In an historic finish to the American Le Mans Series season at Laguna Seca, the old order was swept away as the #15 Zytek 04S captured its first victory in the series, and Penske Motorsports won on its ALMS debut with the new Porsche RS Spyder.
Hayanari Shimoda and Tom Chilton won the senior LMP1 category from pole position, cruising to victory ahead of Champion Audi and the Dyson Lolas in the four-hour Monterrey Sports Car Championship event. The same ease was enjoyed by LMP2 frontrunners Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, who will go down in the record books as winning the first junior prototype race for Penske's #6 Porsche.
Shimoda passed Dyson's James Weaver with two-and-a-half hours gone to give the lead to the Zytek team for good, the Japanese driver eventually guiding the British entry home over a minute ahead of the #2 Champion Racing Audi of new ALMS champions Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela. Aged just 20 and 21, Chilton and Shimoda became the youngest driver pairing to post an overall win in the history of the series.
The biggest key, it seemed, was making it through turn one on the opening lap. Three cars, including the Zytek, were involved in a crash in the first turn at Petit Le Mans and, once through, Chilton and Shimoda clearly were the class of the field.
"We've come to America three times and, two of those times, we didn't finish the race," Chilton said. "The Zytek was faultless. Other than a little problem with the pit-stops, it was very good. The circuit changes from lap-to-lap here, and you have to have your wits about you. It was a pretty faultless race, though, and we are very happy."
Once in front, all the youngsters had to do was keep the car on track as darkness fell.
"It wasn't so bad from day to dark," Shimoda said, "I got used to the darkness, so it's fine. Tom won the pole and then brought the car back without any damage after his stint, and it's nice we could finally win. This time, it was hard to overtake cars because there are so many good drivers, but our car is much better, so I could overtake them."
Second place for Pirro and Biela gave them podium finishes in all ten ALMS events this season, the type of consistency that delivered each their second championship, but first together.
"This race has been one tenth of a wonderful championship," Pirro said, "I am so happy we ended this season with such a great race. My target was not just to finish, but to be in the top three because a race car driver is not only quick, but reliable as well. Today, we were very competitive, and finished the best we possibly could today. We asked a lot of the car today, and all season we have pushed it to its limits. With a bit of luck, we've won this championship."
Biela said winning the championship with Champion Racing and Pirro made this year the most special of his racing career.
"We have been in cars together for a long time, and we always have a fantastic time," he revealed, "One special thing about this 2005 championship is that it is with Champion Audi. Champion has really made racing enjoyable again, and I'd like to thank Dave [Maraj] and all of the team because, out of 24 years of racing, this was maybe the best."