Cliches aside, Petit Le Mans was one of the stranger races of this or any
other seasons. Only the absence of werewolves and a full moon kept PLM from
becoming a horror comedy. Or as Mr. Petty sang, " I can't decide which is worse".
99 and a half wont do…
Let's start with the three wide free for all at turn one after the flag dropped. An
interesting approach but usually the odds are not mathematically good at getting
away clean. Of course drivers reactions immediately following such occurrences
are emotional and lack objectivity. Then there are those in press that followed this
pattern by dumping the blame on the Zytek driven by Hayanari Shimoda. One can
only guess that individuals who put forth this line so quickly are not only blind but
evil. A slide rule can also be used to whack someone across the ass.
J.J. Lehto may be ready for touring cars next season and he will be the perfect
shoe for the Magic Man should he return to the Speed GT series. It's been that
kind of year for the Finn.
The Red Clay Ramblers
The Pratt Brat - Prodrive rumble in the red clay didn’t quite live up to the full
expectations over the long haul. The Astons seem to lack the outright speed and
grip while the yellow Vette taxi cabs had some mechanical issues. That was not to
say that there were not times when the on track action was riveting between the
Vettes and the DBR 9's. It was. Toss in the heroic effort of Borcheller and company
aboard the Saleen S7R, it was obvious that GT1 was the real show. The image of
a concerned, stern faced Ron Fellows faced with the possibility of having lost the
championship showed why he competes. That is why he very well may be back for
another season. He isn't ready to hang up his skates yet.
The silly named GT2 group consisting mostly of cars referred to as GT3 was bold
and bizarre. Following a script that is dictated by experience, Jorg Bergmeister
guided both his teammates and the #31 Petersen/White Lightning to victory over
the semi-werks squad of Alex Job. The pole sitting #23 AJR RSR jumped out to an
early lead but someone from the #31 P/WL crew must have installed magnets in
the #23 to attract other pieces of metal to it. Bruised and battered even while
leading, Alex Job knew it was only a matter of time until the #23 would require
repairs. The second AJR entry had 2 and 1/3 drivers in it as Ian Bass had a bad
week all around in the #24 and only the seasoned talents of Emmanuel Collard
and Marcel Tiemman kept AJR around long enough for the runner up spot. The #
31 championship leading winner crossed the finish line looking like it had won a
ribbon at the PCA concours. In a gesture of sportsmanship and recognition, Alex
Job stated clearly that Petersen had the better car, team & drivers - at least for this
race.... It also mattered that Petersen had Jorg Bergmeister as he felt he had
something to prove this season and in the end, simply wanted it more.
The Pit and The Pendulum
Only an act of total strangeness will prevent Petersen/White Lightning from
clinching the drivers championship at Laguna Seca but a look back may prove that
they had some help from the IMSA rulebook. All of our lives we are told and taught
that to finish first you must finish, touch all the bases, stay in bounds, etc. In
baseball if one hits a home run, you don’t stand there, watch the ball disappear
and head back to the dugout. So why is it that IMSA has an idiotic regulation that
lets a car that is leading by a lap or more to be declared the winner even if it fails to
cross the finish line when the checker comes out. If it is a distance race then the
first car covering the required mileage is the winner and race over. If it is a timed
event then regardless of how many laps a car is up over the rest, it should be
there at the required time the flag drops. Remember Mosport ? The #31 Porsche
didn’t make the last lap as a wheel departed company and put the GT3 in the litter.
But as the Petersen entry was up a lap it was still declared the winner as time
expired. I asked the ever patient IMSA Race Director Marty Kaufman as to how the
#31 could properly go through post race tech after having been damaged. Aside
from a humorous comment about some devious drivers of the past, Marty stated
most of the basic checks that the technical director does can still be done with a
car in a damaged condition. Well maybe, I suppose it depends on what one
considers damaged to be.
Baby you're so far ahead it's beautiful….
I am not done with this yet. Based on the lap count, how about this scenario. Let's
say that Ron Fellows has a huge lead on the whole GT1 field, in fact he is so far
ahead that he could park the car and watch a period of the Maple Leafs kicking the
crap out of Montreal on the TV in the motorhome. Ice hockey aside, this scene has
played itself out numerous times at Le Mans and Daytona ( when the 24 hours
was a real race with cool cars ) The leading car only has to cross the line at the
required time. Now based on a very loose interpretation of the IMSA regs, Fellows
could simply drive his Vette off the track, have the Pratt Brats load it up on the truck
and Ron could be on the way to the airport and still be declared the winner in GT1.
This is one of the ACO regulations that IMSA should adopt for next season without
delay. Although I can think of a few they should dump too but that's a topic for
another time. Most likely Bill Oursler has already written up a column on that.
Like My Porsche ?
Let's face it, the big story wasn’t the cars that were at Petit but the one that wasn’t.
The non-showing of the Porsche LMP2 may not have affected the gate for PLM but
it certainly laid a number on the psyche.
Porsche has so continually mishandled their motorsport effort and gotten away
with a lack of accountability on the part of upper management that many question
why Weissach even bothers. Long time company personal are baffled by the
approach when compared with the results of such a successful past. Naturally, no
one will go on record thus any written text falls under editorial but it is hard to
argue with certain obvious facts. Even the name RS Spyder is treated with
contempt and as a joke. An unproven car being given a label of one of Porsche's
greatest success stories is simply wrong and should be ignored. It is a car that
has been constructed to run in the LMP2 class according to the regs. Call it by a
project number ( ie: 917, 956, 962 ) or an LMP2. If the car is successful it can write
it's own history as did it brethren.
The delivery of LMP2 001 along with a huge package of spares to Penske has
been grist for the mill. A few things can be confirmed, one motor air freighted back
to Flacht and another dispatched along with a second chassis all decked out in
the livery for Laguna Seca. Now for the interesting bit, reliability issues aside, the
LMP2 has supposedly lapped Road Atlanta quicker than the pole time set at PLM
last week. If true, this presents the ALMS with some serious issues. The series
does not need a car built to the rules of the secondary class trumping a restricted
Audi R8 or Dyson. An immediate move to LMP1 or penalties involving weight, etc ?
Doubtful… Scott Atherton needs a headliner and a lot is riding on how well the
Penske / Porsche partnership does this particular go around. The media will have
a chance to listen and hopefully question the Penske / Porsche principals at a
press conference scheduled for Saturday October 15 at Laguna Seca. I sure miss
the days of Steve Soper, he made the job a whole lot easier.
No feelings ( side one track three )
I personally find the LMP2 to be a letdown. The argument for it's bland hardware
store looks is that it was built to a specific set of rules. How Grand Am of those
boys at Weissach Flact. ( I am playing Never Mind the Bollocks - Here's the Sex
Pistols at a volume of 11- that says a lot about my POV right now ) The great
Porsche race cars were also built to a rigid set of rules and they always looked
liked Porsches. No one ever confused a 962 with a March GTP or a 917 with a
Matra. This template style of design saps the emotion of what has always been
the major draw of sportscar and GT racing. Attention designers: the word is
prototype not prototypical ! Paging Peter Stevens, paging Gordon Murray, paging
Andre de Cortanze, paging Norbert Singer, white necessity telephone… you are
Sports car racing needs Porsche. While the GT3 Cup is hardly what one would
call a proper race car to carry the banner for company with such an illustrious
history, few can disagree with the positive impact that the GT3 has had. Whether
for club racing or the ranks of Grand Am and Speed Challenge, the GT3 is for
many competitors the difference between racing and not having the opportunity at
all. The coffers at PAG have swelled with the profits of what has become a
mainstay. Management has been careful to keep the cost of the GT3 within reason
and not price it out of reach. It is one of the better outright purchases of a new car.
However, to put in a full season of hard competition requires a sizeable budget
and the GT3 is no bargain when it comes to rebuilds and parts replacement.
There is not much that a competitor can do himself on the car compared to
production Porsche race cars of the past. Then there is the news that there will be
up to six Porsche powered Grand Am DP's for the 2006 season. The Crawford
chassis is the current front runner and look for a top ALMS team to be splitting its
resources between the two series. Just like dating another girl in a different
county, fun for a while but after a while you better go home son and make up your
Make it on over to that million dollar bash….
If I seem to be taking a hard attitude towards current Porsche motorsport product,
it's because I have been seduced by what the company was once capable of. In
the last month my travels have taken me on several long hauls in search of an ex-
werks GT-1, a 959 and a very cool 1973 Carrera RS that has factory air. ( OK, so I
like some creature comforts ) I pulled off the hat trick and while driving the 959 on
the freeway a few weeks ago I noticed some people hanging out of passing cars
taking pictures of what was to be Porsche's Group B car some twenty years ago.
Billy Shears would have been proud.