No. 976
December 12, 2018
 

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Horizon


Tuesday
Oct072008

Horizon #466

October 8, 2008


(Copyright © 2008, John Thawley ~ Creative Communications Group All rights reserved.)

Publisher's Note: John Thawley is back this week with an array of stunning images from the 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Click here to see images from the race. Also, check out the report from A.J. Morning (AE's East Coast correspondent) from Road Atlanta at the end of Horizon (below), or go to trackbytes.com for a full race report by John Dagys. - PMD

Corvette, Porsche. In the inaugural Green Challenge - part of the American Le Mans Series’ Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Saturday - Corvette and Porsche were the big winners. They earned the first Green Challenge trophies in their respective classes - Porsche for prototypes and Corvette among GT entries. Each had the best score in class for overall performance, fuel efficiency (petroleum displaced) and environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions) in the 1,000-mile race around the 2.54-mile road course. Corvette Racing’s No. 3 entry driven by Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows had the low score of 20.391 among the GT cars, while Penske’s No. 6 Porsche RS Spyder team of Pat Long, Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard had the lowest prototype score at 30.690. The award was created in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International, the world’s leading automotive engineering organization. On hand to present each trophy were Margo T. Oge, the EPA’s Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality; Pat Davis, DOE’s leading official for vehicle technologies and renewable energy and efficiencies; and Dave Schutt, SAE International’s COO and Executive Vice President. The American Le Mans Series is the only major race series in the world in which all cars race on a choice of three alternative “street legal” fuels: clean sulfur-free diesel, E10 and cellulosic E85. “Street legal” refers to fuels that are virtually the same as the ones consumers can purchase at a local fuel station.

Brandon Davis, Ford. Twenty-two-year-old Brandon Davis (No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra), of Huntington Beach, Calif., got the holeshot from his second starting position and lead the whole way to win his second SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship race at the SPEED GT Finale Presented by Foametix® at Road Atlanta. Davis averaged 84.003 mph to win by 4.093-seconds over Tommy Milner (No. 21 Rahal Letterman Racing Aston Martin DB9), of Leesburg, Va. Andy Pilgrim (No. 8 Remington Shaving & Grooming Cadillac CTS-V), of Boca Raton, Fla., completed the podium. It was Aston Martin's best-ever finish in series competition and also the career-best finish for 22-year old Milner, who joined the series midway through the 2008 season. Randy Pobst, of nearby Gainesville, Ga., needed to finish better than 26th in order to clinch his second-straight SCCA SPEED GT Championship, regardless of where Pilgrim placed. The 2003 and 2007 series Champ brought his No. 1 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 home fifth in the final race. Pobst finished the season with 983 points to Pilgrim’s 907. Davis finished the season third, with 831, followed by James Sofronas (750) and Michael Galati (733). Porsche clinched the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine in New Jersey, and finished 14 points ahead of Ford in the final standings, 64 to 50. Cadillac was third, with 49, followed by Dodge (40) and Chevrolet (24). This race will be broadcast Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED.

(Photo©SCCA/Mark Weber)
Brandon Davis
(No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra) leads the SPEED GT pack at Road Atlanta.

Chip Herr, Tindol Motorsports, Mazda. Chip Herr (No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6), of Lititz, Pa., led every lap of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car Finale Presented by Toyo Tires®,  finishing 1.204 seconds ahead of Michael Galati (No. 95 Mazda North America/Tindol MAZDA6), of Olmsted, Ohio, and Pierre Kleinubing (No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX), of Coconut Creek, Fla., at Road Atlanta. But the focus of the race was glued on third through fifth place, where the battle for the 2008 SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship was unfolding. Battling with his teammate all the way to the finish, Peter Cunningham (No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX), of Milwaukee, Wis., crossed the finish line in fourth just ahead of Kuno Wittmer (No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX). On the final lap, Wittmer made a bold move on his own team boss, pulling his RealTime Acura alongside Cunningham under braking into Turn 10, attempting to take the Championship for himself. The teammates bumped and slid their Acuras through the corner side-by-side, with Cunningham holding the position as Wittmer struggled to maintain control of his car. Cunningham won the 2008 SCCA SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship (his fifth) by four points (939 to 934) over Kleinubing. Cunningham tied Galati for the most World Challenge Championships, with five. Herr finished fourth in the 2008 Drivers’ Championship. Acura had already clinched the SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine following Round Nine at Mosport. This race will air on SPEED, Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. (EDT).

(Photo©SCCA/Mark Weber)
Chip Herr (No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6) leads Michael Galati and Pierre Kleinubing at Road Atlanta.

(Photo©SCCA/Mark Weber)
SPEED GT Champion Randy Pobst accepts his second-consecutive SPEED GT Drivers’ Championship trophy from SCCA Pro Racing President Robert Wildberger.

 
(Photo©SCCA/Mark Weber)
SPEED TC Champion Peter Cunningham holds daughter Audrey while accepting his 2008 SCCA SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship trophy.

Helio Castroneves. From the "Not Good" File comes word that Helio Castroneves, Katuicia Castroneves (his sister and business manager), and his agent/attorney Alan R. Miller of Birmingham, Mich. were indicted on income tax evasion charges last Thursday in Miami. Castroneves was indicted on charges of conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion for purportedly failing to report to the IRS about $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004, according to court documents. Each count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. Castroneves, 33, was released on $10 million bail on Friday following a court appearance in which he was shackled in handcuffs and leg chains. Katiucia Castroneves and Alan R. Miller did not enter pleas Friday but were ordered released on bail of $2 million and $250,000, respectively. Even though this smells like yet another example of federal prosecutors looking for notoriety and sensational headlines, this matter has already scored a direct hit on Castroneves' heretofore impeccable reputation. Not Good is putting it mildly.


Grand Excitation.

By A.J. Morning
 
Braselton, Georgia.
With the death of Paul Newman (known in the racing community simply as "PL", the tributes to the beloved driver, team owner, benefactor and award-winning great American actor have been as astonishing in number as they have been deep in sentiment. When Newman died on September 26, the racing world didn't just lose a popular team owner -- everyone here lost a friend.
 
Lots of Hollywood-types have been known to make appearances at big races, some even suit up and get behind the wheel, but few have fallen in love with racing and devoted themselves to the sport in quite the way PL did. He had said that racing was "the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in," a statement that echoes like a song to those with Racer's Blood in their veins.
 
While the mainstream media reported (rightly so) that Newman had raised and donated huge sums of money to children’s charities and other causes, his generosity and leadership throughout the world of motorsports was and still is one of the greatest stories to be told about the man. And at no place was this story told better during the week than at the Mazda Atlantic Championship Series Awards banquet held on Friday night. Numerous racers and teams in the Atlantic series had the benefit of PL’s involvement, and his presence in that series – as with all the others in which he participated – will be missed for a long time to come.
 
All over the track, any series that competed, it seemed every car had a sticker remembering a racer modestly called PL Newman.
 
As is the case with Petit Le Mans, the days leading up to the race are filled with support races and publicity events. One of the more interesting ones was the "Green Challenge Round Table Forum." Staged to highlight advances in the American Le Mans Series’ Green Racing program, representatives from the ALMS, General Motors, Sebring Raceway, Mazda, as well as drivers David Brabham (Patrón Highcroft Acura) and Lord Drayson (Aston Martin Racing) were on-hand to answer questions regarding the future of racing, and how the Series is poised to not just accommodate changes in technology and various “Green” concerns, but actively drive them. I won't bore the crowd with too much political minutiae, except to say that the cars you will drive in just a few years' time, will show technology that's being proven right now at the track.
 
This is exactly how it should be. And in the State of the Series address, ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton issued the Green challenge to other series: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."
 
Audi's formidable R10 TDI racer was one of the first major efforts in this arena, and returned to defend their title as perennial Petit Le Mans champions. Peugeot, not seen in the US since their American debut at Sebring, was back with their fantastic-looking and amazingly fast 908 HDi FAP racer, also running on diesel.
 
Chevy's two-car Corvette Racing team runs on cellulosic E-85, which is ethanol derived not from corn, but from other bio-mass. The exhaust fumes from a racecar running on E-85 are not unlike being near a Top Alcohol Dragster as it’s getting staged. Several other cars, including the stunning Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT2, also run on bio-ethanol E-85.
 
Wait, trick fuels aren't enough? How about a hybrid racecar? Corsa brought a new Zytek LMP1 racer with an electric pack that might not have been considered a competitor for the win in this endurance outing (in fact, it was one of the first rides to crash-out), but is quite the laboratory on wheels. It's fast (everything from Zytek is fast), it looks good, and it's the first racer I've seen in years that uses a hybrid-electric powerplant.
 
We will see many more of these in years to come.
 
The race itself?  Without a doubt, one of the most exciting in the 11-year history of road racing's Fall Classic.
 
The drama started early on race day – literally just a couple hours before the green flag dropped. In the morning warm-up session, the new Mazdaspeed Lola LMP2 Coupe took substantial damage when the car lost traction and found itself in the tire wall. The damage was severe enough to prevent the dashing and innovative new coupe from starting the race.
 
Then, just minutes before the call to start the engines and get things going, Alan McNish was making a recon lap and heading toward the grid when he lost control of the No. 1 Audi R10 TDI in the esses, bruising both the front and rear of the car. No damage was done to the tub, but the time required to repair the suspension bits and outer body forced the team to start from the pits, a few laps after the start of the race.
 
Peugeot, too, had seen its single entry wrecked one week prior to the race, but the damage was not a show-stopper and the team was fortunate to have sufficient time to get the car returned to form by mid-week.
 
The two repaired cars, along with the No. 2 Audi team, put on a non-stop battle throughout the race, leading to McNish making good on his team’s heroic effort, passing Christian Klien near the end to score a thrilling 4.5 second win. "It was an embarrassing start. Crashing on the way to the grid is not the way you want to start," McNish said afterwards, "To get 16-17 people from both crews on that and get it repaired when I thought we were out, they did something I didn't think was possible. This race belongs to the team.”
 
One of the biggest stories this week was driver Helio Castroneves’ indictment for tax fraud. I’ll leave the legal mess to other media, and just say that it didn’t seem to interfere with his ability to (along with teammate Ryan Briscoe) pilot his Penske Porsche RS Spyder to a P2 class win. Following his team’s victory, Castroneves said "I want to thank all my friends and family. It has been a rough week but this is the place to be for me.”
 
The racing in P2 saw high attrition throughout, as Scott Sharp spun the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura early on, and was unable to continue. Other Acura entries, most notably those of Andretti Green and de Ferran Motorsports, saw both on-track crashes and mechanical failures that would put them out of contention.
 
In the GT classes, the action was no less exciting. The Corvette Racing C6.Rs made what might be their last Petit Le Mans appearance in the GT1 class, as 2009 will see the team entering GT2 class late in the season, where there is far more competition.  Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan expects there to be a learning curve, and said “you’re not going to see us just come out of the box and win, it’s going to be tough.”  That said, the No. 3 Corvette C6.R driven by Georgia-local Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen, and the venerable Ron Fellows scored a win over their teammates Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin, and Max Papis in the No. 4 team car.
 
GT2, the hotbed of competition in the Series, saw pole-winners Jaime Melo and Mika Salo survive the war of attrition and take the checkered flag. Their Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT managed to avoid the on-track incidents and pit-lane foibles, to bring home a strong win in what has been an up-and-down year for the team. The GT2 Championship, however, was secured by the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche team of Jörg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler.
 
That’s it for now, I’ll see you at the next pit stop.