ALMS, LM24: Highcroft severs HPD ties, withdraws Le Mans entry.

Highcroft Racing's ARX-01e during the 2011 Sebring 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Highcroft Racing.

Highcroft Racing's ARX-01e during the 2011 Sebring 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Highcroft Racing.

After a rocky start to its 2011 campaign, US team Highcroft Racing today confirmed the news many sportscar racing fans had been fearing.

Following five, highly successful years at the forefront of the North American sportscar racing scene, the squad today concluded the final chapter in its HPD-backed history.

Earlier today the team’s PR officials confirmed details of the Danbury-Connecticut-based outfit’s severing of ties with long-time technical partner, HPD.

News of the team’s Le Mans 2011 entry withdrawal were also confirmed shortly after.

Despite a Goliath-beating, highlight performance at the Sebring 12 Hour event earlier this year, along with intentions for a return to Le Mans with the revised ARX-01e, many had anticipated the possibility of Highcroft returning to the ALMS would be, following the outfit’s well-known pre-season struggles, all but a distant possibility.

Highcroft campaigning Acura's radical ARX-02e design at the 2009 Sebring 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Doug Werner/SpeedTV.com

Highcroft campaigning Wirth's radical ARX-02e design at the 2009 Sebring 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Doug Werner/SpeedTV.com

Selected as a satellite-team during the original Acura LMP program’s infancy, the Duncan Dayton-led outfit excelled. Often competing toe-to-toe with rival factory-backed teams of Penske, and Audi, in addition to its Acura-backed sister teams, during what many considered to be the glory years of modern prototype racing in North America.

As long-time HPD-stalwarts, Highcroft Racing remained the only US-based team campaigning an HPD chassis following the demise of De Ferran Motorsports at the close of the 2009 ALMS season.

During this period the team achieved a total of eleven race wins, nine pole positions, and 28 podium finishes, along with two consecutive championships (2009/2010). The squad’s HPD-backed efforts ultimately culminating through a highly-deserved second-placed finish at this year’s Sebring 12 Hour.

Although Highcroft’s future remains unclear, team members, and fans remain hopeful for a possible return.

The team is currently evaluating opportunities for potential future programs, and actively seeking new manufacturer partnerships.

Team owner, Duncan Dayton released the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed for our team at Highcroft Racing who were really looking forward to the race and for David and Marino who are left without a ride at Le Mans at a very late stage. Our drivers have been truly incredible in recent years and I know they are as disappointed as we are that the ARX-01e will not be at Le Mans.”

“For our future, we need to take the next step in the development of our team. The team is now in a position to start with a clean slate and work towards our next championship assault with new partners.”

ALMS: Round04 Miller Results (Final).

ALMS Logo

Final result listings for round four of the 2010 ALMS series can be seen below.

Pos. No. Cat. Drivers No. Laps Diff. Total Time Best time Make
1 1 P Brabham/ Pagenaud 91 2:45:43.162 1:36.482 HPD ARX 01c
2 8 P Cocker/ Pirro 91 19.116 2:46:02.278 1:36.291 Lola B09 60
3 6 P Pickett/   Graf 91 1:30.374 2:47:13.536 1:36.558 Porsche RS Spyder
4 37 P J. Field/     C. Field 88 3 Laps 2:47:12.417 1:37.379 Lola B06 10
5 55 PC Tucker/ Bouchut 86 5 Laps 2:46:52.423 1:45.170 Oreca FLM09*
6 99 PC Jeanette/ Zugel 85 6 Laps 2:46:02.126 1:43.881 Oreca FLM09
7 52 PC Figge/   Hyatt 85 6 Laps 2:46:02.126 1:43.881 Oreca FLM09
8 95 PC Tucker/ Wallace 85 6 Laps 2:47:05.272 1:45.868 Oreca FLM09
9 62 GT Melo/Bruni 85 6 Laps 2:47:12.299 1:48.756 Ferrari 430 GT
10 92 GT Auberlen/ Milner 85 6 Laps 2:47:33.478 1:48.937 BMW M3 GT
11 3 GT Magnussen/ O’Connell 84 7 Laps 2:46:05.056 1:49.244 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
12 90 GT Mueller/ Hand 84 7 Laps 2:46:11.695 1:48.937 BMW M3 GT
13 45 GT Bergmeister/Long 84 7 Laps 2:46:14.842 1:48.787 Porsche 911 RSR
14 61 GT Fisichella/ Vilander 84 7 Laps 2:46:28.464 1:48.977 Ferrari 430 GT
15 01 GT Sharp/ Van Overbeek 83 8 Laps 2:46:31.610 1:48.677 Ferrari 430 GT
16 02 GT Brown/ Cosmo 83 8 Laps 2:47:04.837 1:49.944 Ferrari 430 GT
17 17 GT Sellers/ Henzler 83 8 Laps 2:47:32.639 1:49.901 Porsche 911 RSR
18 12 P Willman/ Burgess 82 9 Laps 2:47:00.705 1:40.970 Lola B06 10
19 4 GT Beretta/ Gavin 82 9 Laps 2:47:23.430 1:48.801 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
20 44 GT Law/ Neiman 81 10 Laps 2:45:51.873 1:50.281 Porsche 911 RSR
21 54 GTC Pappas/ Bleekemolen 80 11 Laps 2:46:39.628 1:54.717 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
22 63 GTC Richard/ Lally 80 11 Laps 2:47:37.581 1:55.612 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
23 69 GTC Rodriguez/ Bieker 79 12 Laps 2:45:51.699 1:56.140 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
24 88 GTC Lewis/Vento 79 12 Laps 2:46:00.724 1:56.516 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
25 48 GTC Miller/Hines 78 13 Laps 2:46:43.478 1:54.434 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
26 28 GTC Beggs/ Baron 78 13 Laps 2:46:53.195 1:57.975 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
27 40 GT D. Robertson/ A. Robertson/ Murry 78 13 Laps 2:47:27.043 1:51.399 Doran Ford GT-R
28 32 GTC Curtis/ Safronas 78 13 Laps 2:47:27.540 1:56.052 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
29 23 GTC Sweedler/ Kapudija 77 14 Laps 2:46:36.283 1:56.642 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
30 166 P Dyson/ Smith 73 18 Laps 2:17:44.701 1:37.220 Lola B09 86 Mazda
31 75 GT Dalziel/ Goossens 57 34 Laps 2:46:13.858 1:53.195 Jaguar XKRS
32 89 PC Marcelli/ Wong 21 70 Laps 45:15.632 1:48.269 Oreca FLM09
33 80 GTC Gonzalez/ Diaz 5 86 Laps 11:22.336 1:59.195 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
34 81 GTC Gonzalez/ Leitzinger Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

24 Heures Du Mans 2010 – Post Race Wrap.

Bourdais leads Peugeot's assault into turn one. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

Bourdais leads Peugeot's assault into turn one. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

A brutal display of style, glamour, and speed, the Le Mans 24 Hour manages to provide an atmospheric roller coaster ride of raw emotion unable to be matched by any other event the world over on a yearly basis.

This year’s edition of the event bore a special significance for many reasons. For both fans and competitors, 2010 would provide the swan song for a once titanic GT category now left stagnant as a result of lacking manufacturer interest. For GT1 class competitors it’s the end of an era. After providing a worthy stomping ground for a selection of the world’s greatest supercars for the better part of the last decade, the GT1 category will see its last year of competition at the 24 Hour.

LMP categories would also see the final running of current-spec machinery before a major regulations change is enforced for the 2011 season. Although fraught with attrition, the 2010 running of the 24 hour classic delivered one of the more bizarre, yet mesmerising renditions of the race in recent years.

Hour one of the event saw the use of several, extended caution periods resulting in multiple safety car deployments. The first of which would be caused by the retirement of both Autocon and Beechdean Mansell entries. Several laps later the premature (yet highly anticipated) return of Jaguar (in the form of US-based, JaguarRSR) would succumb to a similar fate as a result of electrical difficulties. An innocent casualty of the events, Joest would lose over 60sec to the overall leading Peugeots. The disparity due to a difference in running pace between two of the circuit’s safety cars.

Peugeot #2 of Sarrazin/Minassian/Montagny. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Peugeot #2 of Sarrazin/Minassian/Montagny. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Having set the benchmark for single-lap pace, Peugeot had stamped its dominance early in both practice and qualifying sessions. The reigning LMP1 champions would commence from positions one through four, tailed by the trio of Audi entries, and the petrol-engined LMP field (lead of course by AMR). Despite possessing an obvious performance advantage during the first half of the race, the Peugeot squad would again be haunted by reliability issues.

Drama would strike late in the third hour for the #3 Peugeot of Bourdais, Pagenaud, and Lamy. Having been swiftly summoned to pitlane, the French squad would set to work furiously, with idle team members and spare bodywork to maintain any means of disguising the nature of repair efforts taking place. The pole-setting chassis was officially retired as a result of a front suspension failure.

Peugeot maintained a 1-2-3 formation at the front of the field and, with three factory Audis now only a small margin behind, the goose chase for the overall lead was well underway. Frustration would set in over the next several hours for both Peugeot and Audi squads. Peugeot #1 would be forced to pitlane courtesy of a failed alternator late during the seventh hour. With maintenance costing the French team over 12 minutes, ultimately taking the reigning champions out of contention for victory.

Peugeot would continue to hold positions 1-2, Audi remaining in close pursuit with cars #9/8 only a small margin behind. All the while AMR cars continued to turn consistent laps without error in positions 7/8 to maintaining their lead over fellow petrol-powered LMP1 counterparts. By mid race distance it was the Oreca Peugeot to suffer issues.

The Peugeot #2 squad completes one of the more successful pit stops of the day. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The Peugeot #2 squad completes one of the more successful pit stops of the day. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The team’s #4 entry being forced to pitlane, leaking oil as a result of engine faults. The #4 later returned to the race, losing thirteen minutes as a result of the repairs. Only some four hours later, the race leading #2 Peugeot would suffer a dramatic engine blowout on the approach to Tertre Rouge, resulting in a second factory Peugeot retirement.

This occurrence would prove to be a turning point for the Audi squad, inheriting the lead as a result of the #2 Peugeot’s retirement. With cars #9/8 now running in positions 1/2 respectively, the Joest cars would begin to increase pace as Peugeot opted for an all or nothing approach to victory. Despite being over a lap down on the leaders, the #1 car (at at the time driven by Davidson) had been instructed to take necessary action in order to ensure Peugeot victory (even at the cost of lower class participant’s safety).

Peugeot’s problems would only worsen throughout the remaining hours. While managing to reduce the margin to the leading Audi to under a lap, the sole factory #1 Peugeot would ultimately suffer a similar fate as its sister cars. Retiring in the dying hours of the race as a result of an engine blowout (now thought to have been caused by a faulty turbo).

With all factory cars now out of the running, the responsibility of flying the French marque’s flag would be left to the Oreca squad, and the hands of talented rookie, Loic Duval. Had Duval’s pace been maintained a podium position would have been possible for the local team. Unfortunately for the Oreca team the #4 would suffer a similar fate to it’s factory cousins. The car failing midway through the 22nd hour of the race, taking with it any chance of a face saving finish for the French manufacturer.

The race winning #9 Audi of Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The race winning #9 Audi of Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Having not been able to compete with the single-pace set by their Peugeot rivals, the goal of would be to endure the imminent storm. Normally the fastest entry in the Joest camp, the #7 squad had suffered setup difficulties throughout practice and qualifying sessions, placing the car slightly off the pace of its #8/#9 sister cars.

The #7 would later suffer a delay early in the race as a result of a damaged BMW straying across the Porsche curves. Although not suffering any major damage, the #7 would be pitted for preventative maintenance. This unfortunate turn of events would shift the balance of power to the #9/8 Joest entries. Both of which would now be tasked with maintaining the chase for victory. The #9 crew had maintained consistent pace through the event, focusing on sustainable speed. The distinguished trio of Rockenfeller/Bernhard/Dumas would lead home cars #8/7 to secure an Audi 1-2-3 finish.

#42 ARX01c of Strakka racing. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

#42 ARX01c of Strakka racing. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Setting a pace bordering on cruelty, LMP2 had promised to be an HPD dominated affair from the outset.

With HPD-powered entries qualifying 1-2-3, and managing average lap times over four seconds faster than the nearest class competitors, P2 regulars were in for a tough day at the office. Having beaten race favourites Highcroft to the class pole, Strakka had immediately stamped their position as the team to beat.

Having lead the race for 356 laps (to Highcrofts 11 laps-lead) the Strakka trio of Danny Watts/Jonny Kane/Nick Leventis would finish first in category, placing an excellent fifth overall (only laps behind first-home petrol LMP1 team Oreca) to take their maiden 24 hour victory and, in doing so, handing the ARX01c a victory on its LM24 debut. In addition to this, the teams HPD package also won Michelin’s GreenX challenge.

Highcroft's Marco Werner navigates the Ralentisseur chicane. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Highcroft's Marco Werner navigates the Ralentisseur chicane. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Overshadowed by a myriad of technical difficulties, from shrapnel induced tyre punctures, to oil leaks and water pressure issues, the Danbury, Connecticut-based squad managed a semi-successful 24 Hour debut. Despite the presence of reigning champion David Brabham, multiple Le Mans overall winner Marco Werner, and up and coming endurance star Marino Franchitti, the Highcroft team were unable to match the speed and reliability of their Trans-Atlantic cousins. Plagued by misfortunes throughout the event, Highcroft would minimise the gap to their Strakka counterparts to less than two laps on several occasions. A margin which would unfortunately never be regained

OAK racing, and RML would round off the LMP2 podium finishing second and third respectively. In the unexpected absence of the Highcroft team, RML’s position would secure HPD’s second debut podium finish.

YoungDriver AMR leads the GT1 field through the Dunlop Esses. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

YoungDriver AMR leads the GT1 field through the Dunlop Esses. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

Contesting their final year of Le Mans competition, the GT1 swansong was, at times trying and, although well and truly outclassed by their GT2 counterparts the once mighty supercar category managed to produce a fitting outcome.

Dominated in its early stages by Matech and MarcVDS entries (both teams suffering race ending mechanical failures during the first half of the race) the ailing eight car category (consisting of six GT1WC entries) saw the lead shared by no less than six different entries throughout duration the race.

Despite the obvious pace of the Ford, Corvette, and Aston Martin entries, reliability would once again prove to be a deciding factor. Although not the fastest car in its category (or the category below it), Le Mans veterans and fan favourites Larbre Competition would finish the race with minimal error to take first in class, in a fitting tribute to both the category and machinery.

#82 Risi entry enters the Mulsanne. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

#82 Risi entry enters the Mulsanne. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Widely proclaimed as the new manufacturer stomping ground, and with seven marques present the GT2 category was set for a cracking battle. In typical Le Mans fashion, the Risi squad managed the surge to an early lead in the opening hours (despite having been relegated to the rear of the starting grid).

The team would go on to endure an intense battle with the P&M squad throughout hours six/seven. In an unfortunate twist, Risi would later suffer tranmission issues, forcing the #82 to pitlane for lengthy repairs, ruling them out of the chase for victory.

#63 Corvette of O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

#63 Corvette of O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

The #82 would later go on to retire as a result of the persisting difficulties. Leaving the P&M Corvette squad to dominate the category for what seemed like the majority of the event.

Running in 1/2 tandem for several hours, everything seemed to be going right for the American outfit. During a two hour period, disaster struck for the P&M team. The departure of the #63 P&M entry as a result of engine issues would leave the #64 to fly the remaining Corvette flag.

In a controversial incident, an impatient Anthony Davidson would attempt to pass the #64 Corvette entry of endurance veteran Emmanuelle Collard through the tight Porsche curves while on a late race charge for victory. This would cause Collard to lose control of the Corvette, sending the car spinning into nearby barriers. Suffering massive rear damage as a result of the impact, Collard would be forced to limp the severely damaged #64 back to pitlane where the team would furiously attempt a repair operation.

Davidson later commented on the incident in a bid to plead his innocence, only managing to insinuate Collard (amongst other GT competitors) had made intentional efforts to cause difficulty for the (then chasing) PeugeotSport team. Davidson retracted the statement/s in a later interview.

While the #64 did manage to return to the field, it would later retire as a result of engine issues similar to those suffered by the #63 car, leaving the justifiably distraught American team without any result.

A victim of late regulation changes, the #79 BMW Motorsport entry during the early hours of the race. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

A victim of late regulation changes, the #79 BMW Motorsport entry during the early hours of the race. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

A contender in its class, a fan favourite, and like many others, an unfortunate casualty. BMW’s return to La Sarthe was not as triumphant as many had originally hoped.

Having been hit with an increase in restrictor size (resulting in the loss of 10-15hp) upon arrival to La Sarthe, the manufacturer’s bid for victory would suffer a major setback from the outset. While down on single-lap pace, the aim of the Schnitzer squad was no doubt to endure the storm of inevitable attrition. A strategy adopted by the team during both Le Mans Series rounds.

Unfortunately for the Bavarians, sparks of promise were shown but reliable performance was not forthcoming. Suffering multiple tyre punctures (amongst other difficulties), the #79 would return to pitlane on several occasions during the opening hours of the race. The entry being officially retired after the eighth hour. The remaining #78 entry of Müller/Alzen/Farfus also experienced its fair share of difficulties but, despite tyre and engine difficulties would go on to finish sixth in category.

Felbermayr-Proton's class winning #77 entry of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Felbermayr-Proton's class winning #77 entry of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Maintaining a sustainable pace throughout the race and opting to focus on reliability, the #77 Felbermayr squad would inherit the class lead shortly after the late race departure of Corvette #64. Having run a flawless race to edge out Risi,P&M, and BMW entries, the #77 crew found themselves with a two lap lead over nearest placed rivals, Hankook Farnbacher #89, and BMS Scuderia Italia #97 with several hours still remaining.

The trio of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler would continue to lead for the remaining hours to finish a phenomenal eleventh overall, taking Felbermayr’s maiden 24 Hour victory and, after years of Ferrari domination, reclaiming the LM24 GT2 crown for Porsche. A fitting triumph for Le Mans most successful marque.

With the curtains now drawn and the race now run and won for another year, the Sportscar world sits back to ponder…only another 12 months until the madness begins all over again.

Images courtesy Geoffroy Barre // Endurance-Magazine.fr // leblogauto.com

leblogauto.com

Le Mans 2010 Post Qualifying Wrap.

#2 Peugeot of Sarrazin during qualifying session02.

#2 Peugeot of Sarrazin during qualifying session02. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Being that time of the year again, proceedings for the 2010 running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (the 78th rendition of the event) are well underway. With qualifying now completed we see some familiar trends emerging. Namely the continued dominance of Peugeot and Ferrari camps in their respective categories.

Despite the presence of strong works supported entries in all classes, the appearance of new challengers in HPD and BMW-powered entries in both LMP2 and GT2 has caught many by surprise.

The first qualifying session of the week saw Peugeot surge to an early lead on the timesheets. With both the Oreca and factory entries securing the top four positions on provisional listings.

Most onlookers were eagerly awaiting some (or any) form of response in pace from Audi. The Ingolstadt-based squad managed to breach the margin to the leading #3 Peugeot to 3.867 by the end of the first session. With Mike Rockenfeller setting a time of 3:23.578 to place the #9 car in fifth position.

 

Audi #7 during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Kristensen on board the#7 Audi during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Peugeot’s dominance would continue during the second qualifying session. Bourdais’ early time of 3:19.711 would weather the ensuing storm of pace throughout the session, Peugeots #2 and 3 securing second and third, respectively.

Audi’s #9 squad again remained the highest placed contender for the team, with on-loan Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas managing a 3:21.981. Decreasing the margin to the leading #3 Peugeot to a mere 1.481sec to secure fifth position on the grid. Cars #7/8 will start from sixth and seventh position on Sunday afternoon.

Forever the dark horse, AMR would complete both qualifying sessions without difficulties. Stefan Mücke setting a time of 3:26.680 to secure eighth position for the #007 entry, relegating the #009 sister car of Turner/Hancock/Barazi to ninth starting position by a margin of .067sec.

Danny Watts takes the #42 Strakka HPD ARX01c to pole. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Danny Watts takes the #42 Strakka HPD ARX01c to pole. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Having set and maintained pace early during practice,  HPD-powered entries continued to dominate both LMP2 qualifying sessions. Strakka’s Danny Watts would seize pole for the team with a time of 3:36.168, narrowly edging out their trans-Atlantic cousins, Highcroft by a margin of .466sec. Reigning Le Mans Series LMP2 champions Quifel-ASM snared third position with Olivier Pla’s lap of 3:41.968, besting the OAK Racing outfit by a minimal margin.

Affirming what had long been suspected, the ACO has confirmed the removal of the GT1 category from future competition in both the 24 Hour, and Le Mans Series, during a press conference regarding the much hyped future regulations earlier today.

Combining  a selection of seasoned Le Mans and LMS veterans, and current GT1 World Championship entries, the GT1 category looks set to deliver a fitting send off for the class of high-powered supercar machinery.

Stamping their presence early, YoungDriver AMR would combine successful showings in sessions 1/2 to achieve class pole, marginally outpacing  the #70 Ford GT of recent Spa 1000km winners, Marc VDS Racing.

Despite dramas during practice the #60 Matech Ford GT entry of Grosjean/Mutsch/Hirschi would secure third, ahead of both #72/73 entries of past LMS runners, Luc Alphand Adventures.

 

Oliver Gavin takes the #63 Corvette C6R to an initial second position during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Oliver Gavin takes the #63 Corvette C6R to an initial second position during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

With seventeen entries and more than half of which factory supported and equally capable of victory, GT2 is looking set to provide a clash of the marques to be remembered for years to come.

In what is becoming a 24H tradition the #82 Risi entry surged to the front of the class early but, in unfortunate turn of events, the team would later be relegated to the rear of the grid. The squad penalised as a result of semantics regarding the legality of aerodynamic components in use during the qualifying session.

Risi driver Jaime Melo provided a brief summary of his thoughts on the matter –  “It’s where you finish that is important.” Having benefited from the misfortunes of Risi, the #63/64 P&M entries line up in positions one and two, securing an all Corvette front row.

Felbermayr-Proton maintained their reputation as the top performing Porsche outfit. The #77 of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler moving to fourth position after Risi’s post-qualifying penalty.

 

The Jeff Koons' designed, BMW Motorsport #79 'art car' entry. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

The Jeff Koons' designed, BMW Motorsport #79 'art car' entry. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Having recently conquered the Nürburgring 24 Hour after a five year absence, BMW Motorsport now has a new challenge. After an eleven year Le Mans sabbatical (following the closure of the V12-LMR programme) the Charly Lamm-lead squad returns to La Sarthe with an almost palpable hunger for victory.

Having received a balance of performance adjustment upon their arrival to the circuit (enforcing a decrease in air-restrictor size, and the subsequent loss of 10-15HP) the outfit must now alter their race strategy.

Despite suffering as a result of the penalty during early sessions, the team managed to greatly improve single lap pace during qualifying. The #78 entry of Müller/Farfus/Alzen taking fifth position.

Images courtesy Geoffroy Barre // leblogauto.com

ALMS: Post Laguna Seca Race Wrap.

Guy Smith + Laguna Seca Pole

Guy Smith takes the pole for Dyson Racing during Friday qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. - Image courtesy John Dagys/Speedtv.com

Round three of the 2010 ALMS championship saw the series travel to an unusually cool Monterey for the inaugural running of the six hours of Laguna Seca.

Friday’s qualifying session featured several unexpected outcomes. The first and most notable of which being Guy Smith’s pole setting lap for Dyson Racing. With the former Le Mans winner besting the time of nearest rival, David Brabham by a convincing seven-tenths of a second. The 1:12.338 lap saw Dyson’s Lola-Mazda to its maiden pole position.

Brabham later claimed to have been satisfied with Highcroft’s setup of the ARX01c, but conceded the team’s HPD machine was unable to compete with the obvious straight-line pace of Dyson’s Mazda-powered Lola, afforded by IMSA’s recent restrictor breaks. Highcroft would later be relegated to the rear of the grid as a result of a post-qualifying penalty.

Risi leads ESM/GT2 field into turn one.

#62 Risi leads the GT field into turn one. - Image courtesy John Dagys/Speedtv.com

The GT category once again played host to a brutal onslaught of speed from all marques on display. Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo seized class pole with a 1:22.752. Johannes Van Overbeek would spark the second upset of the session, taking the #02 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry to second place on the grid to secure an all Ferrari front row.

Despite having achieved a fast lap merely .732 sec from the pole setting time, the usually dominant #45 Flying Lizards entry of  Bergmeister/Long were left to settle for eighth place on the grid.

Six hours Laguna Seca 2010 Start

Dyson leads the field approaching turn one. - Image courtesy John Dagys/Speedtv.com

Looking set to deliver on all fronts, the inaugural running of the six hour commenced in an eventful manner. Although starting from the rear of the grid, Highcroft’s Simon Pagenaud managed to fight through a gaggle of GT and challenge class competitors to reach fourth position overall during the opening laps of the event.

In somewhat of an ALMS tradition, Intersport’s #37 Lola-AER surged to the front of the field during the opening moments of the race, leading laps 1-38, later retiring due to engine related issues.

Intersport’s premature departure would see Highcroft inherit the race lead early during the second hour, with both MuscleMilk and Dyson entries remaining in close pursuit. The MuscleMilk squad would run as high as second before suffering race-ending transmission difficulties.

Despite early race dramas Dyson would remain in close pursuit of Highcroft throughout the event, with the squad’s Lola-Mazda even soaring to the overall lead during the fifth hour.

Clever strategy from Highcroft saw Franchitti maintain the race lead following a final pit stop. Dyson would minimise the margin to Highcroft below 26sec before suffering a race-ending mechanical failure in the dying stages of the race. Allowing the Connecticut-based squad to cruise to a second victory for 2010.

Highcroft + Laguna Seca six hours.

The Patrón Highcroft squad take the second victory of the 2010 season. - Image courtesy /Speedtv.com

Marked by intense battles between the factory-supported teams of Risi, P&M, RLR, and FLM, the GT race served as a brutal reminder of the pace at which the once Ferrari and Porsche dominated class now operates.

Dominated by no single entry, the GT class saw no less than six different runners share the lead throughout the duration of the race. Heated exchanges throughout the entire field marked the opening hours. The Rahal Letterman squad would maintain the race lead for the majority of hours two through four. With the team’s #92/90 entries running in 1-2 tandem on several occasions.

Flying Lizard Porsche, Rahal Letterman BMW, Pratt and Miller Corvette, Run to corkscrew

The #45 FLM Porsche of Patrick Long does battle with RLR/P&M in the dying stages of the race. - Image courtesy John Dagys/Speedtv.com

Despite an unfortunate result in qualifying, the #45 Flying Lizard entry would gradually work its way through the GT field over the course of the event. With Bergmeister reaching third in class after half race distance.

Clever pit strategy formulated by the Lizard’s chief strategist, Thomas Blam, saw the defending GT2 series champions inherit the lead late during the fifth hour. Leaving Porsche factory ace, Patrick Long to defend against a charging Joey Hand in the #90 RLR BMW, with the #3 Corvette of Oliver Gavin in close pursuit. The trio would ultimately finish in this order, with Long managing victory by a margin of .3sec to ensure another nail biting finish for GT class runners.

LMPC entries of Level5, Genoa, and GreenEarth Gunnar battle into the darkness.

LMPC entries of Level5, Genoa, and GreenEarth Gunnar battle into the darkness. - Image courtesy John Dagys/Speedtv.com

Now very much a part of the ALMS family, the LMPC category played host to a spirited exchange throughout the six hours between

Level5, Genoa, and Green Earth Gunnar entries. Much to the dismay of onlookers, the Team Gunnar entry would experience late race issues, forcing the #99 to a premature exit from the battle for class honours, but going on to finish third in category.

The #55 Level5,  and #36 Genoa entries were remained in an all out brawl to the finish, with experience proving to be the deciding factor. Bouchut taking the victory for Level5, followed by Genoa’s Tom Sutherland who would cross the line in second, a mere  seven seconds behind the endurance veteran.

Much like their faster GT class cousins the GTC category was, at no stage of the race, a single horse show. Entries of Alex Job, TRG, Velox, BlackSwan, and Orbit all experienced a share in the class lead over the course of the afternoon.

The #54 BlackSwan entry of Pappas/Bleekemolen/Bleekemolen would ultimately prevail, taking victory ahead of Andy Lally in the TRG #63, who would later cross the line to take second, followed by the #81 Alex Job entry of Leitzinger.

ALMS: Laguna Seca Entry list released.

ALMS LogoThe provisional entry listings for the third round of the 2010 American Le Mans series were released yesterday afternoon. After seeing impressive grid numbers in Longbeach, the series now heads to Laguna Seca, expecting a total of thirty-six entrants.

The full listing can be seen below:

LMP

  • 1 Patrón Highcroft Racing Patrón – HPD ARX-01c – David Brabham Simon Pagenaud/Marino Franchitti
  • 6 Muscle Milk Team Cytosport – Porsche RS Spyder – Greg Pickett/Klaus Graf/Sascha Maassen
  • 8 Drayson Racing Drayson Racing – Lola B09 60-Judd – Paul Drayson/Jonny Cocker/Emanuele Pirro
  • 12 Autocon Motorsports – Lola B06 10-AER – Bryan Willman/Tony Burgess/Pierre Ehert
  • 16 Dyson Racing Team BP – Lola B09 86-Mazda-AER – Chris Dyson/Guy Smith/Andy Meyrick
  • 37 Intersport Racing – Lola B06 10-AER – Jon Field/Clint Field/Nikolas Konstant

GT

  • 3 Corvette Racing – Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 – Jan Magnussen/Johnny O’Connell
  • 4 Corvette Racing – Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 – Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin
  • 17 Team Falken Tire  – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – Bryan Sellers/Wolf Henzler
  • 40 Robertson Racing – Doran Design Ford GT – David Robertson/Andrea Robertson/David Murry
  • 44 Flying Lizard Motorsports – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – Darren Law/Seth Neiman
  • 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports  – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – Joerg Bergmeister/Patrick Long
  • 61 Risi Competizione Krohn – Ferrari 430 GT – Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson
  • 62 Risi Competizione – Ferrari 430 GT – Jaime Melo/Gianmaria Bruni
  • 75 JaguarRSR – Jaguar XKR – Paul Gentilozzi/Ryan Dalziel/Marc Goossens
  • 90 BMW Rahal Letterman Racing – BMW M3 GT – Dirk Müller/Joey Hand
  • 92 BMW Rahal Letterman Racing – BMW M3 GT – Bill Auberlen/Tommy Milner
  • 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports – Ferrari 430 GT – Scott Sharp/Johannes van Overbeek
  • 02 Extreme Speed Motorsports – Ferrari 430 GT – Ed Brown/Guy Cosmo

LMPC

  • 11 Performance Tech – Oreca FLM09 – Kyle Marcelli/TBD
  • 36 Genoa Racing Genoa Racing – Oreca FLM09 – Tom Sutherland/TBD
  • 52 PR1/ Mathiasen Motorsports – Oreca FLM09 – Johnny Mowlem/Tom Papadopoulos
  • 55 Level 5 Motorsports – Oreca FLM09 – Scott Tucker/Christophe Bouchut
  • 89 Intersport Racing – Oreca FLM09 – Mitch Pagerey/Brian Wong
  • 95 Level 5 Motorsports – Oreca FLM09 – Scott Tucker/TBD
  • 99 Green Earth Team Gunnar – Oreca FLM09 – Gunnar Jeannette/Christian Zugel/Elton Julia

GTC

  • 23 Alex Job Racing Battery Tender – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Bill Sweedler/Romeo Kapudija/Jan-Dirk Lueders
  • 28 911 Design Porsche Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Loren Beggs/Doug Baron
  • 32 GMG Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Bret Curtis/James Sofronas
  • 48 Orbit Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Bryce Miller/John McMullen
  • 54 Black Swan Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Timothy Pappas/Jeroen Bleekemolen
  • 63 TRG – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Henri Richard/Rene Villeneuve/Andy Lally
  • 69 WERKS II Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Robert Rodriquez/Galen Bieker
  • 80 Alex Job Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Ricardo Gonzalez/Luis Diaz/Rudy Junco, Jr.
  • 81 Alex Job Racing – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Juan Gonzalez/Butch Leitzinger
  • 88 Velox Motorsports – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – Shane Lewis/Jerry Vento

LMP= 6 GT = 13 LMPC = 7 GTC = 10 Total = 36

    ALMS: Post Longbeach Race wrap.

    ALMS LogoThe second round of the ALMS season looked promising on all fronts. The 2010 rendition of the event saw a record 36 entrants take to the streets of Longbeach, with a field consisting of seven LMP, thirteen GT, seven LMPC, and nine LMPC entries.

    Being the first race of many to be run under IMSA’s recently introduced LMP equalisation rules, and the shortest event on the calendar at just 100mins, Longbeach managed to deliver the excitement series organisers and fans had been hoping for straight out of the box. The prototype ranks saw an intensely fought battle between series favourites Highcroft and AMR throughout the course of the weekend. AMR drew first blood during qualifying, with series regular Adrian Fernandez securing pole position by a margin of .072sec over Highcroft’s Simon Pagenaud.

    The race opened in typical Longbeach fashion with an awkward scramble for position into turn one. LMP was very much an AMR/Highcroft dominated affair, with both cars being closely matched in terms of overall speed, each showing their strengths and weaknesses in different sections of the tight, beach side circuit. The two teams, very much in their own class, exchanged heated lap times in the earlier stages of the race. Primat and Brabham opting to set a consistently brutal pace that their partners would later maintain throughout the course of the event.

    Fernandez and Pagenaud battle on the streets of Longbeach - Image courtesy Speedtv.com/John Dagys.

    After an ambitious showing from both drivers, Brabham would make contact with Primat through the tighter corners of the second sector, causing the Swiss driver to lose control of the Lola-AMR, damaging the fragile left-rear bodywork. A move which resulted in a stop-go penalty for the Highcroft team. Displaying a refreshing level of maturity and professionalism, Brabham later took full responsibility for the incident, taking the time to apologise to both Primat and AMR for causing any damage.

    The final minutes of Longbeach 2010 saw a display of spirited driving the event has now become renowned for. Having replaced Primat at the wheel of the #007 AMR, Fernandez moved into first place. Pagenaud fought furiously to move the #1 Highcroft car through the congested GT traffic, struggling to keep pace with the AMR’s powerful V12 on the main straight. Showing the ARX01’s obvious speed through the tighter sections of the track, the Frenchman took advantage of a final lap error by Fernandez. Taking first place overall, beating the Lola-AMR by across the start/finish line by mere 0.353sec.

    MuscleMilk team CytoSport’s duo of Pickett/Graf placed third in the combined LMP class. The teams’ RS Spyder also winning Michelin’s ‘GreenX Challenge’  as a result of being the fastest/most efficient prototype entry for the duration of the event. A respectable showing for the recent Sebring 12H LMP2 champions.

    Risi leads field into first corner

    Melo leads during the opening laps - Image courtesy Speedtv.com/John Dagys.

    The GT category proved to be a worthy dogfight, commencing in a very similar manner to Sebring. The #14 FalkenTire entry of Henzler took off to an early lead, only to fall back into the field shortly after as a result of the not-so-developed Falken shoes on the car. Daring pit strategies by the Rahal Letterman and Flying Lizard squads led to an entertaining brawl for position in the later stages of the race.

    RLR BMW of Auberlen/Milner, FalkenTyre in pursuit.

    #92 RLR BMW of Auberlen/Milner - Image courtesy Speedtv.com/John Dagys.

    Opting against a fresh set of Dunlops during the cars’ sole pit stop had seemingly paid off for the #92 RLR-BMW, until the closing laps. The #45 of Long would pass a struggling Milner, now left defending against Magnussen and Bruni on double-stinted tyres. Long would go on to finish first for the Flying Lizard Motorsports squad in a deserving victory for the #45 team, after suffering heartbreak at Sebring. In a valuable points haul for the P&M squad, Magnussen would finish second, followed by the #92 RLR-BMW of Milner, and #62 Risi Ferrari of Bruni in fourth.

    LMPC saw a close fight between the #99 Green Earth Gunnar, #55 Level5 Motorsport, and #36 Genoa entries. Jeanette would go on to take victory in the #99, followed by the #55 of Bouchut in second, and the #36 of Sutherland finishing third. In GTC the #81 Alex Job entry backed up their Sebring victory by reigning triumphant on the Californian streets. The #81 crew of Leitzinger/Gonzalez taking the first step of the podium, followed by #32 of Sofranas/Curtis in second, and #23 of Sweedler/Kapudija in third.

    Final position listings can be seen below:

    1. 1     P             (Brabham)/Pagenaud*        67           HPD ARX-01c
    2. 007 P           (Primat)/Fernandez*           67           Lola B09 60 Aston
    3. 6     P             (Pickett)/Graf*                        67           Porsche RS Spyder
    4. 16   P             (Dyson*)/Smith                      67           Lola B09 86 Mazda
    5. 99   PC          (Julian)/Jeannette*              66           Oreca FLM09
    6. 55   PC          (Tucker)/Bouchut*               65           Oreca FLM09
    7. 36   PC          (Hildebrand*)/Sutherland 65           Oreca FLM09
    8. 45   GT          (Bergmeister)/Long*           65           Porsche 911 RSR
    9. 12   P             (Drissi*)/Davis                        65           Lola B06 10
    10. 3     GT          (Magnussen/(O’Connell*)   65           Chevrolet
    11. 92   GT          (Auberlen*)/Milner             65            BMW M3 GT
    12. 62   GT          (Melo*/(Bruni)                       65            Ferrari 430 GT
    13. 90   GT          (Mueller)/Hand*                   65            BMW M3 GT
    14. 17   GT          (Sellers/(Henzler*)               65            Porsche 911 RSR
    15. 01   GT          (Sharp*/(van Overbeek)    65            Ferrari 430 GT
    16. 02   GT          (Brown)/Cosmo*                  64            Ferrari 430 GT
    17. 89   PC           (Pagerey/(Wong*)               63            Oreca FLM09
    18. 4     GT           (Beretta*)/Gavin                  63             Chevrolet Corvette
    19. 81   GTC        (Gonzalez)/Leitzinger*      63             Porsche 911 GT3 C
    20. 32   GTC        (Curtis)/Sofronas*              63             Porsche 911 GT3 C
    21. 23   GTC        (Sweedler)/Kapudija*       63              Porsche 911 GT3 C
    22. 11   PC           (Bonilla)/Marcelli*             62              Oreca FLM09
    23. 40   GT          (D.Robertson/(Murry*)   62              Doran Ford GT-R
    24. 88   GTC        (Lewis*/(Vento)                  62              Porsche 911 GT3 C
    25. 8     P              (Drayson)/Cocker*             62              Lola B09 60
    26. 48   GTC        (Miller*/(McMullen)          61              Porsche 911 GT3 C
    27. 69   GTC        (Rodriguez)/Bieker*           61             Porsche 911 GT3 C
    28. 80   GTC        (Gonzalez/(Diaz*)                60            Porsche 911 GT3 C
    29. 54   GTC        (Pappas)/Bleekemolen*    60            Porsche 911 GT3 C
    30. 37   P             (J.Field*)/C.Field                 48            Lola B06 10
    31. 63   GTC        (Richard)/Lally*                  48            Porsche 911 GT3 C
    32. 75   GT          (Gentilozzi)/Dalziel*           45            Jaguar XKRS
    33. 44   GT          (Law*/(Neiman)                   28            Porsche 911 RSR
    34. 28   GTC       (Beggs*)/Baron                     6               Porsche 911 GT3 C
    35. 52   PC          (Mowlem*/(Papadopoulos)3           Oreca FLM09
    36. 95   PC          (Tucker*/(Hunter-Reay) 0                Oreca FLM09