Apr 15, 2011

2011 ALMS at Long Beach Preview

The second round of the ALMS series is upon us, as five distinct classes are set to clash at the picturesque, yet unforgiving street circuit of Long Beach this Saturday evening. The 11-turn circuit is demanding and intense, while its unique backdrop of palm trees and ocean provides an atmosphere that’s rivaled by few other tracks. It’s this intriguing combination that has made the streets of Long Beach a fan favorite since partnering with the American Le Mans Series in 2007.

For the drivers the trip won’t be as serene, with many teams trying to diminish any deficits set at Sebring. For those teams trying to rebound the operative phrase for this weekend’s race is ‘track position’.

Corvette’s Tommy Milner weighs in. “Long Beach is all about track position,” Milner explained. “Obviously pace is important, but track position is crucial because it’s so difficult to pass there.”

Indeed, extra emphasis must be placed on qualifying well and putting together a flawless pit strategy to secure a podium finish. Unfortunately Risi Competizione has already lost that first battle due to an unfortunate incident during qualification. Driver Jaime Melo explains. “I was just starting on a quick lap, changed through the gears and lost the rear of the car at Turn 2.  I slightly touched the tire wall and it knocked the rear wing off the car; we didn’t have enough time to repair it [the wing and supports] in the pits during qualifying.  It’s a big disappointment for me and the team.”

The team will now have to find a way to claw itself from the back of the field, definitely not a position to envy especially considering the team is currently in sixth place in GT standings.

The team to beat in GT is BMW/Rahal Letterman. With a one-two finish at Sebring the team knows that everyone else is gunning for them, but Bill Auberlen of the number 55 BMW is confident.Long Beach is my home track. I’ve been all over the victory podium, but never on the top spot. I believe this is our year. We have the car, the team and the tire to win it.”

BMW has every right to be confident after Joey Hand of the no. 56 BMW scored pole position, putting Rahal Letterman exactly where they want to be.

LMP1 is all about Muscle Milk and Dyson this weekend. We spoke of deficits earlier and no team wants to erase their Sebring mishaps more than Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing. After posting a DNF at Sebring Muscle Milk finds itself 30 points behind the class leader Dyson Racing and their Loyla-Mazda. To help get the team back on track, four-time ALMS Champion Lucas Luhr will partner with Klaus Graf for Muscle Milk. However, it’s Dyson racing that will lead from the pole with Muscle Milk starting just behind them in second.

Leading the field for GTC will be current class leader Black Swan Racing. The team qualified with a 1:23.179, which was a record-breaking lap for the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. The team has some serious speed at Long Beach, but the GTC class is full of tough competitors so you can’t rule anyone out prior to the green flag.

All of the glamour of Long Beach, mixed with the grit and grind of ALMS racing will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com with coverage starting at 7:15 pm ET on April 16. ESPN2 will air delayed coverage on the 17 at 5 pm ET.

[Photos and Video Property of AmericanLeMans.com]

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