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Petit Le Mans preview: Prototypes (P1, P2, PC)

Oct 16, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

Neel Jani, Alex Popow AP

This weekend marks the end of an era for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.

The last Petit Le Mans to feature the ALMS, before its assets are integrated and merged into the new-for-2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, will take place this Saturday at Road Atlanta.

It will additionally be run with heavy hearts following the loss earlier this week of British rising star Sean Edwards, a Porsche driver killed in a training accident in Australia.

We’ll still take a look through the field in the prototype and GT classes to see who stands the best shot of scoring a win in the ALMS swan song.

P1 (4)

  • Muscle Milk Pickett Racing: Yet to win Petit Le Mans in its history, but a win would be its ninth in a row to cap a historic, title-winning season. Drivers Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas in their HPD ARX-03c will have a serious challenger to battle with Rebellion Racing returning for the first time since Monterey in May. The team’s plans are yet unannounced for 2014.
  • Rebellion Racing: As mentioned previously, the team’s alternate Lola B12/60 Toyota chassis will be on hand to defend its 2012 overall triumph at Petit with drivers Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld. Unfinished business for them as they beat Pickett’s team at Sebring (for third place), but lost out overall at Long Beach and Monterey.
  • Dyson Racing: One of the stalwarts of sports car racing rounds out its 30th season with Chris Dyson joined by two gentlemen drivers, and the team’s Lola B12/60 Mazda is unlikely to challenge for an overall win on pace alone.
  • DeltaWing Racing Cars: Radical coupe looks to finish its first race since its introduction at Austin; only car in class with a two-driver lineup of Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge, and wants to impress on team’s home soil.

P2 (4)

  • Level 5 Motorsports: Team went 1-2 in deeper P2 field at Petit last year and has pulled out all the stops again for its pair of HPD ARX-03bs. The early favorites with Scott Tucker, Ryan Briscoe and Marino Franchitti in one car (No. 551) and Guy Cosmo, Jonny Kane and Peter Dumbreck in the other (No. 552). Marino is wearing brother Dario’s helmet this weekend.
  • Extreme Speed Motorsports: Scott Sharp can still win the P2 class driver’s title with a win and some help as the team seeks a repeat of GT win at Petit in 2012. Has Anthony Lazzaro and David Brabham to aid him in the No. 01 HPD. The guy to watch in the sister No. 02 is Rob Bell, a McLaren factory shoe making a rare prototype appearance alongside regulars Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.

PC (7)

  • CORE autosport: Twice defending class champions seek a race win repeat in the capable hands of team principal Jon Bennett, Tom Kimber-Smith and Mark Wilkins (No. 05). Wilkins was part of the winning car a year ago.
  • PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports: On paper the Dane Cameron/David Cheng/Michael Guasch lineup doesn’t quite stack up to CORE’s. But Cameron’s talent may be able to push this car to its second Petit win (2011), and the team won Sebring already this year.
  • BAR1 Motorsports: A pair of challengers but it’s the Kyle Marcelli/Chris Cumming/Stefan Johansson (No. 8) car that could win its third straight race, while the second car of Tomy Drissi, James French and Rusty Mitchell (No. 7) is there to make up the numbers.
  • RSR Racing: Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende will be solid as ever for Paul Gentilozzi’s No. 9 car, so the wild card is sports car and ALMS debutante Gustavo Menezes. He has track experience from Star Mazda, but is new to multi-class racing.
  • Performance Tech Motorsports: Tristan Nunez and Charlie Shears anchor the No. 18; I reckoned Ryan Booth, an IMSA Lites race winner, would have been added as a third. Unlikely to win on raw pace.
  • 8Star Motorsports: Team’s new car for Ozz Negri and Sean Rayhall (No. 25) is a true wild card. Negri’s experienced in Daytona Prototypes in Rolex but new to ALMS, while Rayhall, an IMSA Lites star, makes his ALMS and thus endurance racing debut. Surprising to see only two drivers without a veteran third hand, but the team has other commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA Lites this weekend.

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