The final event of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron is this week at Road Atlanta. Petit Le Mans – 10 hours or 1,000 miles is the second longest endurance race on the ALMS schedule.
JaguarRSR have placed the pitfalls of this season behind them and are fully focused on the task at hand: winning. For the season-ender, the team has added a third driver to each of its JaguarRSR XKR GTs. Former ALMS LMP2 champion Ian James and popular Sports Car veteran Shane Lewis will join the fray behind the wheel.
Ian James reflects on being connected to the Jaguar legacy, “It is an honor to be driving for the JaguarRSR team and the #99 car at Petit Le Mans. Being British, driving for such a marque steeped in patriotic history really is a fulfillment of a long held ambition. The RSR team seems to have really got to grips with the car and I look forward to experiencing the car firsthand. I have raced the Petit Le Mans on numerous occasions with a class pole position in 2004. This will be my sixth Petit Le Mans start and I am hoping to get on the podium in what is truly one of the great endurance races. Road Atlanta is one of the most picturesque circuits in the world with rolling hills and elevation changes. Both rewarding and challenging, especially with the estimated 53 starters in this year’s race. I hope to provide a positive contribution to the team and get a result we can all be proud of.”
Because of the length of the race and the fatigue that Road Atlanta brings to anyone who dares getting behind the wheel for a stint, a third driver is extremely important in effectively tackling Petit Le Mans. Combine those two daunting factors with the sheer number (53) of the quickest prototype sports cars in the world, and it becomes instantly clear that you want not only the best pilots you can gather, but you want them as well-rested as possible.
Shane Lewis shares his outlook, experience and excitement at his opportunity: “It is a true pleasure to be driving for JaguarRSR. Paul (Gentilozzi) and his organization have had so many years of great success and I can’t wait to add to that history. To be driving the Jaguar XKR, one of the most iconic bands in the automotive world at one of the most prestigious races in the world, well it just doesn’t get any better than this!”
Lewis' enthusiasm continued, “This will be my seventh race start at the Petite Le Mans event. I have come so close so many times to winning this event in the past. I have several race wins, poles and fastest race laps in other events here, but want that win at Petit. Road Atlanta is one of the most challenging tracks in North America offering big elevation changes, coupled with high-speed corners and technical braking zones. It is the gold standard for what drivers look for in a track. Petit Le Mans is a very grueling event. It’s an endurance race that is run flat out all the time. The track changes through the day and night and there are multiple car classes, which means traffic at every corner. To finish well here survival is as important as performance. I want to see that checkered flag at the finish. We do that and it will be a great success.”
Lewis will join PJ Jones and Rocky Moran Jr. at the wheel of the No. 98 JaguarRSR XKR GT and James will share the duties with Bruno Junqueira and Ken Wilden in the No. 99. With the car reliably running the full six hours at Laguna Seca, things are looking up for the XKR. Both Junqueira and Moran will be racing at Road Atlanta for the first time in their careers.
Citing his decade long desire to race at Road Atlanta, Rocky Moran Jr. said, “This will be my first time at Road Atlanta. I have heard so many great things about this track and I really enjoy high speed, flowing road courses. This is a track I have wanted to race at for over ten years, so I can’t wait to jump in the #98 JaguarRSR XKR GT and go to battle for a full 1000-mile race. This is my first Petit Le Mans event, so I look forward to the increased car count and deeper overall fields that will come with this prestigious event. We are overdue for some better luck and after finishing the 12 Hours of Sebring early in the year, I see no reason why we cannot do it again and record our best finish of the season. The entire team and crew has worked so hard, I really want to thank them with a great finish at this last event, so we can conclude on a high note and build momentum for 2012.”
“To have a good car for the Petit Le Mans isn’t that different than what we did at Laguna Seca,” said John Gentilozzi, JaguarRSR Technical Director. “However, at Road Atlanta the corners are all tied together. You really have to work on the cars ability to transition between left and right, and with the higher speeds you concentrate a little more on braking performance and horsepower. To be successful in the race you need to be able to run a good, consistent pace and stay out of trouble. You can really do well by just finishing the race.”
Gentilozzi continued, “We were fortunate to have tested earlier in the season at Road Atlanta with our tire partner Dunlop. We were able to run the tire combination we will use for the race as well as work on the setup. That gives us a lot of confidence that we can unload a competitive car to start the event.”