Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 ALMS Petit LeMans GTE preview

Team West/Alex Job Racing #23; Bill Sweedler, Leh Keen, Eric Lux. It really says something that the best team in our GTC preview is ranked last in our GTE review. Indeed, aside from this squad all the other teams here, have at least 1 full time factory driver and also get factory support. A few of them are really full fledged factory squads.

Paul Miller Racing #48; Bryce Miller, Marco Holzer, Emmanuel Collard. Before we took a good look at the massive crash at VIR we automatically assumed it was another amateur driver getting inthe way of a factory driver. Alas we were wrong it was the factory driver's fault. Marco Holzer probably expected the season to go a lot smoother than it has been. Now he might just be bidding his time waiting for the full fledged 2-car factory effort in the USCC next year.

Team Falken Tire #17; Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Nick Tandy. We really felt bad for them when they were taken out at Baltimore. They might have won it again or at least been on the podium. Unlike the Core Autosport team, they did not purchase a new RSR chassis but went back to using their 2010 car, which is simply uncompetitive now. The good news is that, they have a lineup that's as good as anyone else's. All they have to do is squeeze every inch of performance out of the car and run a perfect race, just like they did at Sebring to capture 3rd place. But that was with a new 997 chassis.

Core Autosport #06; Patrick Long, Colin Braun, Michael Christensen. Yes he is Danish but he is not related to Tom Christenssen. But if he is driving for this Porsche backed team he might be on his way to becoming a factory driver. Seeing Colin Braun doing well in GT machinery is no surprise. We think we could have advised him that the Endurance path would be more successfull than Nascar for him. The guy was a rising star in Grand-Am and then at the 24hr of LeMans. But the lure of NASCAR's millions pryed him away from sportscars. He might be auditioning for a Porsche factory role next year. The rock solid Patrick Long is always a good addition to any team. But we would much rather have had him as one of the 4 full time LMP1 drivers already announced. Solid lineup, but the car is basically the same since 2007.

BMW Team RLL #55; Maxime Martin, Uwe Alzen, Jorg Muller. Uwe Alzen and Jorg Muller drove here last year, but Maxime has never been here. In contrast, Maxime knows this car very well but this is the first time Uwe and Jorg will be driving the GT2/GTE version of the BMW Z4. All 3 of these guys are professionals of the highest rank, but so are the guys in the other teams. And there are others who know their cars and the track by heart. We think the only reason for Bobby Rahal going with this lineup is to have a clear lead car which will be the #56 with their lone championship hopeful in it. They do not want any intra-squad battles during the race.

SRT Motorsports #93; Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer, Tommy Kendall. Solid season, and solid lineup. But as it stands, we simply tend to rate the crew of the #91 car higher on the scale. We personally think the lineups should be mixed a bit more.

SRT Motorsports #91; Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel. On the official ALMS entry list, Ryan Dalziel is entered under Starworks Motorsports in LMPC. Starworks' entry has since been withdrawn. But did they withdraw because they could not get him to race for them? We'll never know for sure. But in any case it's worth noting that there are several professional drivers out of a ride who would love to be racing here. Yet Ryan Dalziel possibly had to very good opportunities. It speaks of his talents. This car also has Riley Technologies' own in-house hot-shoe Marc Goossens, and Dominik Farnbacher has driven several GT cars all equally well.

Risi Competizione #62; Olivier Beretta, Matteo Malucelli, Robin Liddell. Given their pace at VIR, they have certainly found something on the car. Well it's rather that they have been given something - a more generous restrictor. In truth the Ferrari F458 is really the best GT car around. Ferrari has built a car as fast as any here, but it sips much less fuel. That prompted the ACO to cut down the fuel tank size of all GTE F458's. Despite their car's pace, Beretta is no longer the driver he once was, and Malucelli has proven to be crash prone. There was a time when Robin Lidell too had a penchant for wanting to match his car's paint job with the walls. This is a very fast car so they could end up on the podium by just running at a predetermined and constant pace. If they were to go all out for the win and managed not to hit anything, the others would have trouble keeping up with them.

BMW Team RLL #56, Dirk Muller, John Edwards, Bill Auberlen. With this lineup there will not be any more intramural face-offs between the team's entrenched veterans, mainly Dirk Muller and Bill Auberlen. It was hidden from the laymen but clear as daylight to the connoisseur throughtout the season. Add in superfast "young gun" John edwards (someone get him in Indy or F1) and if the right circumstances produce themselves this team could win it.

Corvette Racing #4; Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Richard Westbrook. This is really the best lineup up in the GTE class. Last year at Petit, since this car was already champion, the team was pushing for the #3 to win so Jan Magnussen could keep his seasonal win streak alive. It didn't work. Since the #3 car is leading the championship this year, the Corvette brain trust will once again brief this car on its role. But in our humble opinion, the team had a role in the #3 car, rather than this one being the championship leader. They will only be allowed to shine if the #3 car hits trouble.

Corvette Racing #3; Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor. This car is leading the ALMS championship, and all the team's favors are being bestowed on them. Don't forget this is also Dan Binks, the team's lead crew chief's car. Barring anything taking it out of the race, or a mechanical failure, the sister car will play the super sidekick to help this car get the victory.