Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Local Sports

Prototype titles down to the wire

Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 08:43 PM

After nine events and thousands of miles throughout North America, championships in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón come down to one last race. The 15th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda stands to be a winner-take-all affair in the ALMS P1 and P2 classes. It makes the 1,000-mile/10-hour classic at Road Atlanta that much more critical for a quartet of teams: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Dyson Racing, Level 5 Motorsports and Conquest Endurance.

Driver and team championships in GT, Prototype Challenge and GT Challenge were sewn up in previous ALMS rounds. Winners next week at Road Atlanta receive 24 points with four-point intervals for each position down to fourth place.

As the championship leaders, Muscle Milk and Level 5 are in the proverbial driver's seats. To claim titles they only need to complete 70 percent of the distance of the class-winning car in their respective classes to claim titles.

In P1, Muscle Milk and drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr have six victories to their credit and own a 13-point advantage in the championship. The team and its pilots have led in points since the third race of the year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a consistently has been the fastest car in the class, but small mechanical and electrical issues cost the team laps and likely two victories this year.

Meanwhile, Dyson Racing's combo of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith is a victory away from its second straight P1 title. The No. 16 Lola-Mazda won in class at Sebring and took a dramatic overall win at Road America by just 0.083 seconds — the closest finish in ALMS history.

Dyson's gap to Muscle Milk is just nine points thanks to a class victory at Baltimore for Dyson's No. 20 sister car of Eric Lux and Michael Marsal. Dyson will field two cars at Petit Le Mans as well.

Level 5's Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker are on the doorstep of their second-straight P2 title with a 16-point lead in the driver standings. The team won seven times in nine events, including the overall win at Baltimore, leading up to Petit Le Mans with six for the Bouchut/Tucker tandem.

Two of Level 5's HPD ARX-03b prototypes — including one featuring IndyCar and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and his brother Marino — give the team strength in numbers against Conquest Endurance's Morgan-Nissan pairing of Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier-Hansson.

In their first full ALMS season, the Conquest duo has two victories, and Plowman has more fastest race laps than any driver in the class. Conquest is 23 points behind Level 5 in the team championship.

The 1,000-mile/10-hour race from Road Atlanta is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. ABC's broadcast begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday.


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