The American Le Mans Series starts their season on Saturday, March 21st with the 57th running of America’s premier sports car endurance race, the 12 Hours of Sebring. Expectations are high for the race, as Acura, Audi, Lola and Peugeot will all battle for overall victory around Sebring’s grueling 3.7 mile track. The GT field looks competitive as well, with Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and BMW among the entrants.
Patron Highcroft Racing will enter the top LMP1 class this year with their new Acura ARX-02a, to be driven by Scott Sharp, David Brabham and Dario Franchitti.
Greg Wing recently sat down with Duncan Dayton, owner of Patron Highcroft Racing, to discuss the upcoming American Le Mans Series season.
The American Le Mans Series goes Lime Green with Patron Highcroft Racing – Interview with Duncan Dayton
By Greg Wing
GW – What’s so interesting about the ALMS? NASCAR is so huge! What makes the ALMS so exciting? What’s the difference?
DD – The primary difference is the level of technology. The ALMS represents the highest level of technology of almost any racing event in the world. To give you an idea we pretty much have more technology in our steering wheel than in the whole NASCAR Car of Tomorrow. We kind of joke about the moniker the Car of Tomorrow because it’s kind of the car of yesteryear. It’s (NASCAR) a pushrod motor, a tube fame chassis, there is no carbon fiber. It’s hardly the Car of Tomorrow.
GW – Why should people tune into the ALMS?
DD – It’s fantastic racing. It’s exciting to see. There is everything from the GT cars that you would be potentially able to buy and see driving on the road, Porsches, Ferraris Aston Martins and Corvettes. Then there is the very exotic prototypes which are designed to a formula much like the America’s Cup Racing yachts within certain parameters…according to the rule book. With the multiple classes there are always a couple different good battles going on.
GW – What was the stand out moment from last year’s season?
DD – There are a couple. Clearly, winning our first race in P2 class at Long Beach (CA) was a highlight – to win our first race and in such a dramatic fashion – against the Porsches and beat Roger Penske heads up was a huge rush for all of us. The other highlight, obviously was the outright (overall) win at Lime Rock (CT) which is our home track just up the road and to win outright ahead of the Audi’s was spectacular! We dominated that race and to do it in front of a whole host of 350 friends and family with Acura’s first overall win was about as good as it gets for us.
GW – What 2009 events are you looking forward to the most and why?
DD – Well Sebring, like NASCAR’s first event at Daytona. It’s their Super Bowl and Sebring is our Super Bowl. It’s also probably the only event this year that we will go head to head against the new Audi R15 and also the Peugeot (908 HDi FAP), so there is a lot of pressure on us to perform. We have a totally new radically designed car (Acura ARX-02a) which could potentially have some teething pains. Sebring is harder than any other track we race on. Clearly, another place we’d like to do well is Lime Rock, being the hometown circuit, and Long Beach because of the history and importance of that venue in racing.
GW – What’s the biggest change in ALMS racing and why do you think it’s important?
DD – The green initiatives, given the economic climate, the price of oil, the scarcity of oil and delivery systems. Renewable energy is going to be something really, really important and the ALMS is really leading the charge with this initiative. As we move forward, both alternative fuels and energy forms like a KER system (Kinetic Energy Recovery) – the energy which the car creates under braking is stored and then reapplied for acceleration. ALMS is on the leading edge with the Green Challenge, measuring the car’s carbon footprint as well as efficiency and performance. This is like the old “Index of Performance” at Le Mans. It’s racing that has pushed fuel economy, paddle shifting, ABS breaking, four-wheel drive –all those technologies that we now come to expect on our road cars were developed in racing.
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[Source: Greg Wing]