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Local Sports

ALMS set for new venue

Highlands Today Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 08:19 PM

A new venue for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón looks to play a huge role in determining the 2012 ALMS champions. The VIR 240 is the first race at Virginia International Raceway for America's premier sports car racing championship.

The four-hour race — hence the "240" — pays two additional points per position, a critical factor with all but two titles up for grabs.

There are 32 cars on the entry for the ninth round of the 10-race 2012 ALMS championship. Developments from last weekend's Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT clarified some title chases while others didn't do too much in the way of determining a champion. Forty-six points remain available to winners in the final two races — 22 at VIR and 24 at Road Atlanta's Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.

A large number of ALMS teams, such as Extreme Speed Motorsports and Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, spent time during the summer testing at VIR, and the outlook for the race is breath-taking. Teams will compete on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road circuit that has a chance to set ALMS speed records.

"VIR is a true road racers dream and one of the absolute best circuits to drive, ever," said ESM driver Guy Cosmo. "The track has a great flow and a variety of challenges. You see some very technical slow and medium speed sections, two very long straights, killer braking and passing zones, and a few death-defying high speed sections that will have you holding your breath on every approach and that will make you cry for your mama if you get them wrong."

A one-two finish for Dyson Racing and third-place result for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing tightened up the P1 points race. Five points separate the two teams, with Muscle Milk's Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr leading Chris Dyson and Guy Smith by nine points.

Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner increased their GT driver's championship lead with a runner-up finish in Baltimore.

Chevrolet and Corvette Racing hold solid — albeit not quite comfortable — leads in the manufacturer and team championships, respectively. Chevrolet's nearest competitors are BMW (19 points back) and Porsche (22 points back), while Corvette Racing has a 24-point cushion back to BMW Team RLL.

Level 5 Motorsports was the overall race-winner at Baltimore, but most important was the P2 victory that gave Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut breathing room in the driver's championship. The pairing picked up seven points on Conquest Endurance's David Heinemeier-Hansson and Martin Plowman, as did Level 5 in the team standings. Tucker and Bouchut now hold a 12-point lead in the P2 driver points, while Level 5 is 19 points ahead of Conquest Endurance in the team championship.

The two Challenge classes are the closest to being sorted out among championships. Alex Popow has a 32-point lead in Prototype Challenge over Colin Braun and Jon Bennett in a battle of CORE Autosport drivers. CORE already clinched the team championship.

In GT Challenge, Alex Job Racing's Cooper MacNeil leads the driver's championship by 34 points over teammate Leh Keen. MacNeil has been out front in the championship since the season's second round at Long Beach.

 The four-hour VIR 240 scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. ESPN2's broadcast begins at 5 p.m. on Sunday.