Petit LeMans Wednesday Notebook
Jörg Müller marked his return to Road Atlanta and the American Le Mans Series with an impressive showing in Wednesday’s test session for the 12th annual Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA6. The Series’ 2001 GT champion was second quickest in GT2 behind the wheel of the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team BMW M3 that will share with full-season partners Dirk Müller (no relation) and Tommy Milner.
Müller and Andy Priaulx did the initial testing of the M3 in late 2008 prior to its race debut in March at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
“I was back in the car five weeks ago in Hungary,” said Jörg Müller, whose last race in the Series was Petit Le Mans in 2001 – a runner-up finish in a factory BMW M3 GTR. “It felt good to be back in the car and to be back at Road Atlanta. This is one of the big events in the world, and Sebring is another, so it is very good. You need to be at a race like this, and of course I am very happy with the track and the car.”
A PLEASED PANIS: Team ORECA’s introduction to Road Atlanta – actually a re-introduction for the team – went very well, Frenchman Olivier Panis proclaimed. The AIM V10-powered prototype tested Saturday and Sunday, and again Wednesday in both wet (during the weekend) and dry (Wednesday) conditions.
Panis will drive with regular teammate Nicolas LaPierre and Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas, a three-time American Le Mans Series LMP2 champion. LaPierre and Panis are coming to Road Atlanta following a victory two weeks ago in the final Le Mans Series round at Silverstone’s 1,000K.
The ORECA-AIM is one of 11 LMP1 entries for Petit Le Mans – tying an event record.
“I think overall we are pretty pleased with the track. For sure we needed some dry time for a meaningful test and we had a little bit in the afternoon,” said Panis, winner of the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix and veteran of 157 starts in the F1 World Championship. “There are so many things we need to learn about racing in the American Le Mans Series – pit stops, safety car rules and other rules.
“There is not much difference at all in the setup today and how we had the car at Silverstone. We ran the maximum amount of downforce today to learn more about the track. We will adjust leading up to the race. Plus it helps to have someone on the team like Romain who is very familiar with the Series. This will be a tough week.”
200 MPH NETWORKS: Autocon Motorsports’ Adam Larnach is giving americanlemans.com readers an inside look at data acquisition in an American Le Mans Series prototype team. This weekend also marks one full season since the team acquired the AER-powered Lola B06/10 last year.
“Watching and analyzing the telemetry on Autocon’s Lola is a full time job for three people, so we generally have four to five sets of eyes on various pages of data looking for specific information,” said Larnach, Autocon’s DAG (Data Acquisition Guy). “AER will watch a page with engine data - the engineer and DAG will watch an “overview” page while recording lap times, fuel economy and making the necessary strategy adjustments. Occasionally two of the mechanics will watch the chassis data pages or just to assist in keeping an eye on things. There are approximately 19 telemetry pages that cover everything from damper movement to tire pressures in great detail.”
AN IMPROVED ACURA: de Ferran Motorsports’ XM Acura ARX-02a sat third overall after Wednesday’s test session with a best lap of 1:09.137 (132.259 mph), trailing only one Audi R15 TDI and one Peugeot 908 – both diesel-powered entries.
The E10-fueled Acura has improved leaps and bounds since its debut at Sebring in March says past IndyCar and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, who is driving with Pagenaud and team owner Gil de Ferran. The popular Aussie shocked the sports car world with the overall pole position at Sebring.
GAVIN’S TAKE ON CORVETTE: This weekend’s race is by far the toughest Corvette Racing has faced this season. Not only will it face off against seven other manufacturers in GT2 at Road Atlanta, it will be the first time the new Corvette C6.R will run 1,000 consecutive miles at race pace.
“We know there’s all those hurdles to overcome, and we know the likes of BMW, Ferrari and Porsche are going to be exceptionally quick,” said Oliver Gavin, who will drive one of the Corvettes with Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fassler. “We’re going to have to be right on top of our game to be in with a decent shot. This car hasn’t run anywhere near that amount of time all in one go yet, so it’s a bit of an unknown how reliability is going to be. We’ve tested, and we’ve looked and seen and carried over some parts from the GT1 car in terms of transmission and other bits and pieces, but you’re still not sure when you’ve got all those pieces together in a brand new car and a brand new set of circumstances how everything’s going to work out.”
MR. SUN, SUN…MR. GOLDEN SUN: Please continue to shine down on us!
The grounds at Road Atlanta have dramatically dried since last week’s historic rainfall. Campers moved in Wednesday, and the infield was rapidly filling up with spectators on the first day of public activity.
The good news is that the forecast - not to mention crowd - continues to look promising for the rest of the week.