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ALMS Season Finale Pt.2 - GT Car-Stag!

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On: Wed, Oct 14, 2009 at 3:42PM | By: John Welch

ALMS Season Finale Pt.2 - GT Car-Stag!

Yowza! I don't usually say nonsensical things like that, so enjoy it now: Yowza! All it takes to produce entertaining television is a Porsche, a Corvette, and a finish line. A couple of Europeans who seem to absolutely despise each other driving the two cars doesn't hurt either. Throw in one gut-twisting piece of elevation-shifting pavement referred to, simply, as "The Corkscrew", and you have the makings of a prime time bash-fest that network TV could never hope to compete with. Or, you would, if we Americans had any taste. Instead we get 'Private Practice' in prime time . . . yeeech!

But I digress; this weekend's ALMS finale featured one of the best last lap battles ever witnessed in American road racing, along with a number of other surprises . . .

This season there have been many changes in the GT ranks of the ALMS. An entire class, GT1, was put to death after Le Mans in June. Having been a Corvette-only class this season was a shame, even thought the Corvette boys did their best to race each other and keep it interesting for the fans. 2009 saw the Corvettes jump to GT2, a much more competitive class. GT2 has always been the battleground for production-based race cars (unlike the Grand-Am's GT class, these cars are not tube-frame silhouette jobs) aided by rules that keep the action close, even over the course of four or more hour endurance races. Along with Corvette, BMW entered the ALMS GT2 category with their achingly beautiful Rahal/Letterman M3.R. I mean geez, if a car was ever an object of lust, the M3.R is it!

The races have all been hard fought, and each of the major manufacturers (Porsche, Corvette, BMW, and Ferrari) have each taken class victories this season. Even the smaller teams, privateers and Gentleman racers have shown impressive pace over the course of the season. The Panoz-run Esperante GT.R has been in the mix amoung podium finishers all year, and the Robertson Ford GT was able to eke out the pole position at the Petit Le Mans last month. Overall, this has been the most hawtly contested category in any major league series in any country this year.

The final battle came down to ancient rivals Porsche and Corvette. The Flying Lizard 911 GT3.R has dominated the championship, something that will be difficult for them to do next year. The BMWs will have another year of development under their belts, and the Corvettes do not appear to need much development; they've been bad-fast from the get-go.

Thought the championship was over by the 30-minute mark; that doesn't mean that Jan Magnussen or his Corvette team were satisfied. They've already won once this season, and the Corvette has been hungry for more. By the last 30 minutes, it was more then obvious that the leading Porsche of Jorg Burgmeister was going to come under heavy fire from Magnussen's menacing yellow and black 'Vette. The ensuing conflict was one for the ages.

With three laps to go Magnussen bore down on his rival, flipping on his Corvette's 'brights' in an attempt to distract Burgmeister from behind. The Porsche driver was not to be intimidated, holding his line and even out-gunning the Vette on short straights. After a few near misses, (at one point Magnussen passed Burgmeister and the Robertson Ford, on the outside of turn one. Three wide in a space barely large enough for one car, in a braking zone, at more then 130 kph, or 90 mph, fantastic racing!) Magnussen appeared to have Burgmeister dead to rights on the approach to the final hair-pin. This has happened to Burgmeister before. Several times over the years he has owned a piece of track coming to the checkered flag, only to have a more aggressive driver put him into the wall and steal his victory. Jorg was not having it on Sunday.

Slamming on the brakes into the last hair-pin, Burgmeister appeared to come to a complete stop in an attempt to foul-up Magnussen's momentum. Magnussen, himself a sturdy Dutchman, and not much for games, maintained his line and his speed, punting the Flying Lizard car in the rear. Burgmeister held his line, something he often does, as the two cars began careening down the back-stretch. Corvette on the inside, Porsche on the outside. The 'Vette definitely had legs on the German, pulling ahead just as it reached the terminal zone on the Laguna Seca front stretch, an area where the inside wall begins to creep toward the right, effectively taking away Magnussen's lane. So Jan was left with a choice, continue on his chosen path, possibly getting in front of Burgmeister, and winning the race, or letting off the gas, slowing ever so slightly, and allowing his German rival to claim the victory.

If he were to stay in the gas, he could run out of track and smash head-first into the inside barrier. Magnussen knew this, and (thankfully for us spectators) he didn't care. With one final stab of the throttle the big Chevy cleared its lungs and blasted clear of the Porsche, or so we all thought. In the last nano-second, as Magnussen tried to move over and avoid the wall, the Porsche mustered an extra mile an hour or so, moving up on the Corvette's rear fender enough to prevent him from making a clean pass. Jan Magnussen and his Corvette were thrown across the race track, violently wrecking on the opposite tire barriers, and sliding across the finish line in second place. Jorg Burgmeister and the Flying Lizards took the win, but, in reality, those of us watching the race were the real winners. What a show!

I have read several articles regarding this little scrum, mostly to the effect of: "We don't need this kind of racing going on in our super-classy ALMS!" I disagree! Thats was easily the most entertaining thing I've witnessed this week. I dare you to watch the video below and try to argue with that. You can't, it's science . . .

The ALMS will begin the 2010 campaign at the Sebring Sports Car Course, Sebring, Florida, in February of 2010. AutoShopper will be there, drooling all over priceless racing machinery and Umbrella girls . . . we can't wait . . .

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