Thursday, May 11, 2006

ALMS races around a parking lot

So there's only 24 entries and they're racing around a track created out of the parking lot for the Houston Astrodome, but Friday night's ALMS race may actually be a cracker. Listening in to John Hindhaugh calling the commentary during qualifying on Radio Le Mans today, it's clear that Audi are on the back foot, Porsche are looking great, and if Dyson can get their new Lola to be reliable, they might be in with a shot too.

Audi are running the venerable old R8 for three races before Le Mans, whilst they prep the new diesel R10 for the 24 hour race. After Le Mans, the R10 will be back in the US. Until then, they have to put up with the smaller restrictors and compromised aero package that the rules stipulate for prototypes based on the old LMP900 rules. The R10 fully conforms with the ACO's new LMP1 rules. Last year the rule changes cost Audi 4 seconds a lap at Le Mans, so the handicap will continue for three more races.

Porsche continue to develop their RS Spyder in the lightweight LMP2 class, in what is turning out to be the best example of how LMP2 cars can actually compete with LMP1, as the ACO originally intended. We may very well witness the first overall win for an LMP2 car at this event, since the tight twisty track better suits the light, agile chassis designs of the class.

The other potential winner is the Dyson team. They have two of the new Lola LMP1 cars, the B06/10. At Sebring they worked hard to iron out teething problems, and if the cars hold together, they have the speed to win. James Weaver put the 16 car on pole position during qualifying this evening, illustrating the competitiveness of the package. Unfortunately the team car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith only ran eight laps today, sidelined by low oil pressure. The question is whether it can be fixed given the abbreviated nature of the race meeting.

Look for the Intersport team to pick up the pieces should anything go wrong with the top contenders. Their little Lola LMP2 car is incredibly reliable and on this bumpy track, that finds cars in first gear four times per lap, reliability will of course be key.

In the GT classes, well, let's just say Corvette v Aston Martin and Porsche v Ferrari. Some classic GT racing marques going at it hammer and tongs. [cue Monty Burns voice: "eeeeexcellent!"]

The race starts at 8pm Houston time, that's 5pm around here and 1am if you're in England. US residents will have to wait until Saturday lunchtime to watch the race, which is on CBS.

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