The temporary Miami street circuit that will host this weekend's Grand Prix Americas presented by creates unique challenges to drivers and race teams in the American Le Mans Series.

The 1.3-mile circuit will bring the downtown area of Miami alive with the sounds of race cars this weekend [26-28 September], as the American Le Mans Series holds centre stage with the single-seaters of the CART Champ Car World Series.

Last year's event, which brought street circuit racing back to Miami after an absence of six years, was run on a course slightly different to that which will be used for this weekend's event as, due to construction in the Miami downtown area, a section at the south end of the circuit - which also proved unpopular with the drivers - has been eliminated and replaced with more track at the north end.

The layout, which includes portions of Biscayne Boulevard, Bayfront Park and other Miami city streets, has 13 turns, most of which go left, with just a few are to the right. The turn 10-11 combination is a tight, low-speed hairpin at the north end of the circuit, and connects the north and southbound lanes of Biscayne Boulevard. The pit area is set up further south, between the two lanes of Biscayne.

"This year, the track is different, which makes it new for everyone again," said Brad Kettler, technical director for ADT Champion Racing, which fields an Audi R8 for drivers JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert, "I think tyre choice will be extremely critical. Teams that can quickly find the optimum race set-up should prevail although, on such a tight circuit, luck will play an important role."

In total, it is a tight, narrow and challenging circuit, the smallest that the American Le Mans Series races on in 2003, and one of only two street circuits on the schedule, alongside Trois-Rivieres in Canada.

"The spectators will definitely see an interesting race because the track is so narrow and short," said Frank Biela, a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the overall winner of last year's inaugural Miami race, "Between the concrete walls, the smallest mistake inevitably leads to retirement, which is something we cannot afford."

Ron Fellows, who will co-drive a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R in the GTS class with Johnny O'Connell, will also be seeking to repeat his Miami win from last year.

"Street circuits are a little different," said the popular Canadian driver, "It tends to be a little more rubbing and bumping just because there's not a whole lot of room on a street circuit and you've got to be a little careful. There's absolutely no room for error. You're talking about a track surrounded by concrete walls.

"A lot of getting the car to work is mechanical grip. The downforce the car makes on a street circuit is pretty minimal. A lot of it is a balance between the springs in the car, sway bars, and we've got some choices in tyres with Goodyear and they've done a pretty good job for us, certainly with street circuits. We look at how things went at Trois-Rivieres [where the Corvette team swept the top two spots in GTS] and we're pretty confident."

In addition to the race, American Le Mans Series competitors enjoyed their visit to Miami last year, with most choosing to spend some extra time in one of America's most cosmopolitan and exciting cities.

"We're all looking forward to Miami," said Biela, "The atmosphere is awesome and racing on street circuits is something special."



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