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ALMS – Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans – Hours 1 & 2
Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans Off and Running
Weaver holding off Werner’s Pressure
Two Cautions in First Thirty Minutes
More Drama In Second Hour
Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia, USA – The Seventh Petit Le Mans was off to a flying start just minutes after noon Eastern time, following the routine (for ALMS) ceremonies on the racing grid. Once again, an American Le Mans track opened its grid to the fans and thousands crowded between the cars chatting with and getting autographs from their favorite drivers. It is quite stunning (and nice) to see a smiling Johnny Herbert shaking hands, joking, and posing with corpulent, grinning locals.

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After opening with a snippet of each of the participants’ national anthems, we had the Marseillaise, an A10 Thunderbolt fly-over, and “Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines”.

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James Weaver started the pole-winning Dyson Racing Lola B01/60 and with Nic Minassian along side in Creation Autosportif’s DBA / Zytek, held off early pressure from the two Champion Racing Audis, who were looking for an opportunity use the Michelin’s early advantage. Then it turned busy. Werner used his track knowledge to get by Pierre Kaffer, then overtook Nic Minassian, putting the #38 Champion Audi R8 immediately behind Weaver’s Lola. Moments later, Kaffer yielded to a charging Jon Field, who had the Intersport Lola Judd at qualifying pace.

Just before the first caution of the race, a result of a car part on the track (#92 Cirtek Ferrari) the first six are separated by a total of 3.2 seconds. After the restart, it continues to be six P1’ dominating the front of the race, but only for a few moments, as #12, Autocon’s Riley & Scott, driven by Michael Lewis gets hard into a concrete wall, taking Manuel Matos and the #78 J3 Porsche with him. In an interview after the incident, Lewis blamed a bump from Creation Autosportif’s Minassian for the incident. The latter is circulating and seems unharmed, though the Reynard had dropped back to fifth earlier, then took fourth when Jon Field pitted the Intersport Lola Judd with what appears to be some minor damage – after contact with the Cirtek 360, which caused the first (debris) full course yellow.

Elsewhere, Clint Field had Intersport solidly in the lead ahead of Ian James’ Miracle Courage C65, which had slipped back amongst the GTS leaders. Terry Borcheller, on a charge of his own surprised Ron Fellows and put the Saleen between (briefly ahead of) the two Corvettes. Belloc and Kox had the Viper and Lamborghini, respectively, in touch with the top three.

Dumas led GT (by a lap) for Alex Job Racing over Johannes van Overbeek’s Flying Lizard Porsche.

That’s where we are on the second re-start. We’ll be back with a summary of the race at two hours.

Two Hours
At the second hour we are on the event’s third full course yellow, which has seen the Cirtek #92 Ferrari involved again in an on-course incident, this time hit by (according to Andrea Montermini) Pierre Kaffer, resulting in its own demise. The Ferrari – the same car that inadvertently caused Kaffer’s crash at Spa – took a very heavy rear end hit, and it looks as though it will need another new chassis (as it did after the Spa 24 Hours).

Meanwhile James Weaver's description that “we were getting back to it when a piece of Italian racing junk decided to wander into the racing line and hit us in the side,” referred to the #6 Krohn-Barber Lamborghini, which put the #16 car behind the wall to repair a torn up radiator. “That kind of thing has happened with that car several times this year.”

We were having a whale of a race at an hour. Five prototypes, headed by James Weaver, were covered by less than thirteen seconds. Just after the hour, Marco Werner took advantage of the unexpected line of the Cirtek Ferrari to get past James Weaver’s Lola AER. The race went into its first round of scheduled pit stops for the leaders when Creation Autosportif came in at 1:09, a bit earlier than expected, given the extended caution earlier. The first of the Audis was in at 1:14, putting Weaver into the lead. Then the race started to come apart. Weaver slowed dramatically on the back straight and limped into the pits with a transmission stuck in fifth. That took a bit under nine minutes to fix, putting Butch Leitzinger back on the track with a six lap deficit. In the meantime Jan Lammers assumed the lead in the #20 Dyson Lola, but that was short-lived when he had his own, slow, pit stop, dropping to third behind the two Audis, a lap back. There he held station twenty seconds up on Minassian’s DBA Zytek until a sequence of events that included the Lamborghini-Dyson incident and separate damage to the #2 Audi’s side pod, ended in Lehto in the lead in the #38 Audi, Johnny Herbert a lap back, and Chris Dyson and Nic Minassian trading spots for third and fourth nearly, but not quite, two laps back.

In GTS, both the #4 Lamborghini and the Saleen stopped on the first yellow just ten minutes into the race and took on fuel, putting themselves out of sequence with the leaders. Later, Terry Borcheller spent a short time in the class lead, but troubles later (the cool box came loose), dropped the Saleen five laps off the class leaders. At present the Carsport Viper occupies third place in class, but is three laps back of the Corvettes.

It appears that the GT driver’s championship might be over. The #45 Flying Lizard Porsche spun out (contact with Lammers) and lost six laps to the Bergmeister – Bernhard Alex Job Racing Porsche.

Robin Liddell (Intersport Lola – Judd) led James Gue (Miracle Courage) in a close battle for the LMP2 crown.

Two Hour Positions
1 38 P1 1 JJ Lehto 78 1:14.354
2 2 P1 2 Johnny Herbert 78 30.547 1:14.391
3 20 P1 3 Jan Lammers 77 1:14.339
4 27 P1 4 Nicola Minassian 77 1:14.482
5 3 GTS 1 Johnny O`Connell 75 1:19.713
6 4 GTS 2 Olivier Beretta 75 3.278 1:19.293
7 30 P2 1 Robin Liddell 75 5.630 1:18.226
8 10 P2 2 James Gue 74 1:18.421
9 13 P2 3 Spencer Pumpelly 74 31.593 1:21.294
10 37 P1 5 Duncan Dayton 73 1:14.823
11 71 GTS 3 Jean Philippe Belloc 73 9.723 1:21.675
12 5 GTS 4 David Brabham 72 1:22.244
13 24 GT 1 Marc Lieb 72 11.288 1:24.347
14 23 GT 2 Jorg Bergmeister 72 25.266 1:24.420
15 16 P1 6 Butch Leitzinger 71 1:14.295
16 31 GT 3 Craig Stanton 71 1:25.011
17 63 GTS 5 Johnny Mowlem 71 1:20.615
18 66 GT 4 Mike Rockenfeller 70 1:24.813
19 35 GT 5 Ralf Kelleners 70 3.771 1:24.812
20 44 GT 6 Seth Neiman 70 6.969 1:24.845
21 79 GT 7 Justin Jackson 70 19.350 1:25.664
22 67 GT 8 Robert Nearn 69 1:26.458
23 43 GT 9 Adam Jones 69 1.189 1:24.052
24 50 GT 10 Marino Franchitti 68 1:25.018
25 93 GT 11 Stephane Ortelli 68 3.684 1:25.528
26 56 P2 4 Bryan Willman 68 8.359 1:24.401
27 8 GT 12 Michael Cawley 68 15.662 1:27.785
28 6 GTS 6 Joe Fox 66 1:23.991
29 45 GT 13 Darren Law 66 10.859 1:24.501
30 92 GT 14 Andrea Montermini 64 1:24.781
31 60 GT 15 Liz Halliday 58 1:27.445
32 19 P2 5 Ben Devlin 16 1:27.181
33 12 P1 7 Michael Lewis 12 1:18.506
34 78 GT 16 Manuel Matos 11 1:30.178
-- 7 P2 -- Jason Workman -- --

 

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