After running the longest race on the 2011 ALMS calendar, teams are gathered in Long Beach, California, for the shortest. The action-packed West Coast weekend doesn’t leave a lot of time for newcomers to get used to the 11-turn, 1.968 mile temporary street circuit. The first practice session for ALMS drivers starts at 7:15 AM on Friday morning and runs for two hours.
The overall benefit from this session is dubious, as the track will be totally clean – lacking the accumulated rubber that improves traction over a race weekend. Corvette Racing’s newest driver, Tommy Milner, explained the issue. “The first hour is almost a throwaway because there’s not much grip and the way the car behaves changes dramatically throughout the session.”
Milner will share the #3 Compuware Corvette C6.R with co-driver Olivier Beretta for the weekend, though its not his first time on the Long Beach circuit. Milner led last year’s race for a time when his previous team chose not to change tires in the closing laps. The strategy jumped Milner from fifth to first place, but two places were lost before the end as his tires went away.
“Long Beach is all about track position,” Milner explained. “Obviously, pace is important, but track position is crucial because it’s so difficult to pass there.” Despite this, Milner appreciates the challenges of Long Beach.
“There is something about really hustling a car in the narrow confines of a street track and pushing the envelope right up to the wall that is a lot of fun,” explained the 25-year-old driver. “I’ll go into the race feeling confident that I have a good car. That comes down to working with your team and engineers to get exactly what you want out of the car.”
Milner, whose career has generated 17 podium finishes out of 51 starts, finished third in the ALMS GT standings last year for the Rahal Letterman team. The Lake Mary, Florida, resident is a second generation racer – son of noted team owner Tom Milner.
The 2-hour American Le Mans Series race will be shown live on ESPN3, beginning at 7:15 PM ET/4:15 PM local time on Saturday, April 16. ESPN2 will provide TV coverage from 5 to 7 PM ET on Sunday, April 17.