Thoughts and Observations on the 2013 ALMS Oak Tree Grand Prix from VIR

Another benefit of a weekend off is that I was able to watch live the American Le Mans Series 2013 Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.  It was quite a good race, especially in the GT classes (as it seems they always are) and although it was sad to see VIR’s famed Oak Tree gone (it got sick, died, and had to be cut down earlier this year) it was one of my favorite races of the weekend.

  • It was good to see the Dyson P1 car competitive this past weekend.  While Chris Dyson wasn’t in the car this weekend, Guy Smith was and Johnny Mowlem took Dyson’s place in the driver lineup.  While not a P1 regular, Mowlem is definitely no slouch so it was a return to an A-team lineup for Dyson at VIR.  The final result may not have shown it, but Dyson was competitive with Muscle Milk (and clearly had more straight line speed than Muscle Milk’s Honda) throughout the race and led several times.  Instead of giving up early in the season, I wish they had stayed with their A-team through the season and put up more of a fight like they did at VIR; the 2013 ALMS season would have been better for it.
  • The Delta Wing team has a lot of work ahead of them with the coupe.  They were clearly making advances with the open cockpit version of the Delta Wing and with the introduction of the coupe version, it seems they may have taken a few steps backward.  Admittedly, this is a development season for Delta Wing but they have a lot of work ahead of them before the 2014 season.  The coupe wasn’t really competitive with the P2 cars at VIR and those are some of the cars they’re supposed to be competing against next year.  The car has good straight line speed but it lacks in the turns and reliability has been an issue all season long.  Right now it’s hard to see it coming close to making the distance at Petit Le Mans, much less the 24 Hours of Daytona or the traditionally rough on equipment 12 Hours of Sebring.
  • How terrific was it to see the Risi Ferrari win this weekend!?  It isn’t right to call any win deserved, but if you could this one could be in that category.  It was definitely well earned; by any definition Risi has had a tough season and hopefully their strong win at VIR makes up for all of the mechanical woes and hard crashes they’ve endured this season.  Considering that car was nearly totaled at Baltimore it was amazing to see it win like that this past weekend.

As good as it was, the race was marred by a very scary crash between a GT Porsche and a GTC Porsche at the esses.  The GT Porsche basically tried to take the line from the GTC Porsche and after side by side contact at high speed that damaged both cars, the GTC car took off through the grass, became airborne, tumbled across the jersey barriers and tire wall putting a huge crease in the roof, and came to rest perched atop the tire wall almost hitting the marshal’s post and a camera man in the process.  Thankfully the driver got of the car on his own and walked away unhurt.

Screen cap of the #31 GTC Porsche from the ESPN3 webcast after it precariously came to rest atop the tire barrier beside a marshal's post and just before a manned camera position.
Screen cap of the #31 GTC Porsche from the ESPN3 webcast after it precariously came to rest atop the tire barrier beside a marshal’s post and just before a manned camera position.  Note the massive crease in the roof.

This crash is proof positive of the ACO’s wisdom in trying to move away from open top prototype cars.  Had that been one of the PC cars or an open top P1 or P2 car, the driver wouldn’t have walked away, he would have been dead because of the lack of protection over his head.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some contour work done in that runoff area before next year to prevent cars becoming airborne before the barriers and I also wouldn’t be surprised if that marshal’s post isn’t relocated next year.

While VIR is no modern Circuit of Americas, it provides great racing and I’m glad to see it made it’s way onto the Tudor Watches United Sports Car Championship (TUSCC) schedule for 2014 after Baltimore dropped off.  I’m looking forward to the combined series racing there next year.

I can’t finish without thanking John Hindhaugh of Radio Le Mans for his years of being the voice of the American Le Mans Series.  Due to a conflict with the WEC round in Japan, he won’t be working the ALMS finale at Petit Le Mans. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, he helped make the series what it was and helped educate and excite a new generation of sports car and endurance racing fans.  While Radio Le Mans wasn’t always involved, it seemed like John always was.  Next year, it appears he won’t be involved with calling the TUSCC races and I think that’s a mistake on the series’ part.  MRN will be doing the radio for the races and while they do a great job with NASCAR races, sports car and endurance racing just isn’t their forte.  I truly hope that TUSCC finds a way to get John and/or Radio Le Mans involved, the series will better for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s