis and engine points and Penske Racing leads the teams championship.
The Poughkeepsie, New York-based Dyson Racing has also entered two Porsche RS Spyders - one for Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain), and the other for Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain).
After two street races in St. Petersburg and Long Beach, the series now returns to a permanent race track in Salt Lake City, which is the first of five straight races on traditional course (Salt Lake City, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Mosport). Sascha Maassen explains the greatest difference.
"On a city circuit you are more mentally stressed because you know exactly where you must not make a mistake otherwise you end up in the wall. As a contrast you've got a lot of corners on this circuit with correspondingly high lateral acceleration. It doesn't matter how well you have trained - after a couple of corners your neck hurts," said Maassen.
After testing last month, Maassen added that the car should be ready to go, but the team will still have to work hard in practice on Friday to sort out final details.
In the GT2 class for modified production sports cars, the Sebring winner Joerg Bergmeister from Germany and his compatriot Wolf Henzler are looking for their second victory of the season to vault them back into the points lead. With the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Flying Lizard Motorsports, they were narrowly beaten by a tenth of a second by the Ferrari 430 in Long Beach to cross the finish line second.
Flying Lizard team mates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France), and Darren Law (USA) and Seth Neiman (USA) will field the other two cars entered by the Sonoma, California-based team. The Lizards trail the Tafel Ferrari team by a two points in the team championship, and Bergmeister/Henzler are only six points behind Tafel's Mueller/Farnbacher in the driver points. Ferrari leads Porsche in GT2 manufacturers championship by a single point. Farnbacher Loles Racing, with offices in Danbury, Connecticut and facilities at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, has entered a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for German drivers Dirk Werner and Marc Basseng, who have a third-place finish to their credit from St. Petersburg.
VICI Racing, with race shops in Germany and Miami, Florida, will have Americans Craig Stanton and Nathan Swartzbaugh at the helm for its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The American Le Mans Series continues on its upward trend in 2008: An average of 106,000 spectators came to the first three races of the season, marking an increase of 3.2 percent over last year. The number of television viewers in the USA rose by 37 percent, bolstered by flag-to-flag coverage by SPEED at Sebring and two races on ABC-TV.