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ALMS – Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans – Thursday Afternoon Report
Audi Back on Top
Carsport’s Viper Impresses
Cirtek Ferrari Hangs Tough
© Tom Kjos
Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia, USA – The afternoon has brought hotter weather and slower times to the Petit Le Mans field. Dyson Racing was replaced at the head of the LMP1 class by Champion Racing (Marco Werner posted the fast lap at the checkered flag, ending the one hour session), Creation Autosportif and Intersport both improved their place among the premier prototypes, to fourth and fifth, respectively, as Dyson Racing’s #20 Lola B01/60 AER slipped to sixth in the seven car field. We’re not sure what to make of that; Chris Dyson told us that all was going swimmingly, “the Lola is as well balanced as I can ever remember it being here,” said Chris.

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All the cars in the class, except Intersport’s Lola B01/60 Judd, got in near thirty laps; probably optimal when working on set-up. The Intersport #37 was able to account for seventeen, still many more than this morning, so it would seem that they are on the right track. Two seconds –from 1:13.4 to a 1:15.3, covered the first six; Autocon’s #12 Riley & Scott is the exception, managing just a 1:20.2 in the session.

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Among the incidents were two involving Dyson’s #16 Lola, the first just after the green flag, and involving the #6 Krohn-Barbour Racing Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT. “There was another car going fairly slow trying to get out of the way, and he just stopped; I couldn’t miss him. The only damage is to the side pod,” said driver James Weaver. The Lamborghini drove away from the turn 10A incident, the Lola required a tow when James couldn’t re-fire it. Later, just a minute short of the session’s end, the same Dyson Lola lost the rear cowling near the pit exit, reportedly tagged by an “unknown Porsche”. Between those two events, Joe Fox spun the #6 Lamborghini at 10b, and continued.

The Clint Field / Robin Liddell / Milka Duno Intersport Lola B2K/40 Judd had LMP2 covered for the second straight session with a 1:17.3, close to their morning clocking. Miracle’s Courage was four seconds off its morning pace, but still a solid second in class, a click ahead of Team Bucknum and a closely chasing #13 Marshall-Cooke #13 Lola B2K/Millington.

The Corvettes continued to set the pace, almost in a class of their own, and for the second straight session, third in class is occupied by Carsport America’s Viper. The Tom Weickardt, Jean-Phillipe Belloc and Fabio Babini-driven car put up a time this session only 1.2 seconds off that of the #3 Fellows / O’Connell / Papis Corvette. If that trend continues, it’s news.

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ACEMCO’s Saleen S7R was in fourth, another second behind the Viper, with the #5 Lamborghini just a tenth off the Saleen’s heels. Is that a case of Lamborghini improvement, or more Saleen disappointment. Trends to watch – remembering that the only event that counts is the one on Saturday. The #6 Lamborghini fell fourteen places back of its sister car, in 28th overall.

As announced, Panoz skipped this session to replace an engine – in a move to improve mileage, they say. Also as announced, the #7 Lola Millington did not participate.

In GT, Alex Job Racing went 1-2 , putting the pesky #92 Cirtek Ferrari in third, after it had split them this morning. We had a long chat with Piers Masarati, who took us through the PK Sport Porsche’s entry and exit times at each of this 2.54 mile circuit’s corners. Bottom line? Piers believes that the car can get into the 1:25s as they work to set it up with much harder tires than those used at Mosport – which started going off after fifteen laps. Piers did not drive in this session; Liz Halliday and Ian Donaldson used the seat time. The 1:30 best has to be a disappointment, but the team is confident that will improve as they get familiar with the track and find the right set-up. “Mike (Pickup) really does a great job with what he has to work with,” said Piers, “we’ll get the most that the car-tire combination has to give.”

dailysportscar.comBAM!’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR continued to run close to the leaders, as did Kevin Buckler’s #66 Racer’s Group car. Kevin was high on the team’s chances after signing young Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller, to complement Cort Wagner and Patrick Long. Adam Jones set the time in the BAM! Car, commenting on how fraught was the action out there: “When you try to find some clear track, you go around the corner and the yellow flags will be out, there will be somebody facing the wrong way in front of you, there's gravel on the circuit, there's grass, there's cars everywhere. It's just like trying to park your car in a big car park in a shopping mall - everybody's going for the last space." Welcome to the ALMS, Adam (right).

Just behind the Racer’s Group is the second Ferrari Modena, the Risi Competizione entry that is familiar to ALMS fans in the hands of regular drivers Anthony Lazzaro and Ralf Kelleners, augmented in this meeting by Fabrizio de Simone of Rome, (Italy not Georgia). Reflective of the way the sport continues to improve the hardware, the three Porsche RS cars hold down the last three spots in the GT field – trailing all the RSRs.

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