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ALMS championships going down to wire
It’s fitting that one of the most competitive seasons in the history of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n goes down to the wire. Not only will Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA2 mark the end of the 2010 season and the second round of the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, but championships in all four Series classes will be up for grabs on what is a true global stage.

Thirty points go to class winners at Road Atlanta. Of the Series’ 17 points championships, only two have been decided – Michelin clinched the tire manufacturer crowns in LMP and GT over the weekend at Mosport. All other title chases for chassis, automobile and engine manufacturers, teams, drivers and IMSA Cup (top independent team in each class) remain in play.

Never before has there been this much at stake going into a season-ending race for the American Le Mans Series. Here is where we stand heading into the 13th annual 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic...

It’s a two-horse race between Patr¢n Highcroft Racing and Muscle Milk Team CytoSport. Patr¢n Highcroft and its duo of David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud have won three times with their HPD ARX-01c prototype. Meanwhile, Muscle Milk’s Klaus Graf has three wins to his credit (two with Greg Pickett, one with Romain Dumas) and sits 16 points behind Brabham and Pagenaud.

Like the season-opening race at Sebring, Petit Le Mans will feature LMP1 and LMP2 classes; both PHR and CytoSport’s Porsche RS Spyder will run in the latter. Assuming six cars in the class – those two plus Dyson Racing, Libra Racing and Oak Racing’s announcement that it will enter two Pescarolo-Judds – the numbers strongly favor Highcroft. It would only need to complete 70 percent of the class-winning car’s distance to win the championship.

Should it finish seventh and the Muscle Milk Porsche wins in class, both will have 166 points. Graf and Muscle Milk and Porsche (engine) would win the championship with four victories to PHR’s three. In the manufacturer standings, HPD needs a third-place finish or better to clinch over Lola.

GT: This has been wide-open since before the season started. Let’s start with the drivers’ race. Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, looking for their second straight title with Flying Lizard Motorsports, lead Risi Competizione’s Gimmi Bruni by 22 points. Bergmeister (a four-time champion) and Long (twice a champion) need to be classified 10th or better to wrap up the title.

The team and manufacturer fights are where it really gets interesting. Porsche and Flying Lizard lead BMW and BMW Rahal Letterman Racing team by a single point. There are so many possible outcomes that it would be impossible to list them all. With Porsche holding the tiebreaker over BMW (four victories to one entering the race), the BMW M3 GT needs to finish at best two positions ahead of any of the Porsches (two full-season entries from Flying Lizard and one for Team Falken Tire).

Risi Competizione and Ferrari – with Extreme Speed Motorsports also in its camp – are still in the mix. Risi (with three wins on the season) can win the championship with a victory and fifth-place finish or worse for both Flying Lizard AND BMW Rahal Letterman Racing. Ferrari would win the manufacturer title with a victory and a fourth-place finish or worse for the highest-finishing BMW and Porsche.

LMPC: Gunnar Jeannette (Green Earth Team Gunnar) and Scott Tucker (Level 5 Motorsports) each have four victories on the season. The drivers and their respective teams are deadlocked entering the final race. So it’s pretty simple – winner-take-all at Petit Le Mans.

Tucker won the Sebring 12 Hours earlier this year with Christophe Bouchut and Mark Wilkins. But Jeannette and Elton Julian have won three times in the last four races to draw the G-Oil GETG entry even.

GTC: Despite missing Sebring and only earning 3 points at Long Beach, Black Swan Racing’s Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen lead by 17 points over Velox Racing’s Shane Lewis – a winner with Mosport in tandem with Lawson Aschenbach. A classified finish of 10th or better will sew up the title for Pappas/Bleekemolen.

Lewis needs to win and have BSR’s pairing place ninth or worse while Alex Job Racing’s Bill Sweedler remains in title contention too. He needs to win and have Pappas/Bleekemolen not be classified and Lewis to finish fourth or worse.

In the team standings, Black Swan leads Alex Job Racing by just 7 points but Velox remains mathematically alive. Anything better than third-place points for Black Swan would wrap up the championship. Assuming that, AJR would need to finish fourth or better to stay ahead of Velox (assuming the latter wins Petit Le Mans). Velox could still win the title with a victory, zero points for Black Swan and fifth place or worse for Alex Job Racing.

The final round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n is Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA2 at Road Atlanta. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is set for 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 2. SPEED will air the race starting at 11 a.m., with live radio coverage available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Americanlemans.com will stream qualifying live starting at 3:15 p.m. ET on Friday, October 1. Visit the Series’ schedule page for ticket and accommodation information.

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