Penske Porsche ALMS Preview - Lime Rock Park

July 10, 2008

LIME ROCK, Conn. (July 10, 2008) - After a long break on either side of the Le Mans 24 hour race, the fifth round of the American Le Mans Series – the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, on Saturday, July 12 – starts a run of four races in six weeks which will go a long way towards determining the class championships.

The two hour, 45-minute race will get the green flag on Saturday at 2 p.m.EDT, and will be broadcast live on American Le Mans Radio on the web at, which will also have live timing and scoring.  The race will also be telecast in its entirety on a delayed basis on SPEED TV on Sunday, July 13, at Noon EDT.

Lime Rock Track management has overseen a complete repaving of the circuit between its Memorial Day event and this weekend, including the building of two new corners which completely change the characteristics of this classic road-racing venue.  Both drivers and crew have to throw out everything they have learned about Lime Rock in the past, and start over again on Friday morning when the first practice session starts.  

“The exciting thing about this circuit this year is that we don’t really know what is awaiting us,” said Penske Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 driver Sascha Maassen. “Although the track is very old and narrow we always drive at very high speeds, so they have made the corners somewhat slower this year. The rest of the track has been resurfaced.”  

Right next to the track is a church. For this reason, racing on Sunday is strictly forbidden – and testing is generally not permitted because of the limited number of open-exhaust days allowed by the town. Maassen does not regard this as a handicap.   “Our RS Spyder is well prepared," he said. "In fact, it’s fast on any track right from the word go.”

On the short 1.51-mile circuit, Maassen shares driving duties with Patrick Long (USA) in the No. 6 RS Spyder. Penske Racing runs not only this Weissach-developed and built sports prototype but also the No. 7 vehicle manned by reigning champions Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France). The pair won the season-opening Sebring 12 hour race and the previous round in Salt Lake City. With these results, Bernhard/Dumas lead the LMP2 championship by 28 points over Acura drivers Brabham/Sharp.   In the LMP2 Manufacturers points, Porsche leads Acura by 17 points.

The LMP2 Porsche factory pilots made good use of the June Le Mans break: Sascha Maassen contested the Le Mans 24 hour race for the Essex team, where he celebrated a second-place finish in LMP2 as the Porsche RS Spyders took the top two spots on the podium in their Le Mans debut. With a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas competed for the Manthey Racing team at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and, after a breathtaking chase through the field, brought home overall victory. Patrick Long drove with the French IMSA Racing Porsche team in GT2 at Le Mans, but an accident took the car out of competition early.

The circuit at Lime Rock Park has no straights and is made up almost entirely of corners. Maassen is convinced that this is an advantage for the RS Spyder. “This puts the emphasis on the agility of our car and means that its power handicap, as dictated by the regulations, isn’t so noticeable compared to the LMP1 vehicles,” he said.  

The entire field will be affected by only one problem. In heavy traffic on such a short circuit, similar to rush hour traffic, constant overtaking of slower GT vehicles is unavoidable.   “This can be decisive in the race,” said Maassen.

Facts and Figures

  • The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was created in 1999.
  • The regulations are based on the rules of the Le Mans 24 hour race.
  • This season eleven rounds will be contested in the USA and Canada.
  • The traditional highlights of the year are the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the 1,000 mile “Petit Le Mans” race in Road Atlanta. Most races run over 2 hours, 45 minutes.
  • The ALMS is the American counterpart to the European-based Le Mans Series (LMS).
  • The starting field consists of two different sports vehicle categories: Sports prototypes and production-based sports cars. They are divided into four classes: LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 750 hp and a minimum weight of 925 kilograms (in the LMS: 750 hp/900 kilograms). LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with around 475 hp (normally-aspirated engines) and an 800 kilogram minimum weight (in the LMS: 475 hp/825 kg). The Porsche RS Spyder competes in this class. GT1 class: Heavily modified production-based sports cars with up to 650 hp and a minimum weight of 1,125 – 1,325 kilograms (in the LMS: 650 hp/1,125 – 1,325 kilograms). GT2 class: Modified production-based sports cars with between 450 hp to 470 hp and a minimum weight of 1,125 – 1,325 kilograms (in the LMS: 450 to 470 hp/1,125 – 1,325 kilograms).
  • All race cars start together but are classified separately according to the class. This system ensures diverse and gripping racing with many overtaking opportunities.
  • Points are only allocated for finishing positions in each class.
  • Championship titles are awarded in the LMP1 and LMP2 classes for drivers, chassis and engine manufacturers, teams and tire suppliers.
  • With the RS Spyder in 2006 and 2007, Porsche won the championship title for drivers (Sascha Maassen/Lucas Luhr and Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas respectively) as well as for manufacturer chassis, manufacturer engine and team (Penske Racing). 
  • Porsche factory driver Maassen leads ALMS drivers in all-time consecutive starts 40 (streak ended at Lime Rock in 2004) and ALMS GT/GT2 class wins (22).  Maassen is the only driver in ALMS to win a race every year the series has been run, including victories in 2004 at Sebring and Petit Le Mans, a 2005 LMP2 win in the new Porsche RS Spyder prototype, and 2006 wins in the RS Spyder at Salt Lake City, Road America, Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca.  He is still waiting for his first win in 2008.
  • Porsche has 88 ALMS class wins, 13 more than any other manufacturer. Porsche has won the GT/GT2 ALMS manufacturers title seven of the eight years of ALMS’ existence.    2006 was Porsche’s first LMP2 title, and Porsche won the drivers, manufacturers, engine and chassis titles in LMP2 for 2007.