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ALMS – Road America 500 – Preview
Smallest Field of the Season
Miracle to Debut Courage C65
© Tom Kjos

Burnsville, Minnesota, USA – As we approach the Road America 500 (which doesn’t seem to be 500 of anything), there is some good news and some bad news. We’ll take the good news first.

Miracle Motorsports will show up with a slightly used Courage C65 chassis, the very one that raced in the Le Mans Endurance Series at Silverstone this past weekend. Will it be ready to race? We hope so. What we really like about this acquisition is the way it changes the character of the Miracle Motorsports team. They were headed for the American Le Mans Series team and drivers’ championships, and they were going to get there with equipment that was quite uncompetitive with the “head of the class”. In fact they might have won that championship having won just one race, and with the runner-up having won seven races of the nine in the schedule – such is the problem with an undersized class and the points formulas. Now that all will still likely happen, but Miracle will at least have declared “we are here to race for the win, not just wait for the failure of others”. Sure, it’s endurance racing, but it seems to us that just racing to finish takes that concept a bit too far. Our Russell Wittenberg caught up to Ian James yesterday (Tuesday) and reports that, “Needless to say he is pretty excited to try the new toy. After John Macaluso visited the Courage factory two weeks ago the deal came together quickly. In fact, no one on the team has tested the car yet, which will use the AER engine, the same engine in Dyson Racing’s Lola B01/60, but with even larger restrictors so Ian thinks the top speed should be impressive. The car went from Silverstone to the Courage shops at Le Mans, France, to be cleaned and prepped, thence across the Atlantic today. The team hopes to see the new car Thursday at Road America. Miracle intends to honor their deal with Yokohama.” The LMP2 class remains a bit thin, but there is finally the prospect of good racing up front. Bravo Miracle, and we’ll wait for Team Bucknum to make its decision later this fall or early winter. If next year we end up with Miracle, Intersport and Bucknum, all with hardware that puts them at the sharp end of the contest, there will be entertainment enough in this class.

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In LMP1, Dyson Racing is coming off its Mosport win, the first of the season. Can they win this one? They had the pole here last year, and a crash took out the leading #16 car early, typical of their luck. Will that change now? We hope so. The little car should be dynamite from the top of the “hurry downs”, through the carousel, the “kink” and Canada corner. The Audi R8 will prefer the power-out of turn fourteen and the run up the front straight, along with the haul up the hill under the bridge from turn five to turn six at the top of the “hurry downs”. One, two, three, and four we’ll call a stand-off. “I think that track position is going to be very important,” said Dyson team manager Randall Kelsey, who pointed out other specific parts of the track where the Lola and Audi are expected to show their respective strengths. “Our car is just awesome around the carousel and kink sections leading onto the back straight. The kink is one of the fastest you’ll ever see on a road course in America, and it could have been made for our Lola. One of the quickest parts of the track is the run downhill to Turn 5, and then at the end of that straight is the slowest turn on the track. Our car will be very good under braking there, but the Audi will be faster down the straight. The question is, if it’s near the end of the race and the Audi is leading, will we be able to out-brake them coming down to Turn 5? And if we’re leading will the Audi be able to get a good enough run up that straight to pass us before the next blind left-hander at the top of the hill? I think the last few laps of this race are likely to have all the fans at the track standing up and people watching on television at home on the edge of their couches.” It’s a little “iffier” than Mosport, but I think that Dyson can win here, avenging last year's result.

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dailysportscar.comNow on to the bad news. No Lamborghinis. Though they undoubtedly are making the right decision in skipping this race to test and develop before Road Atlanta, that reduces the number of starting cars (we think that number will be only twenty-two). The Lamborghinis are awesome cars to look at for the fans, but they will be missing no racing in their absence. ACEMCO Saleen, however, keeps edging up on the Corvette juggernaut, and may be able to do some damage on this long fast circuit. We’ll hope, but we won’t hold our breath.

GT is a Porsche game, even more so with the withdrawal of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena. It’s a bad week for aficionados of Italian cars, isn’t it? The car entered the season off a string of podium finishes last year, and early reports suggested the new GT would be faster than last year’s model. It might be, but the bar was raised by Porsche in the meantime (it always is, isn’t it?). The lone remaining non-Porsche, the Panoz Esperante, shows its speed in flashes, like pretty legs under a swirling skirt, but still remains unready for prime time. This is a power track that should help the V8 relative to the boxer six, but probably not enough for a podium result.

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dailysportscar.comWhat of the Porsches then? This is the closest racing in North America, as one might expect from a largely ‘spec’ field. Flying Lizard drivers van Overbeek and Law are just holding off Alex Job Racing’s factory star, Timo Bernhard (partner Jorg Bergmeister missed Sebring due to illness, taking himself out of this very tight championship race). Flying Lizard is second in team points (115 - 97). Right there every race is Petersen Motorsports-White Lightning Racing, who except for a last second fuel stop, had a win in hand at Mosport. They won here last year, and are certainly capable of repeating. J3 Racing, with Brit GT star Tim Sugden sharing the duties with Justin Jackson, has been competitive in spurts, and has podium potential. PK Sport, after a team shakeup that saw the replacement of tire supplier and both drivers is taking this one off to get organized. “Circumstances beyond our control,” is Mike Pickup’s explanation.

This is Road America, though, and that means it holds a special place in North American sports car racing that transcends the field. We’ll have our autographed copy of “The Last Open Road” with us and evenings you’re likely to find us settled in at Siebken’s. Last year that was the site of Care Development Racing’s victory party. Who will have a victory to celebrate Sunday night this year?

 

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