Lola sportscars were once again in the thick of the action during the 2006 running of the Petit Le Mans 1000-mile
race, held at Road Atlanta in Georgia over the weekend.
The famous Huntingdon marque saw their designs finish on both LMP1 and LMP2 podiums with the Highcroft
Racing and Horag-Lista teams. The Dyson Racing LMP1 cars also fought for the lead during the race but their
challenge was eventually halted by ill luck.
HIGHCROFT HIGH FIVES
Highcroft Racing earned the best result of their season at Road Atlanta with a superb 3rd overall. The yellow Lola
B01/60-AER took full advantage of late race problems for one of the Audi R10's and the Creation LMP1 car, to
register its first podium of the season.
Duncan Dayton, Memo Gidley and Vitor Meira were just a lap behind the 2nd placed Zytek of Stefan Johansson,
Johnny Mowlem and Hiroki Kurosawa at the chequered flag.
Highcroft's race started dramatically when Jon Field driving the Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 made contact with
the rear of the Highcroft car, spinning it around and bringing out the safety car. Pitting to replace some damaged
rear bodywork, Dayton was soon back out in to the race and making up for some lost time.
New to the Highcroft team and indeed the American Le Mans series was Memo Gidley and Vitor Meira who
joined Dayton for this race, as Andy Wallace had joined his old team mates at Dyson Racing. Both drivers have a
wealth of experience in US single seater racing and between them they lapped the scenic Road Atlanta track
quickly to ensure that the Lola was in contention to pick up the podium place in the final hour.
"I'm just really proud of everyone on the Highcroft Racing team and for Memo and Vitor's perseverance," said a
delighted Duncan Dayton after the event. "They both did an excellent job. We had some problems early on that
looked like they were going to knock us out of contention, so to get on the podium is very satisfying."
DYSON SHOW TRUE PACE AND POTENTIAL OF LOLA LMP1
Dyson Racing fought back from a difficult qualifying session at Road Atlanta to star in the early stages of the race
when James Weaver challenged the eventual race winning Audi of Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello.
Butch Leitzinger spun off in qualifying and as a result Weaver was forced to start from the rear of the grid. However,
Weaver used his characteristic grit and determination, not to mention the raw pace of the Lola B06/10, to scythe
his way through the field in the first hour of the race.
As the race progressed and Weaver set the fastest lap of the entire race, with a stunning 1m 12.374s lap, he
headed over to Leitzinger and then to third driver for this race, Andy Wallace. The number 16 Dyson Lola stayed
in touch with the leading Audi's, now in 3rd place. After just over 6 hours of racing Wallace was just 40 seconds
behind Emmanuele Pirro in the 2nd place. Lapping quicker than the Audi's the Lola was sure of a podium position
and also possibly challenging for the lead.
Sadly, it was not to be, as Wallace pulled off the track and retired with an engine related problem on the car's
221st lap. Despite the disappointment, James Weaver commented on the speed and handling of the Lola, saying: "The car is a joy to drive: this is as good as it gets."
The sister Lola LMP1 one of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith was also in the running at the front of the field in the
opening hours. After a superb opening stint from Chris Dyson, Guy Smith set off on a brilliant charge to hunt the
leading Audi's down.
The 2003 Le Mans winner quickly dispatched with Capello under braking for Turn 10, splitting the previously
all-conquering Audi's. Lapping considerably faster then anyone else in the field, Smith then latched on to the tail
of the leader, Frank Biela. However, just as the Humbersider was about to make a move, the blue and white
car was pitched off the track and in to the barriers at Turn 5 and out of the race.
"We have made some huge steps forward this year and we had two cars that ran up front this weekend," said
Chris Dyson afterwards. "If circumstances had been different, we would have been on the podium like we were
last year. We will gather ourselves up and have two cars ready for the last race of the season at Laguna in three
HORAG RETURN WITH LMP2 PODIUM POSITION
Horag-Lista returned to LMP2 for the first time in 2006, with former Brabham F1 racer, Eric Van De Poele
joining regular drivers Didier Theys and Fredy Leinhard in the Lola B05/40.
Theys started the race impressively and the car didn't skip a beat on its way to the chequered flag. Solid stints
from Van De Poele and Leinhard saw the car finish 12th overall and delight the US domiciled Belgian, Theys,
who said: "This weekend sure went better than last year. This is our first race as a team this year. The race was
trouble free except for a couple of mistakes due to rustiness on our part. But this is a great example of endurance
racing - you have to be there at the end."
INTERSPORT TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY
After finishing 4th in LMP2, Intersport Racing battle on in their title quest in LMP2 and still have a mathematical
chance of taking the crown.
It was a tough race for the team but their famous trait of determination and courage shone through after recovering
from a substantial accident in the practice session on Wednesday.
After re-building the AER powered Lola B05/40, Jon Field qualified a tenacious 3rd in LMP2 before driving his usual forceful opening stints to take the lead of the class on the hour mark. All this achieved from the back of the
starting grid, as all the teams drivers did not set laps in the night practice session.
After Jon handed over to his son, Clint Field, the Intersport car was in a comfortable class lead after the Penske
Porsche had suffered more problems. Further solid stints from Liz Halliday and then again from Jon Field ensured
that when Clint got in to the cockpit for his second stint, he still had a 2 lap lead over the recovering Porsches.
But with just under two hours remaining Clint almost went off the track before pitting to check over a suspected
steering rack problem, likely to have a been a legacy of their qualifying accident. This lost the car many laps but
it eventually returned to finish the race in 13th overall and 4th in LMP2. It was a truly gutsy performance from the
tight knit Ohio based team.
AUTOCON RUE MISFORTUNE AFTER GOOD RUN
Autocon Motorsports were enjoying their most competitive race of the season at Petit Le Mans at the weekend,
but ultimately came away ruing more misfortune.
The trio of Bryan Willman, Michael Lewis and Chris McMurray qualified an encouraging 12th overall and then got
a solid start to run 9th at the first pit stop, with Mike Lewis doing the early running.
However, the B01/60-AER soon came into the pits, smoking, with Bryan Willman now at the wheel. "I head a
loud crack and then lost power," said Willman. "We broke a piston ring and it took out a piston, and sucked all
the oil out of the car," he continued. "We had a really good race car. It was a shame."
Acura and Lola swung a lamp over the future with the unveiling of the Fernandez B05/40 chassis that will race in
next seasons ALMS. Schedule to debut at Sebring next March the car will be driven by Fernandez Racing team principal Adrian Fernandez
and ex-Champ Car racer Luis Diaz. The car will be backed by Lowe's.
"The next few months are going to be pretty busy as we get ready for Sebring, but we have a great advantage in
starting our testing program early thanks to everyone at Acura, Lola, Michelin and obviously Lowe's," said the
team's Managing Director, Tom Anderson. "This program has come together quickly and that's a testament to the
great partners we have. We're looking forward to this new challenge, and bringing Luis on board is the final brick
in a strong foundation for '07."
RACE RESULTS - 2006 PETIT LE MANS
Pos Cl. Drivers Car Laps
1. P1 McNish/Capello Audi R10 TDI Power 394
2. P1 Johansson/Mowlem/Kurosawa Zytek 06S 390
3. P1 Dayton/Gidley/Meira Lola EX257 AER 389
4. P1 Minassian/Primat/C.-Walter Creation CA06/H-01 388
5. P2 Bernhard/Collard/Maassen Porsche RS Spyder 386
6. P2 Luhr/Dumas/Rockenfeller Porsche RS Spyder 385
7. P1 Werner/Pirro/Biela Audi R10 TDI Power 383
8. GT1 Turner/Enge Aston Martin DB9 374
9. GT1 Sarrazin/Lamy Aston Martin DB9 373
10. GT1 Gavin/Magnussen/Beretta Corvette C6.R 372
11. GT1 Fellows/O'Connell/Papis Corvette C6.R 371
12. P2 Theys/van de Poele/Lienhard Lola B05/40 Judd 371
13. P2 Field/Halliday/Field Lola B05/40 AER 357
14. GT2 Bergmeister/Jonsson/Long Porsche 911 GT3 356
15. GT2 Mediani/Franchitti/Lazzaro Ferrari 430 GT 354
16. GT2 Maxwell/Brabham/Bourdais Panoz Esperante 352
17. GT2 Jeannette/Milner/Lally Panoz Esperante 351
18. GT2 Lieb/vanOverbeek/Henzler Porsche 911 GT3 346
19. GT2 Auberlen/Said/Hand BMW E46 M3 344
20. GT2 Law/Neiman/Pechnik Porsche 911 GT3 343
21. GT2 Liddell/Tiemann/Farnbacher Porsche 911 GT3 339
22. P2 Cosmo/Forbes-Robinson/ Bach Courage Mazda 309
23. GT2 James/Marks/Sellers BMW E46 M3 304
24. P1 Weaver/Leitzinger/Wallace Lola B06/10 AER 221
25. P1 Lewis/Willman/McMurry Lola EX257 AER 127
26. P1 Dyson/Smith Lola B06/10 AER 100
27. GT2 Kelleners/Palttala/Ortelli Ferrari 430 GT 61
28. P2 Devlin/Greaves/Van der Steur Radical SR 9 AER 6
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