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Bill Oursler on “What’s Right Right Now”

At a time when both of North America’s professional racing tours, the Rolex Grand Am series and the ALMS have come in for their share of criticism, it is nice to be able to note what they have done right. In this case it is the turn of the American Le Mans tour to stand up and take a bow.

Faced with the fact that while Le Mans itself will enjoy what is expected to be a true battle between the Audi R10 and Peugeot turbocharged diesel clans at the Sarthe this June, in the United States the Don Panoz owned ALMS was faced with a second straight season of domination by the German built cars. And, that, in turn, meant a potential year of boredom at the front of the field.


Indeed, given the decision by the ACO to reduce engine performance for the second tier LMP2 set in 2007, that boredom was a 99 per cent certainty. However, the ALMS has been able to establish a degree of independence, particularly after it won the “tug of war” contest with the Le Mans organizers of allowing the Maserati MC12 to compete in its GT1 production car division.

So when it came to following the ACO’s lead in cutting engine performance for the LMP2 set, or letting them run to the 2006 technical regulations, the ALMS and its sanctioning body, the International Motor Sport Association, not only opted to for the latter path, but also adjusted the rules for the Audis in LMP1 to actual take away some of their performance, bringing then and their LMP2 far closer together than they might have otherwise been.

The Road Show…

And that, as they say, has changed the “old ballgame,” for in 2007 LMP2 is home not only to the ever increasing Porsche RS Spyder corps, to the Acura Legions, which count among their numbers the highly competitive Acura Lola of Adrian Fernandez, as well as the renamed Courage-based Acura chassis with the same brilliant American designed Honda Performance Development V-8s from Andretti/Green and Highcroft Racing.

Those who thought that Acura and HPD might have made the wrong choice by “farming out” a large portion of its highly visible LMP2 program to three different privateer teams with two different kinds of chassis have been proven dead wrong, as the Acura camp has been every bit as quick as the Porsches, and at Sebring far more reliable. But, more important, perhaps, is the fact that both the Acuras and Porsche have been able to fight against the Audi diesels for overall honors.

And, that has made 2007 more than interesting, it has made 2007 exciting, for the LMP2 contenders have beaten the Audis on the two tight temporary courses at Long Beach and Houston, humbling them in Southern California where the R10s didn’t even make the top five. Moreover, all of this came about, after both the Porsches and Acuras took turns leading overall at Sebring.

Of course, the Audis should return to the top of the heap in Utah at Miller Motorsport Park with its long, wide open layout this May, and will clearly have the edge at places such as Road America and mostly likely Mosport as well. Yet, at the shorter circuits like Lime Rock, Mid Ohio, and very possibly Laguna Seca, it could again be a LMP2 show. And for the ALMS that is a good, make that a very good thing.

The Bish…

When IMSA founder John Bishop was in charge back in the 1970’s, he worked is rulesbook so that a variety of cars, running in different classes (the Group 4 sports cars like Porsche’s 911 Carrera RSRs, the Group 2 sedans like the BMW CSLs and the homegrown Chevrolet Monzas and Corvettes) all had a chance at an outright win. It worked then, and it is working now.

And, it seems to be in line with the feelings of the ALMS’ and IMSA’s top managers, Scott Atherton and Tim Mayer, both of whom have suggested that it might be better for the ALMS to have just a single prototype division, given that the entries in LMP1 and LMP2 have quite similar appearances, this making for some possible fan “confusion” which could be eliminated for both prototype categories were put together.

ONE is the loneliest number…

However, for all of its good deeds the ALMS still has to resolve the issue of what to do with its GT1 class, where, at the moment, the only entries are the two factory Corvettes. Mayer and Atherton both have indicated that they believe one can’t combine the assembly line community into a single class, as has the Grand Am Rolex tour, which also has but one prototype division. Perhaps Atherton and Mayer are right. But, then again maybe not.

Tavern Talk

If tubeframe production vehicles were introduced, their performance could be tailored to that of the existing GT2 Ferraris and Porsches through weight and air restrictor “adjustments.” Clearly this would upset the ACO. But, just as clearly, it would make the ALMS even more attractive than it is presently. Mayer and Atherton, though, have strong pointed out that any such move might not sit well with what they regard as their “sophisticated” audience. Again, perhaps they are right. But, again in the heady IMSA days, no one seemed to mind such things, and one suspects they wouldn’t mind again.

Still, it is simply a thought. Meanwhile, one needs to applaud to folks at he ALMS for improving their product because it sure has been interesting to watch.

                                                            Bill Oursler
                                                              May 2007

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No. Class Team Drivers Car Sponsors
0 DP Tuttle Team Racing Brian Tuttle, West Palm Beach, FL; Jonathan Cochet, France BMW Riley Tuttle Team Racing
01 DP CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Scott Pruett, Auburn, CA; Luis Diaz, Mexico City, Mexico Lexus Riley CompUSA
3 DP Southard Motorsports Shane Lewis, Jupiter, FL; BMW Riley Southard Motorsports
4 DP Howard - Boss Motorsports Andy Wallace, England; Butch Leitzinger, Rebersburg, PA Pontiac Crawford The Boss Snowplow
04 GT Sigalsport BMW Gene Sigal, Los Angeles, CA; Peter MacLeod, Bellevue, WA BMW M3 Motul/ enVista/ OMP
5 DP Essex Racing Rob Finlay, Charlotte, NC; Michael Valiante, Vancouver, BC Canada Ford Crawford Make A Wish/ Z-Line Designs/ Finlay Motorsports
05 GT Sigalsport BMW Matthew Alhadeff, Los Angeles, CA; Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, CA BMW M3 Alhadeff Motorsports/ Motul/ enVista
6 DP Michael Shank Racing/ Mears Motor Coach Mike Borkowski, Miami Beach, FL; Antoine Bessette, St Bruno, QC Canada Lexus Riley Michael Shank Racing/
7 DP Tuttle Team Racing Brian Tuttle, West Palm Beach, FL; Jonathan Cochet, France Pontiac Riley Tuttle Team Racing
8 DP Synergy Racing Burt Frisselle, Kihei, HI; Brian Frisselle, Kihei, HI Porsche Doran GlycoMax
09 DP Spirit of Daytona Racing Doug Goad, West Bloomfield, MI; Larry Oberto, Seattle, WA Pontiac Crawford Spirit of Daytona Racing
10 DP SunTrust Racing Wayne Taylor, Apopka, FL; Max Angelelli, Italy; Jan Magnussen, Denmark Pontiac Riley SunTrust
11 DP CITGO Racing by SAMAX Milka Duno, Venezuela; Marc Goossens, Belgium Pontiac Riley CITGO
12 DP Lowe's Fernandez Racing Adrian Fernandez, Mexico City, Mexico; Mario Haberfeld, Brazil Pontiac Riley Lowe's
14 GT Autometrics Motorsports Cory Friedman, Charleston, SC; Gordon Friedman, Charleston, SC Porsche GT3 Cup Mill And Textile Supply/ Mac Papers
17 GT SAMAX Robert Bell, England; Porsche GT3 Cup SAMAX
19 DP Playboy/ Uniden Racing Guy Cosmo, West Palm Beach, FL; Michael McDowell, Monroe, NC Ford Crawford Playboy/ Uniden/ Palms
21 GT Matt Connolly Motorsports Jeff Altenburg, Ellicott City, MD; John Angelone, Bridgewater, NJ; Matt Connolly, Bethlehem, PA BMW M3 23 DP Alex Job Racing/ Emory Motorsports Mike Rockenfeller, Monaco; Patrick Long, Las Vegas, NV Porsche Crawford Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team
24 GT Matt Connolly Motorsports Bill Cotter, Seattle, WA; Todd Hanson, Atlanta, GA BMW M3 Matt Connolly Motorsports
31 DP Team Cytosport Greg Pickett, Benicia, CA; Scott Sharp, Tequesta, FL Pontiac Riley XCYTO Energy Drink
38 GT Bernheim Racing Steve Bernheim, Beverly Hills, CA; Dwain Dement, Laguna Hills, CA Porsche GT3 Cup
39 DP Crown Royal Special Reserve/ Cheever Christian Fittipaldi, Brazil; Eddie Cheever Jr, Orlando, FL Porsche Crawford Crown Royal Special Reserve
40 DP Derhaag Motorsports Chris Bingham, Clyde Hill, WA; Randy Ruhlman, Greensboro, NC Pontiac Riley PLP/ Preformed Line Products/ Coyote Closures
41 GT Team Sahlen Eric Lux, Amherst, NY; Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, FL Porsche GT3 Cup Rembrandt Charms/ HRPworld/ GOJO/ Hawk
47 DP TruSpeed Motorsports Charles Morgan, Little Rock, AR; Rob Morgan, Ladera Ranch, CA Porsche Riley Querencia Golf Club/ Wright Motorsports
50 DP Rocketsports Racing Paul Gentilozzi, Lansing, MI; Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, CA Ford Crawford X-MEN 3 The Last Stand the Movie
56 GT Beachman Racing Bruce Beachman, Woodinville, WA; Rick Delamare, Snohemish, WA Corvette Beachman Racing/ Sunset Chevrolet
57 GT Stevenson Motorsports Tommy Riggins, Jacksonville, FL; Vic Rice, San Rafael, CA; John Stevenson, Swansboro, NC Corvette Stevenson Automotive
58 DP Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche David Donohue, Westchester, PA; Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ Porsche Fabcar Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche
59 DP Brumos Racing Hurley Haywood, Ponte Vedra, FL; JC France, Ormond Beach, FL Porsche Fabcar Brumos Porsche
60 DP Michael Shank Racing Mark Patterson, Bronxville, NY; Oswaldo Negri, Aventura, FL Lexus Riley Flight Options/ Nett App Lexus Riley
64 GT TRG Paul Edwards, Nipomo, CA; Kelly Collins, Newport Beach, CA Pontiac GTO.R TRG
65 GT TRG Marc Bunting, Monkton, MD; Andy Lally, Dacula, GA; RJ Valentine, Braintree, MA Pontiac GTO.R TRG/ F1 Air
70 GT SpeedSource David Haskell, Plantation, FL; Sylvain Tremblay, Coral Springs, FL Mazda RX-8 Mazdaspeed Motorsports/ Mazda USA
71 GT SAMAX/ Doncaster Racing Greg Wilkins, Toronto, ON Canada; Dave Lacey, Toronto, ON Canada Porsche GT3 Cup Minestar Solutions/ Tim Hortons72 GT Tafel Racing Robin Liddell, England; Wolf Henzler, Germany Porsche GT3 Cup NEC
73 GT Tafel Racing Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Andrew Davis, Bogart, GA Porsche GT3 Cup NEC
75 DP Krohn Racing Tracy Krohn, Houston, TX; Nic Jonsson, Sweden Ford Riley Krohn Racing
76 DP Krohn Racing Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Colin Braun, Ovalo, TX Ford Riley Krohn Racing
77 DP Feeds The Need/ Doran Racing Terry Borcheller, Gainesville, GA; Harrison Brix, Campbell, CA Ford Doran Kodak/ Amp'd Mobile/ Sirius
80 GT Shoes for Crews/ Synergy Racing David Murry, Cumming, GA; Leh Keen, Dublin, GA Porsche GT3 Cup Shoes for Crews/ Synergy Racing
81 GT Synergy Racing Steve Johnson, Bristol, VA; Robert Nearn, England Porsche GT3 Cup Comfort Systems USA/ Johnson Commercial Development
89 DP Pacific Coast Motorsports Alex Figge, Vail, CO; Ryan Dalziel, Orlando, FL Pontiac Riley Playboy/ Vonage/ Palms Casino
97 DP CyberSpeed Racing Tony Ave, Mooresville, NC; Skip Cummins, Houston, TX Pontiac Riley CyberSpeed Racing
98 GT Pacific Coast Motorsports David Empringham, Toronto, ON Canada; Ross Thompson, Phoenix, AZ Pontiac GTO.R Pacific Coast Motorsports
99 DP Gainsco/ Blackhawk Racing Jon Fogarty, Portola Valley, CA; Alex Gurney, Irvine, CA Pontiac Riley Gainsco Auto Insurance