The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron returns to action this weekend at Lime Rock Park after its annual summer Le Mans break. Only a handful of teams that participated at the 24 Hours, while others have tested and some other changes have occurred in the two months between Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock.
Lime Rock marks the first standard two-hour, 45-minute race of the season after races of 12 hours (Sebring), two (Long Beach) and six (Monterey). It's also the first in a stretch of six races every other weekend between now and Sept. 15. In the interim between Monterey and Lime Rock, some teams tested at Virginia International Raceway and Mid-Ohio while three (Corvette, Flying Lizard, Level 5) made the voyage to Le Mans. A fourth in class for the two GT squads was the best result.
Both of the full-season P1 entries have weight reductions and restrictor increases this race. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and Dyson Racing's new cars each get a 20kg reduction from 900 to 880kg. The Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a, winners of the last two races, has a 1.1mm restrictor increase to 44.4, while the Dyson Lola B12/60 Mazda jumps to a 45.0 with a 2.1mm increase. The Dyson Lola Mazda was substantially off pace last race at Mazda Raceway. Dyson won this race last year with Chris Dyson and Guy Smith; Muscle Milk updates its livery to patriotic colors this weekend.
While the two P1 cars go back to three with the Eric Lux/Michael Marsal older second car back for its second race, P2 will have just four entries after five at Monterey. Dempsey Racing and its Lola-Judd, with a driver lineup of just Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster, join full-season entrants Level 5 (two HPD ARX-03bs) and Conquest Endurance (Morgan Nissan). The Libra Radical Roush Yates that premiered at Monterey isn't entered, nor is Black Swan's Lola HPD coupe. Tim Pappas' squad is unlikely to appear within P2 the rest of the season with both crash damage from Long Beach and a lack of spare parts from Lola.
GT sees Corvette Racing going for its third successive win with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. The back-to-back wins for the pair in the C6.R at Long Beach, then Monterey mark the first for Corvette since it stepped down from GT1 to (then) GT2 in 2009. Either they or the No. 3 car with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia could deliver the result, and a win would be a nice comeback after a challenging 24 Hours of Le Mans for both cars.
BMW Team RLL enters as defending race champions; the victory was the last for the team in its 2011 championship-winning season. Elsewhere the Extreme Speed Ferraris, which have been on-par, pace-wise with Corvette and BMW have been given a restrictor increase of 0.6mm (now 40.6) to its 458s. Lime Rock is far from being about outright pace but that's no doubt a help to the chances of either ESM 458, with Johannes van Overbeek and Scott Sharp (No. 01) and Guy Cosmo and Ed Brown (No. 02) each seeking to give the team its first ALMS victory.
Flying Lizard Porsche won four straight races at Lime Rock from 2007 through 2010 and was second a year ago; a fraught start to the year has usual title contenders Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister mired in eighth place in the driver standings, already 40 points back of points leaders Gavin/Milner. Fellow Porsche squads Team Falken Tire and Paul Miller Racing are also looking to capitalize on the aero adjustments implemented at Monterey this race. The Alex Job Lotus Evora, which has yet to finish either of its two starts, gets a 1.8mm restrictor increase to help aid its chances.
The Challenge classes feature seven PC and six GTC entrants; the PC level drops by one as Mike Guasch has parted ways from Pickett Racing, leaving Muscle Milk athlete and the team's pro driver Memo Gidley temporarily sidelined. TRG, which won at Monterey, has yet to name the driver lineup to its No. 66 car within GTC, while Green Hornet expands to two cars for the first time. Peter LeSaffre is listed in both cars alongside Anthony Lazzaro (No. 33) and Damien Faulkner (No. 34).
The Northeast Grand Prix airs Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2. It begins with a live online stream on ESPN3, at 2:45 p.m. Eastern, with different commentary.