The wet weather dominated the American Le Mans Series' two-hour morning practice session. Before Friday evening's qualifying, here's a handful of news and notes from around the paddock for the Tequila Patron ALMS at Long Beach:
FROM SWEEPING TO RAINING – Ordinarily the American Le Mans Series spends its first session of the Long Beach weekend as million-dollar street sweepers, but Friday morning's two-hour practice didn't even offer that opportunity. The cars didn't get any dry running as the slick, wet and damp track greeted the 33-car field. With a high frequency of spins and red flags during the session, little was gained except teams doing their necessary installation laps. The weather also brought all cars and all classes within the relative same time range, and although Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's HPD ARX-03a led the overall time sheets, a 1:33.121 was some 20 seconds off the 2011 overall pole.
Four of the five classes locked out the top five positions overall – the Muscle Milk HPD (P1) ahead of the No. 8 Merchant Services PC Oreca FLM09, Conquest Morgan Judd (P2) and Falken Porsche (GT) in the top four.
MILLER BREWING A GOOD STREET SUCCESS – Oft-overlooked in the Porsche contingent of teams is the Paul Miller Racing squad. While it may not have the resources of a Flying Lizard or a Team Falken Tire, the PMR Porsche 911 GT3 RSR actually recorded the highest finish among ALMS Porsches at Sebring – fifth compared to sixth/tenth (Lizards) and eighth (Falken), and was one of the stronger street course cars in 2011.
The team was leading during a late pit stop cycle at Long Beach last year and in contention for a top-five run late in the going before being nudged into the turn 8 barriers after contact with a Corvette. Miller followed up its Long Beach promise with fourth place, its best finish of 2011, on the streets of Baltimore in September (ABOVE).
While the other two Porsche squads have just upgraded their cars to the new wider, 2012-spec 911, Miller has changed from Yokohama to Dunlop tires. Drivers Bryce Miller and Sascha Maassen look to turn heads again this weekend.
P2/PC CLASS UPDATES – Tim Pappas made slight contact during the morning practice session, and told RACER.com the Black Swan Racing team may not have enough spare parts to be able to repair the rear suspension. The Lola B11/80 HPD, adorned with Roscoe's House of Chicken ‘n Waffles signage this weekend, is the only Lola P2 entry in the field.
James Kovacic makes his return to the ALMS, the 18-year-old Australian a last-minute addition to the Merchant Services squad. He was in one of Intersport's two PC cars at Lime Rock in 2011. Kovacic, who'd never driven the Long Beach track before, and co-driver Tony Burgess completed the most laps of anyone in the water-logged two-hour morning session, 33 around the 1.9-mile street course. Kovacic, who'd not previously met his co-driver formerly of Autocon Motorsports, noted Burgess had prior experience in cars with more downforce than the PC car, and should adapt well for his first start in class. The team's sister entry, driven by Kyle Marcelli and Antonio Downs, closed the morning practice session second overall and first in PC.
Teams are in the process of finalizing their third drivers for the series' next round, the six-hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Miles Maroney, who set the mark as the youngest driver in ALMS history at Long Beach last year, appears close to a ride for his second start, while Dempsey Racing is likely to employ Ryan Lewis as its third driver alongside Duncan Ende and Henri Richard for its PC car. Cameron will be in New Jersey for the Rolex Series' race that weekend, and the conflict may affect other drivers.
Dempsey Racing, meanwhile, is still hopeful of a Mazda Raceway debut for its Lola Judd P2 entry, and if another oft-rumored entry materializes, the P2 class will have at least six cars next race.
STEEP LEARNING CURVE FOR DYSON NUMBER TWO – Dyson Racing has brought back its second car, last year's championship-winning No. 16 entry, in the renumbered and renamed No. 20 Lola B11/66 Mazda coupe. Eric Lux, last year's PC class co-champion, makes his P1 class debut while Michael Marsal is making his ALMS debut – Marsal has largely raced in the Rolex Series with Turner Motorsport's BMW M3. With limited testing, and even less track time this morning (10 total laps for the car), they'll be trying to make the most of learning during their first weekend with the defending champion team. A video of Lux and Marsal's first test is below: