If you ever wanted a taste of multi million pound demolition derby you could not have done better than at the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Baltimore.
Eventually won by Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, following a strong tussle with Dyson Racing, the race was characterised by a number of crashes on the twisty street circuit – including one before the race had even started.
The crash, as the green flag was waved, seemed to have been made worse due to the fact the rules dictated that the cars bypass the chicane meaning they came at a greater speed than if it was a mid race crash.
Blame for the crash, which took out all the GT Porsches and the Risi Competizione Ferrari – as well as Scott Tucker in the Level 5 Motorsports #551 LMP2, was mixed with many passing the blame to each other. Officially Extreme Speed Motorsport received a sixty second stop and hold for their role in spinning Tucker before he was collected by the GT field behind.
However, the initial cause could be laid at the door of the LMP1 field – Klaus Graf and Chris Dyson disagreed in TV interviews on when they could accelerate after the chicane, Graf believed they had to be closer to the startline so kept slow but Dyson accelerated quickly after the chicane, leading Anthony Lazarro in the ESM three cars back to also put his foot down, which led to him clipping the Level 5.
Whatever the cause, the effects were devastating to the GT field. Scott Tucker must have seen his life flash before his eyes as the Paul Miller Racing Porsche collided with him head on unable to avoid the spun HPD. With the pack bunching to the left hand side to try and avoid the chaos, two time Baltimore winner Wolf Henzler couldn’t stop the Team Falken Tire Porsche in time to avoid an also hard braking Tom Kimber-Smith. The cars pirouetting across the track were collected by the Risi Ferrari which sustained substantial damage.
The resulting red flag saw the race stopped for an hour so that the hard working marshals could clean up what was left of the crashed cars, thankfully all the drivers were checked by the medical team and were fine.
Once the race restarted, the session was only one hour and 16 minutes long meaning it was the shortest ever ALMS race and due to drivers in the series needing to race for a minimum time, the amateur drivers needed only to race for 24 minutes until they had reached their minimum time.
Apologies for a sense of De Ja Vu in this report, but the restart after the red flag also ran into problems – the Dyson Lola-Mazda jumped the start so the pack had to go round again where, thankfully, it was third time lucky and the grid got away safely from the rolling start.
Unfortunately, the unusual sight of a green flag lap lasted only till turn four where there was a tangling of LMP2 and LMPC machinery which blocked the track for the majority of the GT and GTC field and caused a safety car to recover the stranded BAR1 Motorsports car.
While that restart was unremarkable, another full course caution – to recover the bumper of Bill Auberlen‘s BMW which had detached in the middle of the track – the class leading #56 BMW of Dirk Muller got stuck behind a slowing Ed Brown, who smacked into the tyres marking out the chicane, meaning both Corvettes got through and into first and second.
From that point onwards it was plain sailing for Corvette, completely untroubled by BMW who finished in third and fourth with the #91 Viper of Marc Goossens finishing fifth.
It was also of note that thanks to their win in P1, Muscle Milk have won the LMP1 championship following their win.
In GTC it was an absolute barn stormer for JDX Racing and Jan Heylen, the silver lining on the ALMS cloud – first getting past Sean Edwards in the MOMO car after laps of Edwards blocking superbly, the Belgian then got up behind Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Alex Job Racing/WeatherTech car and looked likely to get through. However, crossing the line Heylen was 0.08 seconds behind and had to settle for third – the #44 Flying Lizard Motorsports coming first at the hands of Dion von Moltke.
In LMPC it was heartache for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports as Dane Cameron experienced suspension failure on the white flag lap – but he was still classified as third in class behind Jonathan Bennett and Tristan Nunez.
The next ALMS is at the Circuit of the Americas supporting the FIA World Endurance Championship in three weeks time.