TUDOR United SportsCar

TUSCC: Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda Preview

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ATLANTA, Ga. — After an inaugural unified sports car season full of action and drama, the champions of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will finally be determined this weekend at the Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda at Road Atlanta. The headliner Prototype division, has seen two teams of note rise to the forefront in 2014. Action Express Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing enter the season finale with a class leading three wins each in 2014, however 0nly the former enters the state of Georgia with a shot at the championship thanks to a more consistent finishing resume. With the exception of the three wins by Ganassi’s Ford EcoBoost powered Riley Daytona Prototype, plus two wins from LMP eligible cars, the season has been a coming out party for the Chevrolet Corvette DP with three different camps claiming victories this season. In addition to AXR’s three triumphs, Wayne Taylor Racing and Visitflorida.com Racing each have one win under their belts. Add to that, the three Corvette teams are one-two-three in the championship standings and the only ones still in the running for the title. Entering the weekend, AXR holds a 16-point cushion on WTR with Visitflorida.com just one further point behind.

While the Prototype Challenge Driver’s Championship was secured two weeks ago in Austin, Texas, CORE Autosport still has yet to lock up the team title for 2014, thanks to a late surge of momentum from 8Star Motorsports, who enters Atlanta with back to back victories in Virginia and at Circuit of the Americas. The latter of the two contenders welcomes back both Tom Kimber-Smith and Eric Lux to share the driving duties with Sean Rayhall who along with CORE’s Colin Braun have emerged as the two most consistent drivers in the PC class. While Braun and co-drivers Jon Bennett and James Gue appear to have much to gain they also have a shot at history. A win on Saturday night would complete a clean sweep of each of the four North American Endurance Cup races, something that has never occurred since the debut of the newest of the quartet the Petit Le Mans in 1998. Along with the lead duo, Starworks Motorsport and RSR Racing who have also claimed PC class victories in 2014 have to also be considered as favorites for the win at Atlanta, while a dark horse pick could be the JDC-Miller Motorsports team, which will feature the race debut of 2014 IMSA Prototype Lites champion Mikhail Goikhberg of Canada.

In the grand touring ranks, the focus has been on the Dodge Vipers, which claimed wins in both GT Le Mans and GT Daytona action at the most recent round in Texas. The former win by SRT Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer not only was their second of the season, but also moved them ahead of Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia for team championship honors. What was a six-point deficit is now a seven-point lead. While SRT has the momentum, Corvette still cannot be counted out as the team enters its second race since the most recent set of IMSA Balance of Performance adjustments gave the C7.R more power and less total weight. Among other GTLM runners, Porsche North America looks to claim its third NAEC event win of 2014, while Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 458 also a two race winner in 2014 will also seek its third win this weekend in Atlanta.

In GT Daytona, Riley Engineering’s Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen claimed their second win of 2014 in Texas, but being too far down in the championship table are out of the running for the title. Thanks to a third place result in Austin, Turner Motorsport’s BMW Z4 vaulted to the head of the list for the first time in 2014, meaning a driver’s championship for lead driver Dane Cameron is on the cards this weekend. However, any slip ups by the yellow and blue liveried machines, could yet open the door to a list of four GTD challengers who all are within twenty points of the leaders. Among them, Magnus Racing and AIM Autosport have each claimed a victory in a NAEC race this season (Turner won the third at Watkins Glen), while Paul Miller Racing and Alex Job Racing are each winless in 2014, but a plethora of high placings has kept them both in the running for the championship with one race remaining.

With the prestige of claiming a major endurance race trophy, plus a championship one to boot let’s take a closer look at the parameters and the favorites for the 2014 running of the Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda.

Entry List
Road Atlanta
Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda

Rac

CLASS # TEAM CAR TYPE ENGINE
 P 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars DeltaWing DWC 13 Elan V8
5 Action Express Racing Chverolet Corvette DP Chevrolet V8
9 Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP Chevrolet V8
10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP Chevrolet V8
31 Marsh Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP Chevrolet V8
42 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda V6
60 Michael Shank Racing Riley DP Ford V6
70 SpeedSource Lola B12/80 Mazda Diesel
90 Visitflorida.com Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP Chevrolet V8
01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley DP Ford V6
07 SpeedSource Lola B12/80 Mazda Diesel
PC 7 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
25 8Star Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
87 BAR 1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
88 BAR 1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
09 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
GTLM 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Chevrolet V8
4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Chevrolet V8
17 Team Falken Racing Porsche 911 RSR Porsche V6
55 Rahal-Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4 GTE BMW V8
56 Rahal-Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4 GTE BMW V8
57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia Ferrari V8
62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia Ferrari V8
91 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R Dodge V10
93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R Dodge V10
911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR Porsche V6
912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR Porsche V6
GTD 18 Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
19 Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
33 Riley Engineering Dodge Viper GT3-R Dodge V10
35 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS Audi V8
44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS Audi V8
46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS Audi V8
48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS Audi V8
49 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia Ferrari V8
51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia Ferrari V8
58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Ferrari V8
71 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
81 GB Autosport Porsche 911 GT America Porsche V6
94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 BMW V8
007 TRG-Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin V12 Vantage Aston Martin V12
555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 GT3 Ferrari V8

 

WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

Practice: Thursday & Friday, October 2-3, 2014 (Four and a half hours of track time are available to all teams prior to qualifying)

Qualifying: Friday, October 3, 2014 (As is the case at all TUSCC events, every class will have 15 minutes of track time to post a qualifying time)

Race: Saturday, October 4, 2014  The green flag will fly at 11:15 p.m. eastern time, with the race running over a distance of 1000 miles or 10 hours, whichever is reached first.

Follow Rubbings Racing on Twitter (@RubbingsRacing) and/or Matt Embury (@MattEmbury) for updates throughout Saturday’s race, beginning at 11 a.m. eastern time.

TV: IMSA.com will have live coverage from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Fox Sports 2 carrying live coverage from 3 p.m. to the finish.

Radio: motorracingnetwork.com live coverage begins at 11 a.m. eastern time

Live Timing & Scoring: www.imsa.com

TRACK DESCRIPTION:

Track Length: 2.54 miles

Turns: 12 (seven to the right, five to the left)

Track Surface: Asphalt

Description: Conceived by three Georgia businessman, Road Atlanta was built in just a six month period in 1969 due to the urgency of being a replacement event for the now defunct Can-Am Series. Sports car racing joined the mix here in the 1970s. as the fast circuit denoted by its signature downhill “Esses” section and its downhill drop prior to the final corner at the start/finish line, the circuit was one of the toughest tracks on the IMSA circuit.

In 1996, the track would change hands again as Dr. Don Panoz, the inventor of the nicotine patch and several other successful pharmaceutical products, would redesign and modernize the circuit for the current era’s safety standards. In addition, Panoz would also create a brand new endurance race, the Petit Le Mans and a brand new sports car racing division, the American Le Mans Series. Both would debut successfully in 1998 and immediately the Road Atlanta round, would become on the biggest events on the schedule, second only to the season opening 12 Hours of Sebring.

KEYS TO VICTORY:

  • Starts and Restarts: Drama should be present on any start and restart with 50 plus cars trying to sneak their way through the uphill turn one and then funnel down into the infamous Esses section. Any contact or damage suffered early will greatly affect any team’s chances on Saturday as the shorter than normal lap will quickly create a gap from the leaders to those stuck on the pit lane.
  • Patience: Although the endurance races have supposedly become flag to flag sprints in recent years, patience is still a key virtue, especially in the first eight to nine hours of the race. If one can survive that section, the possibility to go all out at the end then becomes a possibility.
  • Reliability: Teams that have struggled with mechanical issues in 2014, will likely be exposed in this race. If you can’t make it to the finish, you can’t win and when you throw in championship considerations with this race as well, it adds to the importance even more.

TEAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Prototype:

  • Action Express Racing: After earning their seventh podium in ten races so far in 2014, only a major collapse in the Petit Le Mans would prevent the Gary Nelson-guided squad from claiming the TUSCC Prototype championship. However, even though a conservative approach may be taken, expect a major from their two-car assault on Saturday. The aggression of Sebastien Bourdais joining the regulars Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi will be of benefit, while the presence of Jon Fogarty and the Frisselle brothers also makes it a valid threat for victory likewise. Unless problems hit, at least one of the teams’ two entries should reach the podium come the checkered flag on Saturday night.
  • Wayne Taylor Racing: The Taylor brothers took a second straight hit to the bow two weeks ago at Circuit of the Americas, when contact with the OAK Racing Ligier sent them to the pits for an unscheduled pit stop for repairs on the opening lap of the event. The resulting tenth place finish not only put their chances at a second straight prototype championship at great risk, but also puts them under fire for second in the championship from Visitflorida.com Racing as well. The team has had mixed results in the NAEC events, starting off strongly with a runner up finish at Daytona, yet finishing no better than seventh and fifth respectively at Sebring and Watkins Glen. A victory plus help from AXR is a must if a championship is to be claimed on Saturday night.
  • Chip Ganassi Racing: Despite entering the 2014 season with a brand new engine, CGR has claimed a series lead tying three victories, including one the last time out in Texas where a clever fuel strategy allowed Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to claim the top step of the podium. The team’s victory at Sebring certainly qualifies them as a potential Petit Le Mans winner. Add to that a nothing to lose attitude will be present as despite the wins, a possible championship challenge is not in the cards this time around.
  • OAK Racing: It was a decent debut for the new Honda-powered Ligier coupe as Alex Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman claimed runner up honors in Austin, Texas, however with an apparent advantage in performance two weeks ago, the lack of a victory had to be a disappointment. However, the similar nature between Road Atlanta and Canadian Tire Motorsports Tire, where the French-based squad claimed their lone 2014 TUSCC win to date has to consider them as a favorite to win here.
  • Visitflorida.com Racing: The Daytona-based runners outlasted OAK Racing to claim the win in the most recent NAEC event at Watkins Glen and assuming a good qualifying run comes on Friday, they should be in the mix from the word go on Saturday. The addition of Mike Rockenfellar to the driver’s lineup will greatly improve the team’s chances as will the incentive that a good result could net them at worst runner up honors in the final championship standings.

Prototype Challenge

  • CORE Autosport: With the Prototype Challenge driver’s title in the bank, now the top squad in the PC class can focus on capturing the team championship and a clean sweep of all four NAEC events. The addition of James Gue for Atlanta further improves the regular pairing of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett, while a trouble free on track and mechanically should keep the team in the hunt from start to finish.
  • 8Star Motorsports: If not for some lackluster results at Watkins Glen and Indianapolis, the Enzo Potolicchio-run squad would still be in the hunt for the driver’s championship. Nonetheless, Sean Rayhall, Tom Kimber-Smith, and Eric Lux enter Atlanta with a decent shot to still claim the PC team championship and a third consecutive win to closeout the 2014 campaign. Minus the Watkins Glen problems, the team has top fives in the other two previous NAEC events, plus a second place finish in their Prototype Challenge debut in last year’s Petit Le Mans. Certainly cannot be overlooked.
  • Performance Tech Motorsports: Only a savage crash at Sebring has dented the red and black liveried car in the NAEC events so far, with top fives coming at both Daytona and Watkins Glen. This is not the fastest car in PC, but it could be the most reliable come Saturday night.
  • JDC-Miller Motorsports: It has a learning on the fly season for the Utah-based runners, but the team has had its moments, from a solid fourth place in its debut run at Sebring and a podium result at Road America. The addition of 2014 Cooper Tires Prototype Lites champion Mikhail Goikhberg at Atlanta could provide a major boost to their fortunes this weekend.

GT Le Mans

  • Corvette Racing: Once the hunted, the GM runners are now the hunter. The recent four race skid for Corvette has seen a once insurmountable lead turn into a seven point deficit. However, when compared to their rivals from SRT Motorsports, experience is definitely on the side of Doug Fehan, Gary Pratt, and company. The team is not fighting a two front battle as it did in Austin when it participated in both the TUSCC and FIA World Endurance Championship, plus with a race under their belt with lighter weight and more power the team of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Ryan Briscoe should be much more competitive to the point where SRT will have to earn their championship.
  • SRT Motorsports: The comeback is in play, but not complete until after this weekend. The championship contending team of Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer, and Rob Bell has been solid in the previous NAEC events, with the exception of one: the season opening race at Daytona when reliability issues led to a sixth place finish. The good news however, is mechanical gremlins have not featured for them since Long Beach, so a relapse to their previous form should not be a factor this weekend. Assuming they can continue to ride their recent momentum their chances of closing out the championship look very good this weekend.
  • Porsche North America: Although the team would seem to have little to play for, the squad can still claim the 2014 GTLM manufacturer’s title with a finish ahead of SRT this weekend. The only thing that has limited them to just two wins this season however is unusual: a lack of reliability. Twice in the past four rounds, mechanical problems have denied them almost certain victories in the last hour of the races at Indianapolis and two weeks ago in Texas. That fact is almost ironic considered Porsche NA’s lone victories came in the series’ two longest events at Daytona and Sebring. Still the team has much to play for, but luck needs to go their way if any glory is to be taken from Atlanta.
  • Risi Competizione: Despite getting hammered in the latest Balance of Performance adjustments, the home team for the Texas round still managed to claim a strong fourth place result, more than backing up their two consecutive victories earned prior to it. Still a long shot in terms of the longer distance events, as the team has had by far the worst resume among the GTLM runners in the NAEC rounds this season, finishing no better than seventh at Watkins Glen and failing to finish at either Daytona or Sebring. A trouble-free effort may be exactly what this team needs to boost confidence heading into 2015.

GT Daytona

  • AIM Autosport: A pair of non-challenging eighth place runs in the past two events has knocked Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler out of the championship lead for the first time in 2014. The good news? The team returns to its strength, a long distance event. Outside of only CORE Autosport clean sweep of the first three events of the NAEC season, no team has been more impressive than the Ferrari 458 runners with a win at Daytona and runner up finishes at both Sebring and Watkins Glen. Plus you have to like the laid back and confident attitude shown by Townsend Bell which seems perfect for the longer events such as what is ahead this weekend.
  • Alex Job Racing: Although the three-way tie entering Austin did not break in their favor, AJR enters Road Atlanta only trailing by four points to Turner Motorsport, meaning any kind of letdown by the championship leaders could be capitalized on by the Porsche runners on Saturday. Although known for their success in the long distance events over their extensive history, the NAEC has yet to treat AJR kindly in 2014. Between their championship contending entry of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil and their sister Team Seattle entry of Ian James and Mario Farnbacher, AJR has claimed only one podium finish (a third place at Sebring) so far in the endurance portion of the TUSCC schedule. A much better showing in Atlanta is required if any hopes for the title should remain in play come the late stages on Saturday night.
  • Turner Motorsport: Without a doubt, the BMW runners have been the class of the GT Daytona field in the second half of 2014. Even with smaller air restrictors and two weight penalties, the Will Turner-led squad continues to retain its place as the division’s top runner, and following a third place finish in Austin, the team finally has the top spot on the points table to prove it. Despite the team’s win in the third NAEC event at Watkins Glen, a seventh place finish like the ones earned at Daytona and Sebring may not be enough to secure the title considering the resume present from AIM Autosport.

Don’t forget to follow our coverage on Twitter (@RubbingsRacing, @MattEmbury) starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning.

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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