The privateer Ferrari 550 Maranellos owned by Care Racing, built and run on Care's behalf by Prodrive and driven by some of the best sportscar talent around, took on and beat the might of the Chevrolet Corvettes at Road Atlanta to end the American Le Mans Series as the class of the GTS category.

Although the first and second place finishes in the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans event could not prevent Corvette from taking the final remaining class title, the result did mean that the Prodrive team has now achieved victory at two of the biggest endurance events of the year, with Tomas Enge and Peter Kox having won the GTS category at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

"It's been a marathon week for a quite simply fantastic team," admitted team principal George Howard-Chappell, referring to the two major accidents that have kept his men busy over the past seven days, "These are the best guys I've worked with, every team member did a star job and I couldn't be happier."

Enge, Kox and third tem member Alain Menu crossed the line in formation with the second-placed #80 car campaigned by David Brabham, Anthony Davidson and Jan Magnussen. Both cars were nine laps ahead of their nearest rival but, unfortunately, the result was just one point short of the required number for the class manufacturers' title, which went to Corvette.

"The car was so fast through the whole race and we were able to drive without any mistakes," Enge revealed, "The guys in the pits were brilliant, no mistakes at all, and we were fast all the time, so I think we deserve this victory. Last year, we were a bit unlucky and, this year, we have finished the unfinished business - just as we did at Le Mans."

"It's a fantastic result," Kox agreed, "Last year, we lost both big races and, this year, we have won them both. You can't wish for anything more."

Menu only joined the line-up for what promised to be a close ten hour encounter, but was also happy to have erased the memory of last year's Petit Le Mans.

"I'm very, very pleased, especially after last year, when we should have won the race, after getting so close," he explained, "It's my first race in the ALMS this year and I've won! It's my first win for a couple of years, so I'm very happy, especially being with team-mates who drove so well the whole race. This is great for the whole team."

The two regular Prodrive entries enjoyed a nose-to-tail race throughout, with car #88 just having a slight edge over its sister car for much of the event. Team orders, having been discussed prior to the race, were only brought into play after the eighth hour of comeptition, and the second car was instructed to hold position. The order came as the two cars were in the reverse order to that when orders were last employed, in the penultimate round of the series in Miami.

"To finish 1-2 and to have been racing that closely all the time is just a credit to the team," Brabham admitted, "It's also thanks to Michelin, which provided us with some new tyres for this race, and great rubber all season. It's great for everyone involved in this team - I've felt very welcome here, so a big thanks to everyone."

Regular co-driver Magnussen rejoined the team after missing Miami to concentrate on his domestic touring car commitments and, having only been drafted into the #80 car along with Brabham mid-season, admitted that the result confirmed just how far the team had progressed since then.

"It's an absolutely fantastic result for the team and a great day for all of us," he said, "We had to play it safe and finish 1-2 - obviously, I'd have liked it the other way round, but that's how it goes sometimes!"

For Davidson, a podium finish rounded out a year that has seen him compete only sporadically, and made up for the accident which ended his le Mans 24 Hours experience.

"It was really good and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than Sebring," he reported, "It was an excellent result for the team and I really enjoyed it all."

For this race, car #88's chassis was the one in which Davidson, Kelvin Burt and Darren Turner had competed, but failed to finish, at Le Mans. This result therefore meant that every chassis produced by Prodrive within the Care Racing stable has achieved race success.

The third Prodrive Ferrari entry, driven by a team including Care Racing's owner Frederic Dor, struggled with a failing gearbox and a knock from a slower car in the final few laps to bring the car home fourth in class.

"It's fantastic, especially as it's revenge for last year," Dor said of the entire Care Racing effort, "It also confirms the potential the car showed at Le Mans, and that we have a car which can win races at any distance."

Veteran Jan Lammers was called up to share the #08 car with Dor and Frenchman Jerome Policand, and admitted that he had fully enjoyed the event.

"I'm delighted to have had this experience with the team and I really think we did the best we could," the Dutchman said, "At the beginning, we were able to help a little bit with the fight with the Corvettes. It was a wonderful experience to see all these guys enjoying what they've been working for all year."

Policand was the first to encounter problems with the car, and admitted that the team had been fortunate to see all three of its entries still around at the chequered flag.

"After about ten laps in my second stint, I lost the gearbox, with only fifth gear remaining," he revealed, "I managed to maintain some speed but, perhaps because I was not going as fast, a Porsche hit me and I touched the armco. I was lucky to finish."

 

Comments

Loading Comments...