The Prototypes Are "Stealing" the GT Thunder
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, August 28 — This certainly is a strange headline. The idea of prototypes taking the headlines away from the GT class is topsy-turvy. The prototypes should always be claiming the headlines.
However, at the start of the year, all the talk, even from the American Le Mans Series themselves, was about the anticipated GT season. Large manufacturer participation (BMW, Corvette, Doran Ford, Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche), unpredictable competition with four of those manufacturers capable of winning any race, and multiple teams expected to be in the championship hunt had everyone salivating for the season to start. This was all the case as the season got underway. Meanwhile, the LMP class looked to be an easy Patón Highcroft Racing runaway with their Honda Performance Development ARX-01c, winning three in a row after Long Beach.
The Muscle Milk CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder won a dramatic race at Lime Rock after banging wheels with their main competitor.
Then came Lime Rock where the Muscle Milk CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder pulled the upset in dramatic fashion. In the waning laps, Klaus Graf moved over on the front straight to pass slower cars at the same time Simon Pagenaud was making a move down the inside for the lead. The cars banged into each other. Graf received a stop-and-go penalty, but the Highcroft car suffered a flat tire with the contact. The effect of the penalty was negated because of the failed tire, and Greg Picket's team had their first win.
Mid-Ohio came next, and many considered the race to be the best one in ALMS history. This time the Dyson Racing Team Lola B09 86 Mazda held off a hard charging Highcroft LMP for their first win of the season.
The Drayson Racing Lola B09 60 Judd won the Road America round with a last lap that will be talked about for years.
That best race ever designation lasted two whole weeks when fans at Road America witnessed another "best ever" race. Yet another first time winner emerged. The Drayson Racing Lola B09 60 Judd controlled the race during the first driver stint. Problems with the gearbox appeared to finish them off. However, they fought back, got on the lead lap, then chased down the leaders as a four-way LMP battle ensued for overall honors. When it looked all but hopeless (at one point, the Drayson car was in fourth place), Jonny Cocker turned in a last lap for the ages, passing the CytoSport car for the win.
Four different winners in the last four races, "once in a lifetime" exciting races that keep outdoing the previous ones, and a points battle which has shrunk down to 20 points between Highcroft and CytoSport.
To emphasize this point, qualifying at Mosport saw a first time pole winner for the year -- the CytoSport team with Graf driving. They were the only ones to get into the 1:06s ... barely .... with a 1:06.956. Dyson was second, 0.186 behind, shutting the Highcroft car out of the front row. The Drayson car sits fourth with 0.526 of a second separating the top four.
What once looked to be a preordained crowning that had everyone paying more attention to the GT class, has turned into a barnburner of a season for the prototypes (and let's not forget the Intersport Racing Lola B06 10 AER which can always play spoiler when they stay healthy, which was not the case today when they blew an engine in practice prior to qualifying). The cars that are supposed to be grabbing the headlines are now doing just that.
Most likely, more prototype headlines will be made in Sunday's race, overshadowing the just as great GT storylines.
Ferrari Déjà Vu All Over Again Last year, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT driven by Jaime Melo crashed hard on a wet track in the practice session just before qualifying in Turn 1. The right side of the car was virtually wiped out. The crew spent all night pulling off a miracle, removing parts from a spare car, and welding and welding and welding. The crew was rewarded when the car made it to the grid (albeit at the back). The crew received the icing on the cake when Melo and Pierre Kaffer drove the car to second place in GT sandwiched between two Corvettes in one of the greatest GT battles in ALMS history.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari team once again suffered bad luck at Mosport with the #61 car crashing heavily during Saturday's morning practice session with Pierre Kaffer at the wheel.
In this morning's practice session, Kaffer (who ironically is not paired up with Melo this time) crashed hard coming out of ... you guessed it ... Turn 1. This time in the dry. He dropped a wheel off at the exit and when the curbing ran out, it hooked the car into a spin. The Ferrari bounced off the left wall twice, shot up and across the track, and finally came to a stop against the right side wall on top of the hill before Turn 2. Body parts were strewn all along the path of destruction. The session was halted to attend to Kaffer and clean up the mess.
Kaffer got out of the car on his own, sitting down next to it. For precautionary reasons, the medical crew put him on a backboard, strapped him down, and brought him to the medical center. He was then transported to the local hospital whereupon he was checked over and released without serious injury.
Meanwhile, to use the word "wreck" to describe the remains of the Ferrari would be an understatement. The front, especially the right front, was crushed with all the bodywork missing, suspension turned into spaghetti, and who knows how much damage to the frame. This time there will be no miracle. There's just too much damage. The team withdrew the car, choosing to repair it properly back at their Houston shop.
When it rains it pours for Risi. Melo (there must have been a Canadian curse applied to these two drivers) came down with a stomach virus and will not compete the rest of the weekend. This was a break for Toni Vilander who was without a car thanks to Kaffer, and will now move over to the #62 Ferrari to co-drive with Gianmaria Bruni. To top off the bad luck, due to the driver change. the car will have to start at the back of the pack ... despite turning a qualifying time good enough for the GT pole.
Thus, once again, a Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 will start from the back of the pack at Mosport. Déjà vu all over again indeed.
Copyright © 2010 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.