Home > Events > Jason from Titan visits 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Jason from Titan visits 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

October 7th, 2008

You may think that Titan Motorsports is only interested in drag racing.  But you’d be seriously mistaken.  Every employee here is a motorsports fan.  F1, ALMS, NHRA, NASCAR, ADRL, Grand Am, WRC, and even DTM are some of the series that come up in conversation around the office here weekly.  It has been said that even the Brothers Grim in the office have been spotted running their BMW’s at Sebring.

If you have never seen an American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race in your life you are seriously missing out.  Here in America there are plenty of series that offer good competition, and some entertaining racing but in the ALMS it’s a different story.  There are no “spec” racecars, a la NASCAR, there are no teams with one single driver for the car, there isn’t even a single race fuel used.  Anything from typical race gas to E85 and Diesel are used.  There are also 4 different classes.  So for any one race that you watch, you are actually watching four different ones, each with their own storyline and each has something different to offer.

To make it easy, I’ll classify them by speed, fastest to slowest.  LMP1 is the fastest, followed by LMP2, GT1 and GT2.  Obviously the LMP cars are prototypes, purpose built racecars.  The GT classes are filled with cars that anyone can buy (well kind of).  Corvettes, Porsche’s, Vipers, Ferrari’s, and Aston Martin’s are but a few examples and if those names don’t get your blood boiling, than you may need to turn in your man card.  BMW will also make their series premier next year with an M3 in the GT2 series.

It really is an experience to go to one of these races.  The drivers are all very open and friendly, and the pits/paddock area reminded me of an NHRA race.  Fans are able to just wonder around checking out the cars, and chatting with drivers and mechanics (provided they aren’t busy of course).  Hell about 10 minutes before the start of the race I was standing next to a couple port-a-potties and out comes Alan McNish and Johnny O’Connell.   Emanuele Pirro was out the night before the race just chit-chatting with fans for about 30 minutes.

As I alluded to earlier there is a very diverse field.  Each car looks, smells and sounds different as it goes by.  The drivers hail from several countries around the world.  Audi’s R10 and Peugeot’s 908 HDi cars are virtually silent as they pass leaving only a slight whistling sound of the diesel turbo’s and wind barreling off the wings.  Corvette’s scream by letting out a burl that makes it sound as if the engine is a 15 liter V8, and Acura’s whip by with a sound that is so unique I’m struggling to find a good analogy for it.  Day even turns to night by the end.  It truly was a 10 hour assault on the senses.

There is never a lack of action either.  There are more passes in one lap at an ALMS race than you may see in an entire race from other series.  The different classes on the track at the same time can make the race interesting as the faster cars us the slower cars as picks to gain an advantage, but of course the traffic can also be a severe disadvantage at times.  Many lap times varied as much as four seconds because of it.

We camped at the track for the weekend.  There is something going on at the track almost all the time.  Not only is there the ALMS race, but there is usually a bunch of other series running that same weekend.  There was also IMSA Lites, Star Mazda Championship, Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship, and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI cup going on this particular weekend.  Racing action galore, and we never left the track once.

The story of this race had to be Alan McNish and his LMP1 Audi R10/TDI.  No more than 40 minutes from the start, McNish gave his Audi a little too much gas (on cold tires) coming out of turn 4 on grid formation laps and lost the rear end sending the R10 into the wall.  The front end was destroyed and the rear was damaged as well.  McNish was devastated telling his team on the radio “I’m sorry lads, I’ve damaged the car badly.  But if you can rebuild it for me I WILL win this race.”  It took the Audi team 45 minutes to get the car put back together and McNish was on his way already 2 laps down.

By the end of daylight the race was running down and things were getting interesting.  McNish, Pirro, and Capello had made up their two laps and were sitting in third right behind the Peugeot 908 and their teammates Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner in the #2 Audi R10/TDI.  After a restart, Christian Klien piloting the 908 got a run on Werner down the backstretch and overtook him as they entered turn 10.  The 908 was able to pull a one second gap on Marco Werner.  McNish had pitted for fresh super soft tires at the last caution and was soon hounding Werner to get by so that he could have a crack at the Peugeot.  It seemed that Werner digressed (the team was hinting at him to let McNish go; scanners are great!) and let McNish go on the backstretch and within a lap the Audi and Peugeot were locked in a bumper to bumper duel.   Using the traffic perfectly McNish got a run on Klien coming out of turn 5 and used the traffic to his advantage perfectly picking Klien into turn 6 and passing another lapper into turn 7 to give him a 1.5 second advantage onto the back straightaway.  Klien wasn’t finished with the Audi yet though.  A few laps later he got a run on the Audi on the backstretch.  He made a fatal error however.  Due to his inexperience at the track (it was his first race there) he seemingly forgot that there was a slight kink to the right at the end of the backstretch.  McNish positioned his Audi right in the middle of the track and when they got to the kink, Klien put the left side of the 908 into the grass at 195mph.  That was all that McNish and Audi needed to seal up the victory.  Klien never got close again.

The drive that McNish put in was the stuff of legend.  You’d have to see the replays (probably available on You Tube) to see what I’m talking about.   He was driving like a man possessed in the final hour.

If you’ve never been to or seen an ALMS race I urge you to.  If you are a fan of motorsports you will love it.  The next ALMS race is October 18th from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, another one of America’s premier racetracks.  Unfortunately it is going to be tape delayed on NBC, but that shouldn’t stop you from watching…

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