American Le Mans Series, round 4 in Salt Lake City, USA
© All rights reserved. Phil Woodard
Variety in the American Le Mans Series: After the street race on the waterfront of Long Beach, the championship-leading Porsche RS Spyder now comes to the Miller Motorsport Park circuit in Utah, 1,288 metres above sea level. The fourth round of the race series with the world’s fastest sports cars takes place on Sunday in the 2002 Olympic city.
Despite this year’s race running on a shortened 4.956 kilometre version of the track (last year 7.240 kilometres), the twisty circuit is still regarded as one of the most demanding on the calendar. “It has actually become more difficult to find the optimal set-up,” says Sascha Maassen (Germany), who secured overall victory with the RS Spyder last year after claiming a class win at the premiere on this track in 2006. With his team mate Patrick Long (USA) he tested here in Salt Lake City prior to the Long Beach meeting and with the engineers tried to find the best possible set-up for the 476 hp sports prototype from Weissach for this new challenge. His impressions: “A great track. Despite the shortening of the circuit there are still a lot of corners which suits us very well. But you also drive on the long straight more often and that is certainly not to our advantage.” Patrick Long agrees with this assessment but is equally as optimistic: “We don’t have to take a back seat. In the past we have found solutions to tougher problems than this.”
At the American Le Mans Series race on the Great Salt Lake, Penske Racing fields two RS Spyder: Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long tackle the race with the #6 RS Spyder, with their team mates Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) in the # 7 car. The title defenders rank first in the LMP2 class after the first three races of the season, as does Porsche in the manufacturers chassis and engine classification and Penske Racing in the teams championship. The US customer team Dyson Racing also runs two RS Spyder: Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) man the sports prototype with the starting number 16, Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) compete in the #20 Spyder.
After two street races in St. Petersburg and Long Beach, the series now returns to a permanent race track in Salt Lake City. Sascha Maassen explains the greatest difference. “On a city circuit you are more mentally stressed because you know exactly where you must not make a mistake otherwise you end up in the wall.” He adds: “As a contrast you’ve got a lot of corners on this circuit with correspondingly high lateral acceleration. It doesn’t matter how well you have trained – after a couple of corners your neck hurts.” Porsche tackles the race in Salt Lake City well prepared: “We are on the right track. The test was promising and our car feels very good. Still, we will have to work hard during the practice to sort out some final details.”
In the GT2 class for slightly modified standard sports cars, the Sebring winner Joerg Bergmeister from Germany and his compatriot Wolf Henzler have their second victory in sight. With the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Flying Lizard Motorsports they were narrowly beaten by a tenth of a second in Long Beach to cross the finish line second. Other race favourites are their team mates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France) as well as Dirk Werner (Berlin) and Marc Basseng (Germany), who compete in a 911 GT3 RSR run by Farnbacher Loles Racing.
The American Le Mans Series continues on its upward trend in 2008: An average of 106,000 spectators came to the first three races of the season, marking an increase of 3.2 percent compared to the previous year. The number of television viewers in the USA rose by 37 percent. And another interesting statistic: Although Salt Lake City is no longer the longest track of the year, it now has the longest official name by far: Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels.
The race in Salt Lake City starts on Sunday, 18th May 2008, at 13.05 hrs local time (21.05 hr CEST) and runs over 2:45 hours.