Allan McNish quickest at Road Atlanta
Braselton, Ga. – Audi hasn't lost an American Le Mans Series race at Road Atlanta since its debut in 2000. Through the first day of the ninth annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda CX-7, it appears the German manufacturer will continue its unbeaten streak.
Allan McNish, racing in Petit Le Mans for the first time since winning in 2000, turned in the fastest time during Wednesday's opening test session for the 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic at 1:12.271 (126.524 mph). McNish's LMP1-championship winning No. 2 Audi R10 TDI, which he will share with Dindo Capello, was 0.485 seconds ahead of the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola of James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace.
McNish's explanation of Audi's success at the Georgia road course was rather simplistic. "It's the same as why Audi has been so successful at all the other venues," said the Scot, who holds the Series qualifying record of 1:10.379 set in 2000. "Here it is amplified. It's a more intense circuit than Sebring, and that makes everything you do more critical."
Third in class was the No. 88 Creation-Judd, making its first appearance in the Series since 2004 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The car, driven by Nic Minassian, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Harold Primat, was fourth overall at 1:13.449. Two other P1 entries – the other diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI and the Zytek 06S – were within 0.1 seconds of the Creation car.
Penske Racing's Sascha Maassen went fastest in LMP2 in the No. 6 Porsche RS Spyder he is sharing with Timo Bernhard and Emmanuel Collard. Maassen's time of 1:12.810 was 0.774 seconds better than the No. 7 sister car of Lucas Luhr, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller. Maassen and Luhr are tied for the class championship lead, 5 points ahead of Clint Field and Liz Halliday of Intersport Racing.
The Intersport Lola, which also will see Jon Field share driving duties, turned in a time of 1:13.721. The outlook for the weekend, though, turned considerably bleak late in the prototype session. Halliday, going through the Esses, came up on a considerably slower GT2 car and was forced to lock up the brakes on the Lola to avoid a collision. But in missing the GT2 car, she went off track and hit the wall, causing considerable damage. Team members weren't optimistic of having the car ready for any of Thursday's sessions and were hoping to have the car ready for qualifying Friday.
In GT1, Aston Martin Racing's Tomas Enge was the quickest driver in class with a 1:18.516 in the No. 007 Aston Martin DBR9. The Czech pilot, who is teaming with Darren Turner, was 0.253 seconds ahead of the No. 009 sister car of Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy. The two green DBR9s were more than a full second clear of Corvette Racing's two Corvette C6.Rs, the first being the No. 4 entry of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen.
Ralf Kelleners, making his first start in the American Le Mans Series since the Lime Rock Park round in July, had the fastest time in GT2. Driving Risi Competizione's No. 62 Ferrari F430GT, Kelleners turned in a lap of 1:23.375, less than a half second ahead of the other Risi Ferrari – the No. 61 car of Anthony Lazzaro, Maurizio Mediani and Marino Franchitti.
Third in class was the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Nic Jonsson at 1:23.906. Risi, Petersen/White Lightning and Flying Lizard Motorsports are locked in a tight battle for the class championship heading into the ninth round.
The 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda CX-7, Round 9 of the American Le Mans Series, is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday, September 30. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT and 3 to 10 p.m. EDT with MotorsTV providing live coverage in Europe. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.