American Le Mans Series, round 5 in Lime Rock Park, USA
The American Le Mans Series races into action again: After a long break either side of the Le Mans 24 hour race, the fifth round of the world’s fastest sports car series takes off in Lime Rock Park on Saturday, in the picturesque US state of Connecticut situated two and a half hours by car from New York City.
‘The exciting thing about this circuit is that we don’t really know what is awaiting us,’ says Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen (Germany). ‘Although the track is very old and narrow we always drive at very high speeds, so they have made the corners somewhat slower this year. Parts of the track have been resurfaced.’ Right next to the track is a little church. For this reason, racing on Sunday is strictly forbidden – and testing is generally not permitted either. Sascha Maassen does not regard this as a handicap. On the contrary: ‘Our RS Spyder is well prepared. In fact, it’s fast on any track right from the word go.’
On the short 2.480 kilometre circuit, Sascha Maassen shares driving duties with Patrick Long (USA) in the #6 RS Spyder. Penske Racing runs not only this Weissach-developed and built sports prototype but also the #7 vehicle manned by reigning champions Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France). The pair won the season-opening Sebring 12 hour race and the previous round in Salt Lake City. With these results the two lead the championship. With Porsche support, the US privateer team, Dyson Racing, fields two further RS Spyder. In the #16 vehicle sits Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain), the number 20 car is helmed by Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain).
The Porsche pilots have made good use of the break: Sascha Maassen contested the Le Mans 24 hour race for the Essex team, where he celebrated a clear double victory in the LMP2 class at the RS Spyder’s premiere. With a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas competed for the Manthey Racing team at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and after a breathtaking chase through the field brought home overall victory.
The circuit at Lime Rock Park has no straights and is made up almost entirely of corners. Sascha Maassen is convinced that this is advantageous for the RS Spyder: ‘This puts the emphasis on the agility of our car and means that its power handicap, as dictated by the regulations, isn’t so noticeable compared to the LMP1 vehicles.’ He, and in fact the entire field, will be affected by only one problem. In heavy traffic on such a short circuit, similar to rush hour in Manhatten, constant overtaking of slower GT vehicles is unavoidable. Sascha Maassen comments: ‘This can be decisive in the race.’
In the GT2 class for slightly modified standard sports car, Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler (both Germany) are keen to increase their lead in the championship. With their Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, they have won the races in Sebring and Salt Lake City so far this season. Also holding good chances for victory are their team mates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France), as are Dirk Werner (Germany) and Richard Westbrook (Great Britain), who compete for the Farnbacher Loles Racing team with a 911 GT3 RSR.
The race in Lime Rock Park starts on Saturday, 12th July 2008, at 14.05 hrs local time (20.05 hrs CEST) and runs over 2:45 hours.