– Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (August 11, 2013) – Orion Energy Systems 245
The sixth round of the American Le Mans Series took place just three weeks after an amazing race weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park where we saw a hard fought win in the P2 class for Level 5 Motorsports (Tucker/M. Franchitti) over Extreme Speed Motorsports (Cosmo/Sharp). Not to mention the epic GT class battle between Corvette Racing (Gavin/Milner) to the checkered flag versus SRT Motorsports (Goossens/Farnbacher), as well as the P1 class leading Muscle Milk Pickett Racing (Graf/Luhr) victory over Dyson Racing (Burgess/McMurry). The mood coming into Road America this past weekend was exciting to say the least. After the last race, expectations were high.
Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a 4.048-mile asphalt track with 14 turns. The American Le Mans Series made its first visit to Road America on July 7, 2002, and is a favorite track for drivers in all classes. The combination of high-speed straights, heavy braking zones, fast sweeping corners, and a variety of elevation changes, provides great racing for drivers and fans alike. This is also the second fastest track in the series, and home to the closest finish ever (just 0.083 seconds) in ALMS history at the 2012 Road America race.
Drivers have many challenges here at Road America. With the combination of varied turns and long straights, the teams must decide to either dial in down force for fast cornering, or trim the car out for the fastest speeds on the straights. Many drivers find their cars’ top speed here at Road America. In addition, with the 4-mile length, fuel mileage and pit strategy comes into play more at Road America than most other tracks.
The first look at how cars and drivers stacked up was during Friday morning practice.
In the P2 class it was Guy Cosmo in the #01 HPD ARX-O3b with a time of 1:57.964.
Following Guy Cosmo, the #551 of Simon Pagenaud posted a time of 1:58.229, just 0.265 behind.
Third in the class was the #02 piloted by Johannes van Overbeek with a 1.58.503.
Moving on to the PC class, the fastest time was a 1:59.467 by the #18 of Tristan Nunez.
Following just 0.105 behind Nunez was the #05 of Colin Braun with a 1:59.572.
Third in the PC class was Kyle Marcelli in the #8 with a 2:00.050.
In the exciting GT class the SRT Vipers’ of Marc Goossens and Jonathan Bomarito ruled practice, finishing 1 and 3 for the day with a 2:05.829 and 2:06.262 respectively. The Corvette Racing ZR1 of Tommy Milner held the title for best lap in class for a brief period with a 2:06.677, but was quickly knocked off by both SRT Vipers.
Putting a dent in the practice session of the Vipers’ was the #55 of Bill Auberlen in the BMW Z4 GTE with a time of 2:06.016.
Finally, in GTC practice, Andy Lally posted the fast time of the day with a 2:13.750 in his Porsche GT3.
Following behind by just 0.099 was the #66 of Damien Faulkner with a 2:13.849.
Finishing up the third fastest in the GTC class was Jeroen Bleekemolen with a 2:14.016 in his #22 Porsche.
Qualifying came on Saturday morning, where fast times were set all morning, lap after lap. The fastest drivers of qualifying were Jonathan Bomarito in GT, Spencer Pumpelly in GTC, Lucas Luhr in P1, Marino Franchitti in P2 and Colin Braun in PC.
Final times were very fast, the fastest being the P1 HPD ARX-03a #6 of Graf/Luhr with a time of 1:51.460, followed by the #16 P1 Lola of Burgess/McMurry with a 1:53.580. But breaking into the P1 times was the P2 #552 of Tucker/Franchitti, running a 1:54.806.
Next fastest in qualifying with a 1:55.362 was the #0 P1 Deltawing driven by Meyrich/Legge, followed closely by the #01 P2 of Sharp/Cosmo.
In the GT class the #93 SRT Viper of Bomarito/Wittmer once again was on top with a 2:03.410.
Next up were the two Corvette Racing ZR1’s, #3 and #4, qualified with a 2:04.212 and 2:04.277 respectively. It appeared that the epic Corvette vs Viper battle was on again for race day.
In GTC, the fastest qualifiers were the #45 of Canacha/Pumpelly with a 2:11.930, and #30 Cisneros/Edwards with a 2:12.386.
That is what the starting grid looked like for the Orion Energy Systems 245 at Road America. Only race day would decide who would stay on top, with all eyes on the Viper vs Corvette race. Could Muscle Milk Pickett Racing fend off Dyson Racing again?
After three dry days of practice and qualifying, the skies opened up for a morning shower. Although the track was wet all morning, it dried up in time for the call to grid. Even though the track seemed like it was in a promising state, it was still wet enough where the teams were running intermediate rain tires. When the condition of the track progressed, the teams switched back to slicks.
As the race started, it was bound to be an interesting fight of strategy, grip, and tire change timing.
After the track dried up, it turned into an excellent race in all classes, there were only a few cautions that appeared in the 2 hour and 45 minute race.
Nearing the end of the race, with four cars unable to finish and in the paddock. Graf/Luhr was in the lead with the Muscle Milk Picket Racing HPD ARX-03a, followed closely by the Dyson Racing Lola of Burgess/McMurry. But a late full course caution with less than 10 minutes to go, would end the race under caution, to the dismay of many of the fans.
Further back, Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens in the SRT Viper lead the #3 & #4 Corvettes around to the checkered flag under caution.
The SRT Viper team took home their first victory since 2000, and the Muscle Milk Picket Racing team would take home their fifth consecutive victory in the series.
Another ALMS milestone at Road America was that the Deltawing led for the first time, leading twice for 16 laps, finishing 3rd in class, and 5th overall.
Other notable victories were that of Scott Tucker, winning his fourth consecutive P2 victory for Level 5 Motorsports, with guest driver Simon Pagenaud in the #551 Siemens HPD ARX-03b.
Junquera/Ende finished 1st in PC with Marcelli/Cumming in second. Followed by the #52 Molecule ORECA FLM09 of Gausch/Cheng.
In GTC, Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr., drove their #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche to victory, securing their points lead in the class at the same time.
In second, was Bleekemolen/MacNeil in the #22 WeatherTech Porsche, followed by Edwards/Cisneros in the #30 Momo Porsche GT3.
The Road America weekend was a special event with Grand-Am and ALMS together in one place, in preparation for United SportsCar Racing in 2014.
Next up for ALMS is the Grand Prix of Baltimore on August 31st. Will Muscle Milk Picket Racing continue to dominate? And will SRT Viper secure another victory over Corvette Racing?