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."

Weaver did not even make it to the podium, however, falling behind the sister Dyson car of Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson, the second Champion Audi and the LMP2 winner to come home sixth overall, two laps down. The Pirro/Biela car was the only other entry on the same lap as the winner as the chequered flag fell, with Wallace/Dyson edging JJ Lehto and Marco Werner for third, and the Porsche also completing 163 of the 164 laps.

Maassen, Luhr and the Porsche prototype lived up to the lofty expectations which accompanied the car to the Monterey Peninsula. The first race for Porsche's first factory prototype since 1998 couldn't have gone much better. Not only did it win in its first outing, albeit one round later than planned, but it also broke the qualifying lap record for the LMP2 class on Friday, and remained within 1.2secs from the overall lead as deep as the third hour.

"Everything happened like we expected," Maassen said, "It was crowded out there, and the traffic was incredible. It wasn't very easy. I wanted to be conservative, and the pit-stops were incredibly good. We almost made it to the end, but needed a splash of fuel. The car was very reliable and almost perfect."

One of the questions coming into the day was how the car would respond to changing track conditions, and Luhr found the answer first-hand when his stint started with a little more than an hour left.

"When I went out from the pits, I thought 'what happened'," he said, "The track was dirty and had stones everywhere, but I got used to it. I really enjoyed the ride today. We did such hard work with Penske and Porsche over the summer."

Intersport's Clint Field clinched the LMP2 championship thanks to the Porsche victory, despite only being classified 26th of the 28 starters with 125 laps. Penske's win prevented the Miracle Motorsports team from turning its slim title hopes into reality, the crew of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurray and James Gue being restricted to eleventh place overall, second in class, as it fell behind the leading GT1 runners. Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo finished one place and one lap further back for third in LMP2.

"This is a good year to say the least," Field said, "I came close to the championship on the other ones, this was tough year for us with some gearbox problems, and a fire at Road America. That's a very difficult thing to overcome with a small team like ours. We only have two full time employees and seven or eight total team members.

"For the race, we really just did what we planned, which was just run laps. We wanted to compete with Penske but, after the first stint, we knew we really couldn't - they were just too fast. I think this is the best fifth place finish we've ever had."

The GT1 class again boiled down to a battle between the two Corvette Racing entries, before the #4 C6-R won its fifth straight race to wrap up the class drivers' championship for Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin, their first as a pairing.

The Europeans beat the #3 sister car of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell by more than a lap after a close struggle in the early stages, while Aston Martin Racing claimed third and fourth in class, the GT1 entries occupying seventh though tenth on the leaderboard. The pole-winning ACEMCO Saleen faded to 19th overall.

"This was an amazing race - Ollie was fantastic, the crew was perfect and the car was fast," Beretta said, "The race was incredible. We knew all we had to do was finish to win. So by the middle of the race it was becoming harder to keep pushing. I told myself I just needed to stay calm, be safe and keep your brain on."

Beretta joined Fellows as the only drivers in ALMS history to win three class championships. Beretta won titles with Team ORECA in 1999 and 2000, as the chief rival of Corvette Racing in the early days of the ALMS. The championship duo won for the fifth straight time and seventh in the last eight races, including a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"This was a phenomenal year for Olivier, myself and the team," Gavin said, "It took until Le Mans for the team to really gel, but I'd like to think everyone at GM and Corvette, because the C6-R was quick right out of the blocks. We were the strongest car out there today, and I'm confident that we'll come back as strong next year."

As expected, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long won the GT2 class, both in the race and the championship. The #31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche crew had to fight for the race win, however, only inheriting the lead when the #50 Panoz Esperante of Bill Auberlen and Robin Liddell pitted for a splash of fuel with seven minutes left.

"We were in this to keep a good clean nose, but also to push for a team championship," Long said, "It was tough with the traffic and the safety cars. We came here to win a championship, and keeping our noses clean was a way to do that. To come out with more race victories than anyone else in the class is sweet. We always said we would go out and try to win races and championships."

Bergmeister and Long won for the fifth time this year - the most in class - and for the fourth straight event.

"Once we finished the 70 per cent [race distance needed for points], we started pushing and that paid off," Bergmeister said, "We didn't have the quickest car, but we set up the car for a championship. I was hoping we'd have a good season, but I knew it would be hard to beat the AJR guys. They are the factory guys to beat, and we did it."

The Panoz pairing resumed with enough in hand to ensure themselves of a podium finish, although the three GT2 leaders all came home on the same lap. The Alex Job pairing of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, which had harboured outside hopes of the class title, could only manage fifth in class, a lap down.


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