Friday, March 9, 2012

2012 12hrs of Sebring preview: Prototype Challenge class

For 2012, the ACO has decided that all series it sanctions should call this class LeMans Prototype Challenge. No big change in the American LeMans Series because that's been the standard appellation there, since these cars began running in 2010.

In the former LeMans series - now the European LeMans Series - this category was named Formula LeMans. So essentially the ELMS is switching its category name. We imagine they decided to adopt the ALMS' naming convention because it fits right in with the the other class names. Such as LMP1, LMP2, and LMPC. Instead of FLM.

Here are are our predictions:

Just happy to be here:

Core Autosport #06. There are no named drivers in this entry. it could either be a strong lineup or a midpack runner. But our haunch is that this entry will not see the green flag.

Merchant Services #7. Chapman Ducote took over Intersport racing's operations. So it's essentially the same team, just with new management. We will miss Jon Field's daring exploits on the track.

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing #5. While Muscle Milk's P1 entry is a strong contender for the ALMS P1 championship, and in a best case scenario a podium contender for the Sebring race, expectations are not so high for the LPMC entry.

Looking for a good result.

RSR Racing #9. Last year, with Bruno Junqueira at the wheel, the Jaguar XKR showed flashes of what it could be with more development. In LMPC where everyone has supposedly equal machinery, we can realistically expect far better performances from RSR. Bruno is as fast as any driver on this grid. But the team has been average to mediocre for so long and it might take them time to adjust to running among front runners. Tommy Drisi is in the car, but a 3rd driver has not been announced. He won a race in LMPC with Kyle Marcelli last year. The potential of this car could go higher or lower depending on who the 3rd person is.

Core Autosport #05. Colin Braun is back in sports car racing. Ever since his 2nd place in GT2 at LeMans in 2007, his sports car forays have been limited. He will be in the ALMS for a full season in 2012. Running in the Nascar truck series and the Nationwide series were surely a lot more financially rewarding than whatever he can expect to gain from the ALMS. But financial matters aside, finishing 20th out of a 45 car field can only be so satisfying. In LMPC he can
realistically aim for the podium during the season.

Dempsey Racing #025. Just having Patrick Dempsey in the car could have gave Corvette Racing some competition during the autograph session. Popularity contests aside, this is one of the best lineups in LMPC. Last year's pole position battle between Dane Cameron and Ryan Dalziel was very entertaining. It's realistic to expect Dane Cameron to claim the pole again. Duncan Ende is a solid driver, and Henri Richard is experienced. We didn't rank them higher because of the team being new to the ALMS. Rules, strategies, a new car, are all intangibles that come into play during a 12-hour race. To be honest we expected them to field a P2 entry for the season.

The heavy hitters.

Merchant Services Racing #8. Kyle Marcelli was one of the stars in LMPC last year. Had he been with a solid steady teammate he could have been champion. Talents like him make the ALMS' prototype challenge class worth watching. With a steady teammate this year this could be a championship contending entry.

Performance Tech Motorsports #18. Probably the most accomplished driver in the LMPC field, we always envisioned Raphael Matos landing in Formula 1 someday. It was a very realistic thought. He was simply that good. But F1 takes more than talent to crack. We're still a big fan of his and are looking forward to watching him fighting it out with Kyle Marcelli and Dane Cameron for pole position.

PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52. They get the nod over Performance Tech because of the presence of Mr Steady Hands, Butch Leitzinger. There's no blazing or sultry fast drivers here. But what they have is stability. Rundy Junco was the 3rd
man helping Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez in long distance races last year. Butch Leitzinger was Dyson racing's finisher in the #20 car when they had the RS Spyder in 2008.