No Peugeot, no Audi, so who are you going to root for?

Gil de Ferran puts the Acura through the corkscrew at the Mazda Laguna Seca racewayh during practice Thursday afternoon.

Gil de Ferran puts the Acura through the corkscrew at the Mazda Laguna Seca raceway during practice Thursday afternoon.

SALINAS, Ca — With neither the Le Mans and Petite Le Mans winning Peugeot team on hand, nor its chief rival Audi for the final American Le Mans series race this weekend at Mazda LaGuna Seca raceway, the question is who will you choose to root for? The answer is that there are a number of interesting plot lines at the final event — and plenty of choices.

How about Brazilian Gil deFerran who will be competiting in his final race as a driver, and who turned the fastest time of the day driving the LMP1 XM Radio Acura ARX-02a. He toured the storied track in 1:12.557 to lead all comers. His nearest competition came from series leader David Brabham in the Patron-sponsored Acura ARX-02a. Brabham and co-driver Scott Sharp have a 21 point lead over de Ferran and his co driver Simon Pagenaud.

A victory for de Ferran and something catastrophic for Brabham and Sharp, and a season of strong performances by the Patron team could go the way of  the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

But in the LMP1 class there are two other compelling stories: The first is the Drayson Racing team which mid-season made the switch from a GT-2 Aston-Martin Vantage to a  Lola \Judd LMP1 car. The team got is feet wet two weeks ago at the Petite Le Mans event at Road Atlanta and have had another 10 days to further sort out the car.

Drivers Jonny Cocker and Lord Paul Drayson are still “getting the hang” of chauffering the British Racing Green P1 car around the track. It is an issue of learning the nuances of the P1 car, where the downforce produced by the car aerodynamics is significantlyh different than that of their GT2 Aston Martin Vantage which had been campaigned earlier in the season.

While the Drayson-Cocker team might be the darkest of dark horses, you can not rule them out because of the experience of their TeamManager, Dale White, who has managed multiple winners at Le Mans, Sebring and elsewhere. With the LaGuna track requiring a set-up for both the tight turns of the famous corkscrew as well as straights, if White finds the combination that will allow his drivers to drive at ten-tenths, British Green could push the series-leading Acuras for the top spot.

Team Drayson was three seconds and change behind the de Ferran — but made progress with each session it was on the track.

Andyou can not root for Steve Steve Pruitt’s Corsa Motorsports team that is running a Zytek engine with a Kinetic Energy Recovert System (KERS). The team has fought teething issues all year but has shown moments of speed and is only a couple of seconds behind the Drayson team.

In the LmP2 class, the Lowe’s Fernandez Acura Acura ARX 01B with Luis Diaz at the wheel took the fast time of the day and was third fastest behind its big brother P1 cars. The Fernandez-Diaz combination has been solid gold all season and has already sewn up both the driver and car championship.

However, waiting in the wings is the Mazda team — and withMazda now holding the title sponsorship for La Guna Seca raceway, it is likely that both of the Mazda cars will be amped up give bragging rights to Zoom Zoom brand. The two Lola Mazdas are a couple of seconds off the pace set by Fernandez and Diaz.

GT2 will see perhaps the most competitive class on the track with the top eight cars, led by the Flying Lizards Porsche of Jorg Burgmeister and Patrick Long, were all within one second of each other. The Burgmeister-Long team leads the series in the GT2 class but the Ferrari of Jaime Melo Pierre Kaffer in second would like to make it interesting at the last race of the season.

So even though the giants of the sport deserted  Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Patron Monterey Sports Car Championship, there are plenty of cars and team to cheer for.


  • ken October 26, 2009

    that was a fantastic race! glad to have been there in person.

  • Mark Petry February 19, 2010

    Some fantastic pictures from last fall – and I really enjoyed the nite shots that is the lead images on the blog. Back in the day it was hard to get that kind of exposure latitude with film but the latest digital sensors do the trick. Really great, top quality journalism – an endangered species!

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