It ain’t over until the Fat Lady Sings, or in the case of the ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey by Patron, the checkered flag at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. While the overall leader was certain in the last hour, the GT class went down to the wire. It was riveting as the leaders changed almost like a revolving door.
Talk about ‘Rockets Red Glare’ – literally. Above the checkered flags were pyrotechnics shooting above the Starter’s Stand.
Stirred, not shaken. The Aston Martin Racing AMR/Lola Coupe B09 60 won with three laps to spare to win overall and first in the LMP1 class. It was their first ALMS win.
Driver ADRIAN FERNANDEZ said “It was good to get back to the Lola and know it was reliable. It is the old car, but with new changes. This was only our second race in the car, so Petit Le Mans race will be important. The racing in ALMS right now is fantastic.” He has won nine times.
Co-driver STEFAN MUCKE drove to the finish – his first ever ALMS victory. He said “The race started well, but then we had contact twice and after that, we never thought we could win. I am really happy and thanks to everybody.” The third driver was HAROLD PRIMAT, also winning for the first time.
The Dyson Racing cars didn’t fare as well as hoped, race wise. But the team’s goal this weekend was to clinch the LMP1 championship, and it did – Dyson Racing for Team Championship, and drivers CHRIS DYSON and GUY SMITH for LMP1 Driver’s Championship. Smith turned the fastest LMP1 race lap.
“This one came as hard as any” said owner ROB DYSON. “Racing isn’t over till its over. Championships are valuable because they are very difficult to win.” Their Championship was also extended to Mazda. Lola and Dunlop. The team has been with Mazda for the past three years. This was the first Manufacturer’s Championship for Mazda since the RX-7 won GTO twenty years ago.
Pole sitter No.16 Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 was running third, a lap down with 16 minutes to go when JAY COCHRAN spun out exiting the Corkscrew (Turn 8A) and high centered Drivers Left in the gravel. The SFR SCCA Emergency Crew maneuvered him backwards and push started him down the track. Cochran lost two laps but remained third in class. There was a brief full course caution during the process.
The team car, No.20 Oryx Dyson Racing Lola, ended the race in the pits, also three laps down. The car was having some anomalies in the data readings and the team was checking.
The tightest, most competitive class racing was in the GT class. It was fierce and frequent, the passing and repassing. It was no use trying to write that story before the finish.
For Flying Lizards, it was the first win of the season – in the penultimate round. It was a long time coming. JOERG BERGMEISTER and PATRICK LONG/No.45 Porsche 911 RSR won by retaking the lead on the last lap when JAIME MELLO/No.62 Risi Competizone ran out of fuel. Bergmeister said “It was karma. The Risi guys weren’t playing fair.”
Bergmeister and Long have 54 ALMS wins between them, and Long has won the last three Laguna Seca ALMS GT races. Bergmeister has thirty-four victories and is tied for fourth overall, and Long now has twenty wins. They feel weight has been lifted from them after finally winning this year. They finished eleventh overall.
It should be noted that Long has another race tomorrow, in the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge where he will race No.45 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche 911 in the GT class. He’s leading the standings in that series, and could clinch the title Sunday.
Patrick Long minced no words in the post-race conference. He said “Our strategy was to protect the car and not get into the barn burning racing that GT has progressed to. We tried to stay out of it and hope officials would tone things down. The officials didn’t and I was pretty upset how things went at the end.”
It was at this point in the conference that we learned Risi had been penalized. Long said “There were penalties handed out at the end. We have to keep striving on to win.” Risi No.62 was assessed a 90-second time penalty for “avoidable contact.’ The team wasn’t allowed to take the podium for its third place GT finish. This moved No.62 Risi to sixth in GT, sixteenth overall.
Bergmeister said “Risi was kind of rough with us, not very fair. They kept hitting me, actually both guys were hitting both of us.”
Long continued. “There was door banging, and taking each other to the wall, in first hour. This baffled me. Our team ‘came together’ in our car – drivers and strategist. We said ‘Let the officials take care of it and stick to our own race. We were fuel rich and he sealed the deal on the last lap. We decided to stay out of trouble and not indulge in the craziness.” Long was complimentary to the pole drivers in No.56 BMW RLL BMW M3 drivers, JOEY HAND and DIRK MUELLER, saying “It ran us clean and that was the race we were looking for all day, but didn’t happen because of the 62 car in there.”
“At Laguna it’s come down to some rough racing, a contact sport to some racing. We need to get back to classic racing.”
Hand and Mueller finished second in class, and clinched the ALMS GT Driver’s Championship. BMW RLL won the ALMS GT Team Championship. Hand turned the fastest GT lap.
Third in class was the No.01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia with JOHANNES van OVERBEEK and team owner SCOTT SHARP.
DUNCAN ENDE/No.66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup brought it home for TRG in the GTC class, his fourth such win. His usual co-driver, SPENCER PUMPELLY – who drove the fastest GTC lap – has now won three times, but it was the first ever win for PETER LUDWIG.
ELTON JULIAN/No.63 Genoa Racing Oreca FLM09 won the LMPC race, finishing fifth overall, after starting third in class and ninth overall. It was his sixth ALMS win and he turned the fastest LMPC race lap. His co-drivers were MICHAEL GUASCH and ERIC LUX – his second win. Julian was set for a late stint in the race, and had to skip his rest/lunch break to get into the car earlier. After one lap, Guasch said he broke his ankle and couldn’t drive any more. Julian said “I wish I had eaten.”
There was no surprise that the brand new Honda /No.055 won the LMP2 race, as they had no competition. LUIS DIAZ drove to the checkered flag, and the co-drivers were CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT and team owner, SCOTT TUCKER. They finished fourth overall. Thursday’s Test Day was the first time the new car was driven.
Bouchut – who was the fastest LMP2 driver – said “The race at Laguna is hard because it is a big challenge with you in the car. The track changes all the time, some corners change differently. You have to push the machine and see where you go.”
The new Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid finished first and only in the UNC category (not eligible for points) and tenth overall, despite starting at the back of the field due to not qualifying. This was only its second race in North America, and third race outside of Germany. The drivers were ROMAN DUMAS and RICHARD LIETZ. They only made three pit stops. There was a contingent of German and Austrian Porsche engineers here to watch the Hybrid’s progress.
Porsche factory driver Dumas – the fastest of the the two drivers – said “The drivers like to say it’s about the power – the four-wheel-drive and 200 extra horsepower generated from stored braking energy, but the Porsche hybrid racing system is much more than that. It’s generating those things with fewer pit stops and more efficiency. Beating this world-class field of factory GT cars is really something special for us.”
The next round is the season finale race -Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in two weeks.
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