American Le Mans Series, round 7 in Mid-Ohio, USA, preview: RS Spyder heads into second half of seas

With the race on the time-honoured Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on 21 July, the American Le Mans Series takes off into the second half of the season. For the seventh round of this race series with the world’s fastest sports cars, the Porsche RS Spyders return to the race track where Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) last year claimed the first overall victory with the Weissach-developed and built sports cars. This season the RS Spyders have set new standards claiming four overall victories and are well on course to secure the title.

On the 3.620 kilometre circuit in Lexington, on which the American Le Mans Series can be seen in conjunction with the equally popular US IndyCar Series, four RS Spyders roll to the start. Manning the #6 cockpit are title defender Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia), who travel to Mid-Ohio with two overall wins from Salt Lake City and Lime Rock to their credit. Points leaders Timo Bernhard and Romains Dumas, the overall winners from Long Beach and Houston, share the #7 RS Spyder. The Porsche-supported US privateer Dyson Racing team also tackles the Mid-Ohio round with two RS Spyders. Andy Wallace (Great Britain) and Butch Leitzinger (USA) take up the race at the wheel of the #16 car. Sharing driving duties in the RS Spyder with starting number 20 are Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain), who at Lime Rock started for the first time from the front row.

“The circuit is very demanding and a huge challenge for the drivers,” says Timo Bernhard. Romain Dumas, who planted their RS Spyder on pole position at Lime Rock, added: “It’s particularly difficult to find the quickest line over the many crests and sometimes almost blind corners. Last year we coped very well and we should be able to do it again this year.”

The successful first half of the season for the RS Spyder is excellent motivation. Following a class victory in St. Petersburg came four consecutive overall wins against the more powerful LMP1 class vehicles. In response to this unique winning streak, the IMSA as the governing body of the American Le Mans Series, changed the technical regulations by ruling that the LMP2 vehicles must feature five-percent smaller intake air restrictors. Accordingly, the power of the RS Spyder is reduced by five percent to 478 hp.

On the Mid-Ohio track with its long straights and fast corners, this loss of power will very likely have a stronger effect than on the narrow Lime Rock circuit. “Without doubt, the engine performance plays a larger role but we’ll try to compensate as much as possible for this handicap by making further improvements to other areas,” says head of Porsche motorsport, Hartmut Kristen, whose half-time summary is also positive. “We have achieved a great deal more than expected against the strong competition. Our objective for the season is to win the LMP2 class title, which is the most competitive category by far in the American Le Mans Series. We are well on the way to doing this.”

In the GT2 class for modified near-standard sports cars, Porsche came back on its success track in Lime Rock. Racing for Flying Lizard Motorsports, title defender Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) with his team mate Johannes van Overbeek (USA) claimed their first victory this season with the 911 GT3 RSR. The team is eager to repeat this success in Mid-Ohio. With good chances for class victory at their home race, Rahal Letterman Racing compete with drivers Ralf Kelleners (Germany) and Tom Milner (USA), who took home second from Lime Rock, as well as Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Robin Liddell (Great Britain) in Tafel Racing’s 911 GT3 RSR.

The race in Mid-Ohio starts on Saturday, 21 July 2007, at 15.15 hours local time (21.15 hours CET) and runs over 2:45 hours.