Wednesday
Aug202008

Mosport: Race Preview

The American Le Mans Series heads north of the border this weekend to Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada for the eighth round of the season. After a spectacular twilight battle at Road America, the championship has kicked into high gear as only four races remain. With the Detroit Belle Isle round only six days after the Canadian excursion, teams will have to keep their cars in one piece in order to make it through the back-to-back weekend contest.

From one North American treasure to the next: Mosport is yet another classic venue that provides challenges to drivers and teams. Built in the late 1950s, the track has remained relatively intact from its original layout. The 10-turn, 2.459-mile circuit has a certain mystique to it, making it a driver’s favorite, but also one of the most demanding on the Series schedule.

photo by: John Thawley “Mosport is a really fast circuit,” Risi Competizione’s Mika Salo said, “and also very difficult with both high speed corners and some blind corners to make life complicated!  Our car was really good here last year and we raced quite easily in the end.  It’s the type of circuit where you need to have very good car balance to trust the handling in the high-speed corners.”

Salo and co-driver Jamie Melo in Risi’s Ferrari F430 GT will only be making their second start at Mosport, but know the challenges the circuit produces. It’s especially tough on GT2 cars, as drivers have to constantly look in their mirrors.

“The traffic will be difficult because of the speed of the prototypes,” Salo added.  “There’s obviously the speed difference at all tracks, but here they will have much more downforce so they’ll be able to carry their speed through the corners better than we can.”

Two LMP1s that will be worth to keep an eye on are Audi Sport North America’s R10 TDIs. The German diesels are fresh off a second consecutive 1-2 finish overall at Road America and hope to continue that momentum here this weekend.

“Mosport is a fantastic circuit of the old-caliber which is steeped in history and happens to be one of my favorite circuits,” Emanuele Pirro said. “All the corners are very fast. The track is very challenging for a driver. The Audi R10 TDI is very good at Mosport, even though you feel the high weight in the fast corners.”

photo by: John Thawley Pirro is paired this weekend with fellow Italian Dindo Capello, who returns to the cockpit of the No. 1 machine. Capello sat out the last race at Road America as Marcel Fassler steered the car to a second place finish. The Swiss driver will team with Pirro again at Detroit but was unable to compete this weekend in Canada because of driving duties in the FIA GT Championship. Capello is no stranger to Mosport. In fact, he and Allan McNish won the 2000 race here by just 0.148 seconds  - the closest ever finish in ALMS history. He has two other Mosport wins to his credit, on top of holding the track record.

Pirro and Capello will be trying to catch their teammates Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr, who have been on a tear as of late. The German duo has scored class victories in the last six races and are close to sealing up the P1 drivers’ championship. They hold a 62-point margin over second-placed Pirro. A few bad runs by the No. 1 car could seal the deal for the No. 2 crew.

There will once again be five LMP1 entries on the grid, with the two Intersport Racing Lola B06/10 AERs being joined by Autocon’s Creation CA06-H Judd for local driver Tony Burgess and team veteran Chris McMurry.

photo by: Chris ClarkThe face of the LMP2 category remains unchanged since Road America, with James Rossiter having his second go in Andretti Green Racing’s Acura ARX-01b. The Englishman partners Franck Montagny in the XM Satellite Radio-sponsored machine, hoping to erase the team’s streak of bad luck. The duo came just laps away from a class victory at Road America, only to get taken out in an accident with less than 15 minutes remaining.

All four Acuras should be strong this weekend, in addition to the two Penske Porsche RS Spyders. Don’t count any of these cars out for the overall win either, despite the fact that Audi has scored six overall Mosport wins in the last nine years.

In GT1, Bell Motorsports is riding high after their second place in class finish at Road America. This, though, came because of the demise of the No. 4 Corvette Racing C6.R, which crashed out late in the race. It opened the door for Corvette’s No. 3 pairing of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen to take another class victory, their sixth of the season. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta need a turnaround in luck, and what better place for it to start than this weekend.

Only 12 entries are slated to start in GT2, two fewer than at Road America. Risi Competizione’s No. 61 Ferrari has been withdrawn because of a scheduling conflict, while Tim Pappas’ Black Swan Racing Doran Ford GT-R never entered this race, opting to spend more time testing before returning for Detroit.

photo by: Chris ClarkFlying Lizard Motorsports and Tafel Racing are locked inside a fierce battle for the class title. The classic Porsche vs. Ferrari duel heats up this weekend with the two rivals only separated by a handful of points. The Lizard’s No. 45 pair of Jorg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler have a nine point lead over Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher in the Tafel Racing Ferrari.

“I am very happy about the competition in our class,” Muller said. “This pushes everybody on the team to give their best to receive always the maximum. We don’t need to win every week, but we like to be ahead at the end of the year. It is so tight right now in points that I believe it will come down to the last race in the last lap!”

For the first time this season, neither of these championship contenders claimed victory at the last round. Instead, it was the Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Dirk Werner, Richard Westbrook and Bryce Miller who captured the checkered flag, the team’s first in the Series. Pierre Kaffer rejoins the Connecticut-based squad this weekend to pair with Werner, as Westbrook will be racing in the streets of Bucharest, Romania this weekend in the FIA GT Championship. 

photo by: John Thawley In other entry-related news, Marc Basseng will make his second start in VICI Racing’s Porsche, while Panoz Team PTG has added Bryan Sellers to its arsenal. While on the topic of PTG, its Panoz, as well as the Doran Ford GT-R, Aston Martin Vantage and Chevrolet Riley Corvette have been given balance of performance adjustments. All these cars can now move its rear wing to a new position, defined below:

 

a. The complete wing assembly must not form the highest point of the bodywork.
b. It must not be backward of the rearmost point of the car. Any bodywork modification or extension the purpose of which is to increase the dimensions of the wing or to move it backward is prohibited.

In addition, starting at Detroit, the Doran Ford GT-R may run its restrictor two levels above the car’s declared weight without moving the rear wing, or one restrictor level above with the rear wing adjustment.

Track activity begins on Friday with a two-hour test session in the afternoon, followed by official practice and qualifying on Saturday. The two-hour and 45-minute race gets the green flag at 3:05 p.m. EST on Sunday. As always, trackbytes.com will be on-site all weekend long to provide exclusive content, straight to your desktop!

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