ALMS at Mid Ohio

alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioOn a warm, sunny, and muggy day in Ohio, thousands of people came out to watch some of the most technical cars on our shores. The American Le Mans Series held its 6th race of the 2012 season, the simply titled Mid Ohio Sports Car Challenge.

alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioUnlike years before, this was the biggest ALMS race at Mid Ohio to date. In the ten or so years since I’ve been going, I have never witnessed so many people at the race. And although crowds are never fun, it was great to see so many people come out to support the race and series. It can only mean a long, prosperous future for ALMS.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioDuring the IndyCar fast six qualifying, the teams were finishing their adjustments and mending damage or strain caused in practice. There was a slight chance for rain that day, so all teams had both tire treads out, ready to combat the weather. All this picture needs is a John Players Special logo somewhere and it would truly be complete!
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe Evora, run by the Alex Job team, could be one of the hardest cars to work on, due to the fact that there are not many in the States and getting parts isn’t as easy as it is for the teams with massive corporate manpower and supplies. That aside, it is probably one of the best looking GT cars out there, and the black and gold paint is a plus.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe biggest news this race was the return of the Viper. Not with its usual Dodge partnership, but one with SRT. While the Lotus was the pretty one of the GT class, the Viper was the meanest looking. Pictures cannot do it justice, it’s one you need to see in person. The presence of the car was everywhere, it seemed every other person had either an SRT shirt, lanyard, hat, bag, or something with SRT branded on it. Every time it came by, all cameras were trained on it.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioIn the busy paddock, with only one moment of distraction, you can find yourself blocking the way of any of the many cars making their way around. I find it kind of fun to look for the closest person blocking a jockeying car, wait for the crew member to inevitability rev the engine, then see them jump as they realize what’s going on and dart off to the side. Always happens, every time.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 was directly across from the SRT camp, but seemed as if it was in the middle of nowhere. Personally, it was my favorite Porsche of the weekend; there was something about the livery that I liked. And the big cake for Sascha Maasen’s 100th start was a nice touch too. Hard to believe this was his 100th race, I remember when he raced the Porsche Prototype in 2005. It really puts into perspective how many 100 races really is.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioI couldn’t imagine trying to get a car out onto the grid with the amount of people that came out to the race. I’m still amazed at how crowded it really was. I was also amazed at how many people seemed to think they were the only ones there…
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioHere we play spot the Speedhunter. I was surprised when I read that Sean Klingelhoefer was going to be at the race. I know ALMS is the “Premier Sports Car Series,” but the tiny little track in Ohio always seemed like a little local track to me. I’m sure the debut of the Viper didn’t hurt either.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe logistics in between events is just insane. The amount of golf carts carrying tires, fuel, pit boxes, and cars just seem to come out of nowhere. Mix in a few hundred people waiting for the non-existent pit walk, and it’s chaos. The best thing to do is find a little corner and hope it’s good, or stand in front of an already parked golf cart and wait.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioLucas Luhr and Klaus Graf, piloting the Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a, came off of their 4th win in a row at Mosport and were looking strong all day. Grabbing the pole the day before, they were the favorite to keep their winning streak going.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioNobody was holding back. In just the first lap everybody was battling like it was 1999, err, the last lap. It was also the only time that GT cars and LMP cars would truly battle for position.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioAlthough the GT cars seemed to be stuck together for the entire race. The Corvettes, BMWs, and Ferraris really seemed to group up and ran most of the race in various battles. Every lap one car would be in a different position than the lap before.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioWith Grand Am going to the closed cockpit design, ALMS was left with the combination of open and closed cars. The Dyson Lola B12/60 was possibly the best looking prototype in the field. The massive headlight complex somehow flowed well with the rest of the car. There’s something about a closed cockpit sports car that just seems right, maybe it’s the tie with the earlier 917s and 956s that make them so appealing to the eye.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioHowever good the Viper looked in the pits, it was ten times better on track. Seeing them do battle for the first time was a treat. Not too long ago, Chevrolet debuted the C6.R at Mid Ohio. There must be something with the proximity to Detroit that makes them pick Mid Ohio over more well known tracks like Sebring, Laguna Seca, Road America, or even Road Atlanta. Coming myself from the Detroit area, I find it’s roughly a two and a half hour drive to Lexington.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe Vipers never really broke away from each other, not surprising with this being their first race. They seemed to keep together and just try to finish as opposed to winning. They were never too far away from the Evora. Whenever the Evora came by, the Vipers were right behind.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioSpeaking again of the Evora, it was my favorite car of the weekend. Yes the Vipers were nice, but the Evora just had the lines and looks to please. And with the little smiley face front intake, how can you resist it?
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioLike the Vipers, the Corvettes also seemed to stick together, as they often do. The best part of the Corvettes though, like every year, was the exhaust note. The loud rumbling V8s easily overpowered anything else on the track. Even the 8.0L V10s of the Vipers couldn’t touch that Corvette growl.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe emphasis on aerodynamics never ceases to amaze me, even on the GT cars. The Porsches all had little ducts just behind the rear wheels to move the air just a little better. And the Evora with the large splitter across the entire rear end. Although I have to admit that none of these really come close to the aerodynamic monsters that reside in DTM land.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioAgain, Lotus and Viper. This time with a Ferrari mixed in. The mix of cars in the GT class is at one of its peaks. With the more or less “ordinary” M3s and Corvettes competing with 458s and Evoras, with the brand new beast the Viper, it’s a perfect way for manufactures to show off their road car superiority. And throw in a handful of 911s, I think it’s a rule that there cannot be a true Sports Car race without Porsche.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioTo support the SRT group, the Viper club had a special parking area for all Vipers. Ever Viper from the original RT/10 to the newest ACR came out. Soon enough, the SRT Viper will be cruising the streets all over America, not just the Metro Detroit area.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe Esses, turns 6 and 7, are the most popular place for the spectators. With the right hander just after a 180mph+ straight, it’s among some of the best places for passing.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioJust following the right hander, there’s an instant left hander. Perfect place for a crossover maneuver. Go too hard though and you go off into China Beach.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe runs drivers make at this section are almost scary. It almost seems like they have too much of a run, and sometimes they do.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioMid Ohio has two different, distinct parts. The first few turns include long straights on relatively smooth surfaces. Once they hit the Esses, the course ungulates throughout the rest of the lap. Throw in a blind crest midway through, and it’s a true drivers’ track.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe only true grandstands are at the end of the straight on the outside of the track. The tunnel from the infield is the only legitimate way in. Never fails that someone has to yell and echo or something on the way through.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioWith the race winding down the field started to spread out, except for the LMP 1 class, with the two remaining cars battling it out. On a quick note, my dad used to work for Thetford. Once we found out their racing connection, we made sure attend as many races as we could. Back in the day, the Dyson team seemed almost unstoppable, even with their Riley and Scott chassis which at the end was three or four years older than its rivals.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioNot to forget, the IndyCar Series was also at the track that day. They had a special place in the paddock for their RV’s and personal cars. A stroller and 356…I already envy the kid that the stroller is for.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioAlong with the IndyCars and ALMS, the World Challenge cars were set to race. With their race later in the day, the teams had time to work on and clean the cars.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioBut before the World Challenge cars ran, the USF2000 ran. Again, the paddock was filled with cars running around. No complaint here though, the noise and smell never get old.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioGolf carts turn into a sort of pack mule for the teams and media. They’re quick too, almost more dangerous than the cars, especially the electric ones, good thing they have horns.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioPost race, the fans line up at the exit gate all the cars use to get back to their paddock. Again, watch your back as the cars keep coming. Is it possible that the Viper looks even better with race grime? I think so.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe GTC class, which is made up of only Porsches, was also running during the race. Not sure what happened to the Green Hornet Porsche, but it looks like it took a mean hit to the right front!
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioAnd the Muscle Milk Acura keeps their streak going at Mid Ohio, their 5th win in a row. Although it wasn’t a walk in the park. They only beat out the Dyson Racing #16 car by .112 seconds. That’s even closer than the Grand Am race a few months ago with a winning margin of .236 seconds.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioYou can never go wrong with a gold wrapped Porsche.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioI cannot imagine a better place for a GoPro. Not only did the Muscle Milk team win five in a row, but they know where to mount their GoPros. They went all out with them in both headlights.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioThe cars always look good, but I’ve always thought they look better dirty. Something about the grit and scrape marks make the cars look so much more proper. For being a relatively short race, at 2 hours and 45 minutes, these cars get dirty.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioHanging out around the BMW paddock gave us a good look at all the inspections and interviews going on post race. Here is Jorg Muller who rounded out the podium in GT with Bill Auberlen. I also managed to find and have a little conversation with Mike Burroughs who was traveling with the BMW team. Then another conversation with Sean Klingelhoefer, a good way to end the day. Although my neck was beyond burnt and my fluids were running low, it was one of the best ALMS races to date and I can only hope that it gets bigger and better for next year.
alms viper corvette porsche milner mid ohioAnd a little late tip of the hat for 8/6 day, I saw this nice BRZ sitting out in the paddock on a nice set of BBSs.
LMP 1:
1. Lucas Luhr / Klaus Graf – HPD ARX-03a
2. Chris Dyson / Guy Smith – Lola B12/60
LMP 2:
1. Scott Tucker / Christophe Bouchut – HPD ARX-03b
2. Martin Plowman / David Heinemeier Hansson – Morgan
3. Scott Tucker / Ricardo Gonzalez – HPD ARX-03b
1. Rudy Junco / Marino Franchitti – Oreca FLM09
2. Alex Popow / Ryan Dalziel – Oreca FLM09
3. Kyle Marcelli / Antonio Downs – Oreca FLM09
1. Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner – Corvette C6 ZR1
2. Jorg Bergmeister / Patrick Long – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
3. Jorg Muller / Bill Auberlen – BMW E92 M3
1. Timothy Pappas / Jeroen Bleekemolen – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
2. Al Carter / Spencer Pumpelly – Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
3. Bob Fiaeta / Patrick Huisman

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