The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) travelled to the Virginia International Raceway for the inaugural VIR 240 enduro; marking the penultimate event on the 2012 calendar.
After the Grand-Am Rolex sports car series scrapped plans to hold a race at VIR for 2012, the ALMS was quick to pick up the venue for it’s first ever trip to the picturesque course located in the rolling hills of Danville, Virginia. A major topic in the paddock remained the optimistic future of sports car racing in North America after the recent merger of ALMS and Grand-Am. Business went on as usual at VIR among the five class armada on display in front of a very impressive, yet expected large crowd. Championships in all classes were all but officially settled as the VIR 240 began.
In P1 Muscle Milk Racing looked to outrun rival Dyson Racing once again, solidifying Greg Pickett‘s teams chances heading to Petit Le Mans. In P2 Scott Tucker‘s Level 5 Motorsport continue to keep scrappy Conquest Racing‘s Oak Morgan-Nissan at bay.
After qualifying on pole, the Muscle Milk team cruised to an early lead after a rare lap one melee in which rival Dyson Racing received some minor cosmetic bodywork damage. Several cars received damage including the #3 Corvette and TRG Porsche in GTC, triggering punctures for Spencer Pumpelly and company. Several GTC cars received punctured tires throughout the four hours.
The early full course caution lasted several minutes enabling many of the involved teams to scramble the job of making needed repairs to their machines. After the lap one, turn one mess trigered by Michael Marsal in the second Dyson Lola-Mazda the ALMS field settled themselves down and began turning lap after lap. Muscle Milk racing started putting together their nearly flawless race with the lead Dyson car – Guy Smith, Chris Dyson and Johnny Mowlem – giving chase but unable to maintain the lead pace set by Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr resulting in a three lap advantage for the LMP1 HPD ARX-01a.
Level 5 quickly chased down class pole sitter Conquest Racing of Martin Plowman after he found himself in the prairie at the beginning of hour two. The two HPD LMP2 cars of Level 5 began their own race including each car pitting to repair damaged rear body work from contact with slower GT cars. Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut claimed class honors in front of a fading team car of Luis Diaz and preceded to hold of the ever resilient Conquest Morgan Nissan.
Once again the GTE class in ALMS stole the show from the faster, sleeker prototypes in which another incredible diverse top four cars claimed the head of the field. Corvette Racing’s #4 of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner made up for it’s sister cars lap one misfortune to claim class honors over the much improved Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR duo of Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister. The victory – and the problems for their teammates clinched the class title for Gavin and Milner.
Extreme Speed Motorsport’s Ferrari 458 Italia of Scott Sharp and Johannes Van Overbeek rounded out the podium in class with the Team RLL BMW of Bill Auberlen and Jorg Muller completing the diverse foursome up front. The top four in class completed the four hour race on the lead lap which was no surprise in the ultra competitive class.
The GT class race once again came down to those who made the fewest mistakes while quickly completing quick service and driver changes in the pits. Corvette Racing has had it’s best season since moving down from the now dormant GT1 class. Extreme Speed has also flexed their muscles with their best season to date claiming it’s maiden class victory after a post race exclusion of the Flying Lizard Porsche at Mosport earlier this season.
Rounding out the two respectable spec classes in ALMS, Colin Braun and team owner Jon Bennett took the top step on the podium. Braun continues to show he belongs in a top ride as he reels off another podium in LMPC for 2012. PR1 Mathiasen took second in class while Alex Popow rounded up the podium spots at the VIR 240 in doing so secured the title at the of an impressive run for 2012 in class which he kicked off at Sebring with a class victory with fellow Venezuelan E.J. Viso. Cooper MacNiel and Porsche hot shoe Leh Keen took the top step in GTC class competition with MacNiel claiming his drivers’ championship adding another trophy to the case to the Alex Job Racing. The ALMS stars and cars head to northern Georgia for the 15th Petit Le Mans 10 hour spectacle at the twisty Road Atlanta.
They will be joined by several European cars in a first ever combined event for the two Le Mans series featuring many top teams from the European Le Mans Series. Double points will be awarded to the ELMS contingent as they try to finish their shortened season alongside the ever competitive ALMS teams.