Braselton, Ga. – Twenty-five lead changes, 16 cars, 11 teams, five world-class manufacturers and 12 hours make for thrilling racing. It gets even better over the course of a 10-race schedule. That’s what awaits fans of the American Le Mans Series during the next six months of competition in the Series’ GT2 class.
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring offered a glimpse at what drivers are calling the deepest, most competitive GT2 field in the eight-year history of the American Le Mans Series. In the season opener, prestigious marques BMW, Ferrari, Panoz and Porsche all led at one point with Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz’ No. 50 Panoz Esperante GTLM taking a scant 5.365-second win over the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Risi Competizione’s No. 62 Ferrari F430GT was another 50 seconds back, marking the first time in Sebring’s 54-year history that the top three finishers in class ended the 12 Hours on the same lap.
Now it’s on to Houston for the Lone Star Grand Prix, the second round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series. The nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street circuit at Reliant Park will make the GT2 class even more action-packed.
“It’s probably the most competitive class not just in terms of numbers but also in diversity of manufacturers,” said Multimatic’s Scott Maxwell, who drove to a Sebring class win with David Brabham and Champ Car star Sebastien Bourdais. “We had three cars on the lead lap in the latter hours, sometimes as many as four or five. It is hard to tell right now who has the advantage. I think it will sway back and forth as we go to different venues. We could be the guys to beat one weekend and someone else could have an advantage the next.”
The GT2 class always has been one of the most competitive in the American Le Mans Series. Eleven different teams have won races since the Series’ formation in 1999, including three different winners in both 2004 and ’05. Given the close finish at Sebring 2006 likely will produce similar results, especially when Lexus enters the fold later this year.
“We are pleased with the car’s performance,” said Risi Competizione Team Managing Director Giuseppe Risi. “We knew going in that GT2 would be the most competitive class. What could be better? A great car and some great competition.”
“It’s a hard thing to win a race in this Series,” added Flying Lizard’s Johannes van Overbeek, who will drive the No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Wolf Henzler. “This year, the depth of the teams, the quality of the cars and the quality of the drivers.I don’t know of any other series that has the depth of quality cars and drivers. There are probably five or six cars that could win. Some tracks will suit some cars, some tracks other cars. That number could shift wherever we race. The only thing we can do is work as hard as we can and do the best we can in preparing for each race.”
The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT on May 12 in Houston. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. May 13 EDT on CBS Sports, the first of five straight Series events on network television. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. CDT on May 11. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will have IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.