ALMS’ Best on Display in Monterey

Thirty-four of the world’s top sports cars take on the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit next week in the American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón. This six-hour enduro in Monterey, Calif., offers a heartier points payout and, with the Le Mans break on the horizon, represents a pivotal moment in the 2012 season.

An eclectic mix of prototype and GT cars dot the entry for the third round of the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón championship. Twenty-five teams representing an astounding 13 automobile, chassis and engine manufacturers – along with four tire manufactures – make up the roster. This year’s race marks the 14th consecutive year Mazda Raceway plays host to an ALMS round – including the third straight six-hour enduro.

Just two races into the season, championship battles are in full swing. The ALMS’ two premier championships – P1 and GT – boast razor-thin margins. In the case of P1, no margin exists, with four drivers tied for the championship lead. Dyson Racing’s Chris Dyson and Guy Smith clinched last year’s class championship at Mazda Raceway (race was held in September). The duo won in its Lola-Mazda coupe at Sebring to open the season, but is neck-and-neck with Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing – winners in the most recent round at Long Beach while driving a Honda Performance Development ARX-03a.

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, however, has the upper hand in the prototype Michelin Green X Challenge team championship, which it leads by seven points over Dyson Racing.

The drivers championship in GT is close as well. BMW Team RLL’s Joey Hand and Dirk Müller lead again, after winning the 2011 GT title. The Sebring winners are just three points up on Corvette Racing’s duo of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, who celebrated victory at Long Beach. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, also from the Corvette stable, are another seven points back.

BMW and Chevrolet are also tied in the GT manufacturer chase. Plenty of competition comes from Porsche, however, which has four teams on the entry – two 911 GT3 RSRs from Flying Lizard Motorsports and one each from Paul Miller Racing and Team Falken Tire. The competition is just as close in the GT Michelin Green X Challenge team championship as the No. 56 BMW of Hand and Müller is a mere three points ahead of the No. 3 Corvette of Garcia and Magnussen. 

Ferrari – with two Ferrari F458 Italias for Extreme Speed Motorsports – and a Lotus Evora for Alex Job Racing also factor into the GT race. Aston Martin Racing, after winning overall at Mazda Raceway last year with a Lola-Aston Martin coupe in P2, fields an Aston Martin Vantage in GT for a third straight ALMS race.

Level 5 Motorsports’ duo of Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker are two-for-two in 2012, with P2 wins at Sebring and Long Beach. They lead Level 5’s attack of two HPD ARX-03b prototypes against the likes of Conquest Endurance and its Morgan-Nissan. Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson trail the Bouchut/Tucker pairing by 11 points.

Adding to the strong possibility of additional drama in the P2 class, Dempsey Racing took delivery of a new Lola-Judd prototype over the weekend and has hinted at making its P2 debut at Mazda Raceway.

CORE autosport’s Alex Popow won the opening two rounds in Prototype Challenge and leads the class championship by 14 points over CORE teammates Colin Braun and Jon Bennett.

Six other teams with ORECA FLM09s vie for their first class win of the season – Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Merchant Services Racing (with two cars), RSR Racing, Performance Tech Motorsports, Dempsey Racing and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

In GT Challenge, Green Hornet Racing used its victory at Long Beach to move drivers Damien Faulkner and Peter LeSaffre into the championship lead by one point.

They lead Alex Job Racing’s Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen, with a host of other teams fielding Porsche 911 GT3 Cups in hot pursuit – including TRG, last year’s GTC winner at MRLS, along with JDX Racing, Competition Motorsports, a two-car entry for NGT Motorsports, and GMG Racing.

The American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón is set for 1:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 12, from the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. ESPN2 airs the race at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 13. Live coverage is available starting at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

The Series’ website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch the Monterey round and all ALMS races live on ALMS.com. 

Courtesy of ALMS.com