A CALL TO ALMS
The ALMS race at the Long Beach Grand Prix
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, May 5, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by John Grafman Track and field competitions, like those we see during the Olympics, aren’t exactly the same as auto racing. Generally, the dress is minimal, the loudest thing heard is the starting gun, and very few props are used - aside from a baton or an occasional pole. But, they do have one thing in common, variety. Sprints, hurdles, and long distance running, and others, all take place on the same ground, but spaced throughout the day or week. What if during the Olympics you could squish together all of the track and field events at the same? Sounds crazy and confusing! Well, this is exactly what American Le Mans Series (ALMS) does in auto racing, and it is perhaps the most insane four-wheel activity out there. This is the most condensed dose of high-speed thrills on city streets that we could ever hope for. Auto racing in ALMS has numerous divisions and events ranging from production based cars, to prototype, one-offs. One of the most unique aspects of the ALMS series is the competition for the greenest ALMS team and for vehicle manufacturers. The Michelin Green X Challenge and the Green Challenge have a special scoring system created by ALMS, the EPA, and the Department of Energy (DOE). It is curious that the DOE can’t establish a solid energy policy for the USA, yet it spends time and effort developing one for racing. Go figure!
The series presented by Tequila Patron features five categories all taking place at the same time. So, even when focusing on one particular race it’s really easy to get distracted. From the driver’s seat it is tricky as well. It’s bad enough getting blocked by another car, but when the cars aren’t even in the same race division the frustration can reach new heights. This certainly takes an elevated level of focus to succeed. The upper end of the series is the P1 prototype class featuring the highest technology of all the cars in the racing series. Honda ARX-03a and Lola B12/60 battle it out with horsepower ranging from 475-575, and these are capable of top speeds in excess of 200 mph. The minimum weight is 900 kg (1,985 pounds). How fast are these? Well, the number 6 Muscle Milk car driven by the team of Graf and Luhr squeaked out a lap time that was over four seconds faster than the best P2 car, at 1:13.662 around the demanding track. Second place goes to the number 12, and the number 31 car that DNF rounds out the top three spots. A step down in performance is the P2 class, which still showcases impressive technology, but it’s a lower cost alternative to P1. While the minimum weight is the same, the horsepower in this division is 450-500, creating a top speed of 170 mph. The types of cars racing in P2 are HPD ARX—30b, Lola B11/80, and ORECA 03. The nearly identical cars sponsored by Tequila Patron with number 1 and 2 finish in first and second place respectively, and the number 551 came in third. First place is credited to the efforts of Sharp and Cosmo.
The PC class (not to be confused with being politically correct) is to ALMS what the Firestone Indy Lights are to Indy. These race cars feature single suppliers for the chassis (ORECA FLM09), engine (Chevrolet), and tires (Continental). These have 430 horsepower, and a top speed of 160mph. The minimum weight is similar to the other prototype classes at 900 kilos. First, second and third place go to cars 5, 52 and 9 respectively, with Bennett and Braun taking top honors. The GT class is comprised of numerous production-based cars. Of course, these are heavily tweaked for racing. It is a bit easier to relate to the cars on track, as these can be seen on the streets and highways across America, albeit sans livery and mods. One could say this is a fantasy league that pits Aston Martins, BMWs, Corvettes, Ferraris, Porsches, and Vipers against one-another in a battle for the checkered flag. After two hours of racing the BMWs finished one and two, with the number 55 car of Auberlen and Martin taking the win, and the number 56 car coming in just 6.5 seconds later. Trailing by about 3.5 seconds is the third place #91 SRT Viper GTS-R. However, credit goes to the Viper, which actually turned an even faster lap than the second place finisher during the course of the race.
The final division is GTC, based on the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, which are less expensive than the GT class. The rear engine racers have 450 ponies and a 150 mph top end. These have are slightly heavier with the minimum weight of 1,205 kg (2,655 pounds). The Cisneros / Edwards team in number 30 brought home a first place finish, followed by number 45 and then 44 taking third. The first place GTC Porsche number 30 has nothing to be embarrassed about, but to keep this in perspective, the first place in the P1 class finished a good 34 seconds earlier. All of the competitors are really winners considering the ability it takes to navigate a street course for two hours at blistering speeds, and being skilled enough to avoid the walls and other cars on the track. However, in light of the new world order when it comes to being friendly to the earth, and our limited resources, the crown goes to the Green Challenge winners. Both the P1 No. 12 Rebellion Racing team, and the GT No. 3 Corvette Racing team are pointing the way to future. Both of these cars are really on the leading edge, and everyone else needs to up their game. To read LA Car's report on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Indycar IZOD race, go to A Day of Firsts To read LA Car's report on the Indy Lights at Long Beach, go to Shake, Rattle and Roll To read LA Car's report on the Pirelli World Challenge, go to Saving the Best for Last