Petit LeMans Wednesday notebook
Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 marks Liz Halliday’s return to American Le Mans Series competition, and she could not be more pleased. The winningest female driver in Series history, Halliday will drive one of Creation Autosportif’s Creation CA07-AIM factory prototypes in LMP1 with works drivers Stuart Hall and Dean Stirling.
Saturday’s race will be Halliday’s first in the Series since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2007. She has never competed in an LMP1 machine in the Series.
“It’s great to be back racing in America,” she said. “I had forgotten how hard prototypes are on your neck. But the car is really good and really fast. We have a great team and great crew with a lot of experience at this track. The race will be very challenging with a full grid of top cars and drivers, and the Series has continued to improve since the last time that I raced in it, but I am definitely ready to be back.
“As I haven't done much racing in the USA since 2006, I am interested to see how things have improved and developed, specifically the use of cellulosic E85 which I hope makes its way into more areas of motorsport soon. ‘Green racing’ is definitely the future and I am proud to be supporting it as a driver.”
Both Creation entries will be powered by cellulosic E85.
SPEAKING OF CREATION: Autocon Motorsports is continuing to gain experience and track time with its new AER-powered Lola B06/10 that it acquired just a couple of weeks ago. The team had campaigned a Creation-Judd since the middle of last season and also drove it this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Why the change?
“It was a good time and a good experience for all of us but we are ready to move on to a fully compliant P1 package,” team owner Mike Lewis said. “We have an aim of going back to Le Mans and the Lola can help us do that.
“We still have part of the Creation with us that we can lend to the factory guys should they need it,” he added.
Chris McMurry, Bryan Willman and Tony Burgess will drive the Lola at Road Atlanta.
TWO FOR PRIMETIME: A two-driver lineup worked so well at Sebring for Primetime Race Group that the GT2 team is employing the same strategy this week at Road Atlanta. Chris Hall and Joel Feinberg finished fifth in class at the 12 Hours in the team’s Dodge Viper Competition Coupe.
“To bring in a third driver can confuse a lot of things since we are competing in the 10th race of the season,” said Feinberg, the team owner. “My style and Chris’ style are very similar. We drive the car the same way. The risks and rewards of bringing in a third guy for a one-off just didn’t make sense. We wanted to drive fast but consistent. Our goal is to drive 85 to 90 percent of what we can run until about the ninth hour and hope to be there in the end. The race hasn’t always been won by the fastest car.”
A FORD FOR PILGRIM: Yes, that was a GM man in the pits of a Ford GT-R team Wednesday. Andy Pilgrim will co-drive Black Swan Racing’s GT2 entry with Anthony Lazzaro and team owner Tim Pappas. Pilgrim is part of Chevrolet’s factory road-racing program but received permission from GM to drive Pappas’ car.
Looking ahead, it’s not a bad idea. Corvette Racing announced in September that it will move to GT2 following next year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pilgrim said not to read too much into his drive this weekend as he doesn’t know how Corvette Racing will utilize him next season.
“Tim had wanted me to drive the car for awhile and it worked out this race where I could,” Pilgrim said. “It’s good to get the experience in GT2 because of the future of GM’s Corvette program and testing the GT2 car.”
CORSA’S ODYSSEY: The last few days have been educational for Corsa Motorsports and its new Zytek LMP1. The Utah-based team is debuting the new prototype.
“For us, testing over the weekend was very beneficial,” said Johnny Mowlem, who will drive with Gunnar Jeannette and newly announced Stefan Johansson. “It is the first race for a new car and virtually a new team. There is a lot that will need to jell but I’m confident.”
Mowlem and Jeanette drove a Ferrari in the early part of the season for Steve Pruitt’s Corsa team before the Zytek program took shape. To say it’s a different world would be an understatement.
“I knew the Ferrari inside and out,” Mowlem said. “Now we are learning this car and how it handles in different conditions. Everyone on the team is learning everything from scratch. We’re never going to compete with the faster cars. If we can qualify in the top 15 and finish in the top 10, I think it will have been a good week.”
MEANWHILE AT LNT: UK-based Team LNT is at Road Atlanta for the first time and with a new Zytek LMP1 of its own to boot. Danny Watts and Olivier Pla are driving the Zytek 07S that is fit with an upgraded 4.5-liter V8 motor. Jumping into a class against the likes Audi and Peugeot, among others, will be a challenge.
“We have a very tough fight ahead of us this week,” said Pla, who had the fourth-fastest time overall and second in P1 in Wednesday’s test session. “We had a great test on Saturday and Sunday, and the car has shown to be very fast. Zytek has a lot of data from previous years here so that will help. But it’s a brand new track and a brand new championship for me. I’m looking forward to it.”