This past weekend at Road America, located near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, both GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series came together for a dress rehearsal of United Sportscar Racing, which will start for real at Daytona in January 2014. There are few better places in the world than Road America in August, and when you throw in ALMS and GRAND-AM to the mix you get a pretty good weekend. It could have been a great weekend, but Corvettes didn’t win so the “great” will have to wait.
Friday saw a combination of practice and qualifying sessions for both GRAND-AM, ALMS and the Continental Sports Cars, the support series for GRAND-AM. The top class for 2014 will be the combined GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype Class and the ALMS Le Mans Prototype 2 Class and I am sure the series balance-of-performance people will look closely at the data from the weekend to see how they are going to adjust the DP and LMP2 cars for next year. If they get this wrong, it will set everything off on the wrong foot.
For the ALMS GT Class cars it was business as usual with close battles between all of the manufacturers on their chosen tire selection. In 2014 this will continue, and let’s hope the racing is as good, close, and most importantly unpredictable as this year. For all the other classes they will run on Continental “spec” tires, so for the GRAND-AM cars this will provide a huge advantage at the start of next year over the ALMS LMP2 cars which currently run a mix of tires.
Saturday saw the ALMS qualifying in the morning, then the GRAND-AM Series races in the afternoon. For the Corvette Racing team this meant a rare period of time off during a race weekend, so Dan Binks, chief engineer on the #3 C6.R, got to hold a charity auction at the Corvette Corral in benefit of a local childrens’ summer camp. Dan raised over $27,000, which was then matched by Greg Pickett of the Muscle Milk LMP1 team, meaning more than 130 children will be able to attend the camp in future. Most of the parts of the C6.R auctioned off were provided courtesy of Jan Magnussen’s big crash at Mosport during qualifying, where he wiped out the front, rear, and left side of the car.
The GRAND-AM race saw a maiden victory for the #8 Starworks BMW driven by Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer ahead of the pair of Action Express Racing Corvettes. Joao Barbosa finished second in the #5 Corvette DP started by Christian Fittipaldi. Brothers Brian and Burt Frisselle took the final podium position in the #9 Corvette DP.
The 2 hour 45 minute ALMS race on Sunday started in the wet following two hours of rain prior to the start, almost as soon as the race started though the rain abated and the track quickly dried out.
Jan Magnussen and Tommy Milner started the #3 and #4 Corvettes on wet tires from second and third on the grid behind the #93 SRT Viper but struggled relative to the other runners on the wet tires, at the 40 minute mark both cars pitted for slick tires and from then on both Corvettes ran much more competitive lap times and with some stellar pit work the cars managed to move from seventh and eighth in class to first and third during the penultimate full-course caution period.
The #91 Viper which was running in second managed to get around Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette with about 30 minutes to run and then a late race caution period assisted the Viper as it was very marginal on fuel if the race had stayed green to the end. The win for the Viper was the first since the SRT team returned to the ALMS at the Mid-Ohio race in 2012 following their departure from the sport at the end of the 2000 season.
For Corvette Racing the second and third place finishes helped Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner regain the lead in the GT Class drivers standings and Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia moved up to third, only six points behind their team mates. Corvette Racing and Chevrolet also improved their leads in both their respective championships. The next race will be at Baltimore at the end of August.