Following an excellent start to the new partnership between T-Mobile USA and VICI Racing™ on the streets of Long Beach two-and-a-half weeks ago, the action now moves on to the next round of the American Le Mans Series and the completely different challenge exposed by the high-speed, high-altitude Millar Motorsports Park in dry and dusty Utah. In the cockpit of the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (2008) for the Utah Grand Prix will be Nicky Pastorelli and Johannes Stuck.
T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ kicked off its challenge in the 2009 ALMS at Long Beach last month with an excellent fourth place finish. Following a compromised qualifying performance, Richard Westbrook, making his first start for the team and his first start at Long Beach, was left with the task of fighting his way past the factory-supported BMW entries on the tight and twisting city streets where overtaking is next to impossible. However the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR clearly had a better pace and some skilful driving by the Englishman meant he was able to muscle his way past and hand the car over at mid-distance to team-mate Johannes Stuck, also making his debut on this track, who was able to control the gaps and bring the car safely home. It was the first race for the team on Michelin tires and also yielded the first silverware of the year as the “Founders Cup” was handed over for the best performance by a privateer entry.
With this race out of the way the team raced home to begin a scheduled move into a new race shop and prepare the #18 car for the next race, the Utah Grand Prix, which means another trek across the country from the team’s long-standing home in Miami, Florida. The Miller Motorsports Park is just 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City in Tooele, Utah, and next week will be the fourth visit by the ALMS series to this purpose-built track that opened only in April 2006. Last year for the first time, the ALMS teams raced on the blindingly quick, 15-turn, 3.05-mile ‘perimeter’ course, and this year this configuration will be used again. This track is around 4,500 feet above sea level, and gets very hot and dry in the day, adding more variables to the equation.
Last year was the inaugural year in the ALMS for VICI Racing™ and Utah was also the first time it ran two cars. Both cars were classified in the top 10 at the end of a tough race and the team will look to build on this experience next week. From its driver roster T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ will line up Nicky Pastorelli and Johannes Stuck in the #18 car for this challenge. Nicky, who resides in Rijswick in the Netherlands, will be racing for the first time this year for the team, having participated in its spring test programme. The 26-year-old former official F1 Test Driver for the Jordan and Midland teams will be starting his third year for VICI Racing and his experience in last year’s Utah Grand Prix makes him the ideal choice to lead the line-up in the #18 car. He will be joined by Johannes Stuck, fresh from his debut with the team at Long Beach. It will be another new track for the 22-year-old who resides in Mauren, Lichtenstein, but he very quickly got to grips with his first visit to Long Beach and the Miller Motorsports Park should suit him more.
VICI Racing™ is a long-established German/US racing team which has set out this week on its second year in the prestigious sports car racing series. T-Mobile USA is a leading innovator and provider of mobile communications. At the end of 2008, T-Mobile USA served more than 32.8 million customers. T-Mobile USA is the U.S. operation of Deutsche Telekom AG’s Mobile Communications Business, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International, one of the world’s leading companies in mobile communications. T-Mobile is a federally registered trademark of Deutsche Telekom AG. Michelin is a technical partner of the team.
The ALMS series will this year use the 14-turn, 3.06-mile ‘Perimeter’ Course at the Miller Motorsports Park which eliminates all the twists of the entire infield section and is one of the fastest track layouts in North America, featuring a 3,500-foot main straight where speeds will reach 200 mph and with cornering speeds from 50 to 100 mph. While the track is basically flat, Miller Motorsports Park’s design incorporates several elevation changes.
The action on track at the Miller Motorsports Park gets underway mid-afternoon on Thursday, May 15, with a half-hour Promoter test session (2:40-3:10 PM MDT) which is reserved for the GT2 class runners. It will be followed immediately by a further hour of testing (3:10-4:10 PM MDT) which will be open to all classes, meaning that the GT1 and GT2 class cars will share the track with the LMP1 and LMP2 category prototypes. Saturday, May 16, will get underway with an early morning hour-long practice session (9:30-10:30 AM MDT) open to all classes. A further hour of free practice, again open to all classes, follows in the afternoon (2:10-3:10 PM MDT), and is followed by a brief ten-minute break before the 20-minute long qualifying session gets underway (3:20-3:40 PM MDT). Race day (Sunday, May 17) begins with the 25-minute duration warm-up session (9:55-10:20 AM MDT) before the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix from Miller Motorsports Park goes to green flag conditions at 2:15 PM MDT. The 2 hour 25 minute-long race is scheduled to see the chequered flag being waved at 5:00 PM MDT. SPEED will broadcast the race starting at 10:00 PM MDT on the same day. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.
Ron C Meixner, Team President VICI Racing: “We were all pleased with the start that we made in our partnership with T-Mobile® at Long Beach. It was an excellent way to get the new relationship on track into motion. It was satisfying but it was only the start, and now we have to push forward and challenge to win races. This team is made up of professionals and no-one wants to turn up and finish second.
“I’ve been delighted with the enthusiasm and desire to win that T-Mobile® has shown. Establishing this partnership showed that they are fast moving, flexible and won’t let anything stand in the way of building a winning partnership – all ingredients that are needed to get to the top in motor racing. I’m also extremely grateful to Michelin, a new technical partner this year, and their support for the team as we established this new program was very rewarding for us. I’m pleased we can put Nicky back into the cockpit in Utah, he always does a very professional job and last year in this race he did all we would ask for him so he is the perfect choice to lead the driver line up. Johannes did a super job in Long Beach, as I expected, so I look forward to seeing more of his obvious talent, having known his dad [Hans-Joachim Stuck] from the Porsche 962C era in the ’90s. This will be an important race for us as T-Mobile® has a key headquarters in Salt Lake City; we will expect strong support at the track, so we now look forward to another good showing from the team.”
Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: “After Long Beach we are now focused on a different type of circuit. Last year Utah was an eighty-two lap, three-stint race, but depending on fuel consumption and yellows we could end up doing a two-stop strategy, so importantly we will be having some more options to gain positions just by strategy. The track is a lot faster than Long Beach; there are five parts where the car exceeds 180 km/h, though top speed will be nearly equal to Long Beach at around 260 km/h. However the track is, from the engineer’s point of view, not as complicated to understand as Long Beach. Nicky raced in Utah for us last year and was quick, as he is always, and now he will be racing for the first time on Michelins. Johannes will be liking this track a lot more than Long Beach, because it is a permanent “European style” race track, and he does not have to race between concrete walls. But, although he was not used to racing on tracks like Long Beach, he was pretty quick there and I was very satisfied by his performance and application, so I expect him to do even better at Utah. However by far biggest difference to last year will be the Michelin tires we are using this year and they will put our car in a much more competitive position. We got our season off to a very promising start in Long Beach, the crew performed to the ultra-high standards I always expect of them, and the new members slotted smoothly in and did very well, so now we all have to work hard together and fight hard for another good result next weekend.”
Nicky Pastorelli (Netherlands) #18: “First of all I am very happy to be finally racing again of course; it’s been a long close season for me, although I have been working with our close season test program. I was in Long Beach with the team and everything looks very promising for this year, so for sure now I can’t wait to get in the car and go racing. I’ve raced here [in Utah] last year so I know the track well already. The track is very modern and European-style with its facilities, but it’s not my favourite track I have to say – it’s all very smooth and not too exciting for the driver. But that’s the same for everyone. We will just have to try to be as quick as we possibly can be and not to make any mistakes so we can get the best possible result.”
Johannes Stuck (Austria) #18: “Utah will be another new track for me but I will have the same objective, to see the checkered flag and score some points. I am aiming at us being the best independent car as in Long Beach. Even though we came fourth in Long Beach we still have to work on some stuff, and especially for me to be quicker in the first laps of my stint. I was pretty satisfied with the progress we have made during the Long Beach weekend and I hope that we’ll be able to find a similarly good setup at the Miller Motorsports Park. As far as I am concerned this shouldn’t be a problem for Roland Wall as he is a great engineer, and really good for the driver to work with. I’m also looking forward to teaming up with Nicky for the first time. It will be important to do a good job under the eyes of our new partner T-Mobile® and their commit to winning is as strong as I know the team’s is. Although we have great weather here in Europe at the moment, I hope that it will be just as nice in Utah, to not only take home a good result but also a nice tan!”