A gripping finale in the American Le Mans Series event at Road Atlanta combines the drama of Porsche customers battling for three of the four class championships, and a special treat – the first race in the USA for the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid racing laboratory.
The race will be telecast in its entirety by SPEED TV on Saturday, October 2, starting at 11:00 AM Eastern Time (the green flag drops at 11:15 AM EDT and will conclude when the competitors finish 1,000 miles – approx. 9:30 PM based on past events) – or ten hours, whichever comes first). Live radio coverage starting at 10:00 AM will also be available www.americanlemans.com as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. The ALMS web site link above also has live timing and scoring, plus press notes for all on-track sessions.
The challenging 2.54-mile, 12-turn course, where the success story of Petit Le Mans began in 1998, is an ideal stage for the selection of the champion. In the ultra-competitive class for GT sports cars, Porsche factory drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) have the best chance to successfully defend their title from last year at the wheel of their Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Facing strong opposition from BMW, Ferrari and Corvette, they have so far taken home hard-fought victories from Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock and Mosport and tackle the finale with a comfortable 22-point buffer. The situation in the manufacturer and team championships, however, looks much less certain; in each classification, Porsche ranks first by just one point.
“The title is virtually within our grasp, although, with 30 points for the winner, anything could happen. Still, we’ll be doing everything to bring home as many points as possible and to also secure the manufacturer title for Porsche and team title for Flying Lizard Motorsports,” said Joerg Bergmeister. “The track is very picturesque, but very challenging. It put a lot of demands on a driver.”
With a string of five victories at Petit Le Mans between 2003 and 2007, Joerg has raised the bar for performance at Road Atlanta. Bergmeister and Patrick Long will receive support in the form of a third driver in their race car from Porsche factory pilot Marc Lieb (Germany), the newly-crowned winner of the Le Mans Series (GT class). After the Sebring 12 Hour event, the Petit Le Mans race is the second longest in the American Le Mans Series with a maximum duration of ten hours. Joerg Bergmeister regards this as advantageous:
“With the many pit stops, strategy and teamwork play a major role. And our Flying Lizard Motorsports boys have proven often enough that they are the best at this,” said Bergmeister.
Long will enter a very busy stretch of races start next week at Road Atlanta, though Petit Le Mans remains his top priority. With Bergmeister, he will be racing the innovative 911 GT3 R Hybrid in Zhuhai, China (November 7), and, right after Petit, he heads to Australia to compete in that country’s V8 Supercars Gold Coast 600 race. He then jets to Germany for the VLN race at the Nurburgring.
“Despite our points lead, we will be racing hard, nor conservatively, at Road Atlanta. With Atlanta being the home of Porsche Cars North America, we always have a lot of friends and family at the track, so we are motivated to put on a great show for them. It has been such an intense championship this year, and while it’s great to have the points lead going in to the final race, the Corvettes, BMWs, Ferraris – plus the new Ford and Panoz entries – will be going all out,” said Long.
Aside from the riveting GT title fight, a highlight of the season finale on the classic circuit is the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid. The sports car with its ground-breaking drive technology, which was on course to win the Nürburgring 24 hour race until shortly before the checkered flag, celebrates its much-anticipated race premiere in the USA. It races in the special-created GTH class (no series points or overall standing will be recorded for the car) – with a prominent driver line-up.
Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) with Audi factory pilot Mike Rockenfeller (Germany) are eager to demonstrate the reliability and performance of the 911 GT3 R Hybrid to the US fans and to assist in perfecting its innovative technology. Earlier this year, the trio clinched overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours in an Audi prototype.
As a driver pairing, Bernhard and Dumas have already notched up many historic victories, including the ALMS title in the LMP2 prototype class in 2007 and 2008, the overall win at the 2008 Sebring 12 Hours, as well as three overall victories at the Nürburgring 24 hour race from 2007 to 2009.
The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which demonstrated the potential of its groundbreaking technology over 22 hours and 15 minutes at this year’s Nürburgring 24 hour race and led the overall classification for more than eight hours, exemplifies the philosophy of “Porsche Intelligent Performance”. Under braking, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid converts kinetic energy into electrical energy and stores it in a flywheel. During acceleration, this energy is automatically delivered to the front wheels, supporting the combustion engine. This leads to a reduction in fuel consumption and increases the cruising range. Moreover, drivers can manually utilize the stored energy with a boost-paddle on the steering wheel for overtaking.
While the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid running for a championship, another ALMS title will be decided in the Le Mans prototype class. Here as well, Porsche has good chances for victory with the RS Spyder. The American-based Muscle Milk Team Cytosport, which fields the successful Porsche Prototype from Weissach, has already celebrated a class victory this year at the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring and underlined its potential with two overall wins at Lime Rock and Mosport. Sharing driving duties in the #6 cockpit for the season finale is an all-German line-up of Klaus Graf, Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr. Audi works pilot, Luhr, is no stranger to his teammates and the RS Spyder. In 2006, as Porsche works driver, he was crowned champion in the American Le Mans Series – with Sascha Maassen.
In the second Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche-Junior Marco Holzer (Germany) makes his debut in the American Le Mans Series. He starts in the GT class with Americans Darren Law and Seth Neiman.
Contesting the series for the first time this season, former Porsche-Junior driver Martin Ragginger (Austria) will join the Falken Tire Porsche squad, winners of the environmental Michelin Green X Challenge award at the Elkhart Lake race, with team pilot Bryan Sellers (USA). Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany), Sellers regular co-driver, will not be competing for the rest of the 2010 motorsport season. He underwent surgery to his back and will be in recovery over the next several weeks in order to guarantee he is ready to race without any restrictions in the 2011 season.
Poised to snatch the GTC class title – for matched Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars – is points’ leader Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) with the Black Swan Racing Porsche. Teaming up with American Timothy Pappas, the two-time Porsche Supercup champion has notched up four victories so far this season. Joining forces as the third driver for Petit Le Mans is his brother, Sebastiaan. Americans Shane Lewis and Bill Sweedler have outside shots at the championship if the Black Swan car stumbles.