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Petit Le Mans Preview Pt.3

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On: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 4:18PM | By: John Welch

Petit Le Mans Preview Pt.3

Three days from the premiere American road racing event, The Petit Le Mans Powered by MAZDA 6, and my excitement is palatable. There is another new GT2 team, and the time charts for several days of practice are giving us some interesting insight as to how the actual race may shape up.

We have reviewed Audi's heroics at last year's race, and given you a brief history of the first two Petit Le Mans. Now we are moving on to this year’s race. While we mere mortals sleepily went about our daily, piss-ant lives over the last week, the teams in Braselton have been playing high-stakes chicken with each other.

Rocket Sports Racing is owned and operated by long-time CART and Trans-Am standout Paul Gentilozzi. Earlier this Gentilozzi announced he would once again partner with Jaguar to go racing. Instead of Trans-Am, RSR chose the ALMS. After months of speculation, the wraps have finally been taken off of the Jaguar XKR GT2.

The GT2 class features production-based cars modified as allowed by Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) rules. “There are very specific limitations. We use what we call in the industry, the Body-In-White,” Gentilozzi added. “That is the basic skeletal structure, the sub-frames and frames from the original production car. We started our GT2 car with a real Jaguar XKR, this is not a panel built or fabricated car. We are using all of the aluminum skeletal structure of the car, the production doors, roof and deck lid.”

The car is stunning. The XK was already a feverishly pretty car, but becoming race worthy has made it even more fetching. The car features several design cues that may bend the GT2 rules just a wee bit. The only glaring possible illegality is the front fenders. They feature an air-outlet opening in front of the doors that you could drive a truck through. All other GT2 cars have production based front fenders, and none of them have openings as large. Other notable features include 'Goose Neck' mounts for the rear wing and three piece Trans-Am style rims. The wing benefits from air flow characteristics that are cleaned up along the underside of the wing. By taking the mounting points off of the underside of the wing you are able to further avoid disrupting the airflow along the surface, thereby creating more downforce. This design is revolutionary in GT2; some prototype teams don't even employ 'Goose Neck' mounted wings. The rims are interesting because most GT2 teams opt for lighter weight, single piece, forged designs. We'll see if these intriguing features help or hurt the XKR GT2's maiden voyage.

Source: The American Le Mans Series

During practice this morning, Stephane Sarrazin was the quickest driver around Road Atlanta with a lap of 1:08.138 in the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 HDi that he will drive with Franck Montagny. Sarrazin, the first driver in history to win three consecutive pole positions at Le Mans, was 0.904 seconds better than Nic Minassian in the second Peugeot.

Past IndyCar and Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon was third in de Ferran Motorsports’ Acura ARX-02a. Dixon turned a lap of 1:09.235 on his next-to-last lap in the session to move ahead of Audi Sport Team Joest’s two Audi R15 TDIs. And what of those Audis? Yesterday, Allan McNish turned the fastest lap in practice. What a difference a day makes. McNish didn't turn any qualifying speed laps today, and Lucas Luhr went for the ride of his life. At the same corner that caught out McNish on his reconnaissance lap last year, Luhr lost control of his R15, sending him sailing into the Georgia clay. The impact was so nose-forward that Luhr managed to shred the cars under tray, removing half of the chassis in the process. The Audi team confirmed that they will completely replace the chassis by tomorrow's practice. Just to whet appetites, here is a video of the start of last season's Petit. Notice Allan McNish and his injured Audi R10 are cooling their heels in the pits, while the race is starting . ..

Tomorrow we will update the acid-hawt GT2 field, the battle between Mazda and Acura in LMP2, and review two new (to Americans) LMP1 teams, ORECA and Drayson Racing . . .

Source: Speedtv.com

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