PORSCHE RS SPYDER -- STREET SUCCESSES TO LONG TRACK TREK IN SALT LAKE CITY? ALMS GT2 Porsche teams looking to crack the Ferrari hold on class podium's top step After three races preparing cars for the bumpy, tight street courses in St.
PORSCHE RS SPYDER -- STREET SUCCESSES TO LONG TRACK TREK IN SALT LAKE CITY?
ALMS GT2 Porsche teams looking to crack the Ferrari hold on class podium's top step
After three races preparing cars for the bumpy, tight street courses in St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Houston, Porsche teams in the American Le Mans Series have to completely change their race setup to run on the smoothest, longest road racing track in North America for this weekend's Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park is set for 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 19, and will run for two hours, 45-minutes. The race will be broadcast on CBS Sports on a tape-delayed basis at 1 p.m. EDT (two-hour broadcast) on the Sunday, May 20. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing and Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com during the race, while Porsche driver and team information is available on www.porschemotorsport.com.
The course, a 24-turn, 4.5-mile road circuit which is less than a year old, gives the drivers many places to pass, but requires a much different approach than the street courses of March and April for both the LMP2 class Porsche RS Spyder prototypes and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs in the GT2 class, according to Uwe Brettel, president of Porsche Motorsport North America.
"The suspension settings, gearing, and even pit stop and tire strategy from the last three races go right out the window for this weekend, and the teams that have good data from last year or have tested earlier this season at Miller will have an advantage," said Brettel.
On the prototype side, the Penske Porsche RS Spyders have had success on the street circuits despite constant pressure from the three factory-backed Acuras. Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) held off the late charge of the Herta/Franchitti Acura to score a four-tenths of a second overall victory for the second week in a row on April 21 at the Lone Star Grand Prix of Houston -- the first time in American Le Mans Series history an LMP2 car has won overall twice in a row. The week before, their number seven RS Spyder won overall at the Long Beach Grand Prix.
The team RS Spyder of Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia) finished third in LMP2 (fourth overall) in Houston, solidifying their hold on second place in the class points. Maassen/Briscoe won the class in March through the streets of St. Petersburg. Defending LMP2 titleholder Sascha Maassen, with former co-driver and co-LMP2 champion Lucas Luhr, won the Salt Lake City event in 2006 in their number six Penske Porsche RS Spyder enroute to their LMP2 championship run.
Bernhard/Dumas lead the LMP2 Driver Championship standings with 75 points after four events, while Maassen/Briscoe have 58 points, and the leading Acura drivers have 49 points. Porsche now leads the LMP2 class manufacturer's championship points over Acura, 79 to 65. The back-to-back wins also marked the only two times the Audi R-10 LMP1 car has been outdistanced by LMP2 competitors.
The Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyders, which have been just outside the battle for the top spots in LMP2 since the beginning of the season, broke through at Long Beach with a third place finish overall at Long Beach, and showed they could run with the Acuras at Houston. Dyson racers finished fifth and sixth in LMP2 at Houston, just ahead of the Fernandez/Diaz Acura. The Chris Dyson (USA)/Guy Smith (England) team car was fifth after Dyson spent more than 50 minutes leading Diaz around the track in some of the best nose-to-tail racing of the season. Sixth was the Andy Wallace (England)/Butch Leitzinger (USA) Dyson Porsche, which also had a good battle with the same Acura (Leitzinger with Fernandez) near the end of the event.
In GT2, the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR team cars have finished second to the winning Ferrari at all four events so far this season, with the Jorg Bergmeister/Johannes van Overbeek number 45 racer second at Sebring, and St. Petersburg, and Houston and the number 44 team car of Patrick Long and Darren Law second in Long Beach. Both cars will be seeking their first win of the season in Salt Lake City.
"We have been so close to winning each of the four races," said Bergmeister, the defending ALMS GT champion and a Porsche factory driver.
"We believe small improvements in the car and a mistake-free drive can put us on top in Salt Lake City," he said.
With its experience in Grand-Am at Miller, plus its fine third-place finish in Houston, the number 71 Tafel Racing Porsche of Robin Liddell/Wolf Henzler, which has lead during parts of three races, hopes to top the podium this weekend, while the team number 73 Porsche of Jim Tafel and Dominik Farnbacher also hope to better their best finish (fifth at Sebring) for 2007. Team owner Jim Tafel, whose family owns the horse the won the Kentucky Derby early in May, will be keeping an eye on the Preakness, which is scheduled to run about 70 minutes before the ALMS event.
The number 18 Rahal Letterman Racing Porsche, with Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner, Jr. at the wheel, has had bad luck in the first few laps of both Sebring and Long Beach, and was headed for a second-place finish in class in St. Petersburg when the car crashed with just nine minutes left in the event. As a new team this year, Rahal Letterman is just beginning to feel comfortable in the ALMS series, and is looking to Salt Lake City as their break-out event, as is the new Boston-based Team Trans Sport Racing entry of Tim Pappas and Terry Brocheller, which looks to improve on their best finish (sixth at Houston).
The Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR family of race cars has won the American Le Mans Series GT/GT2 drivers and manufacturers class championship every year but one since the series inception in 1999. Last year was no exception, as Jorg Bergmeister won the championship, and with the aid of his co-driver Patrick Long and his Petersen/White Lightning Porsche GT3 RSR, helped Porsche win the manufacturers title.