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Petit Notes: Rebellion Setting The Pace At Road Atlanta

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 17 2013

The Rebellion Racing Lola Mazda topped the time sheets in Petit testing.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Rebellion Racing continued to out-muscle Pickett Racing in testing for Saturday’s 16th running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Wednesday.

The Rebellion team, returning to the American Le Mans Series after going on a summer-long hiatus, turned the fastest lap in the final day of testing.

With Nicolas Prost at the wheel of the Lola B12/60-Toyota, the Rebellion entry cut a lap at one minute, 9.942 seconds (130.737 mph).

“We didn’t run the same configuration as Monday (when teammate Nick Heidfeld was fastest with a lap of 1:09.816/130.973 mph),” said Prost, son of four-time Formula One World Champion Alain Prost. “But my teammates were all very close, just like we were on Monday, and I think that’s the key to this race. I think we’ve prepared quite well, but it’s going to be a long and hard race.”

Neel Jani is the third driver in the car for this weekend’s season ending – and series ending – Petit.

Muscle Milk Picket Racing, which has already locked up the LMP1 championship, was second fastest Wednesday  with a lap of 1:10.754 (129.237 mph) in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c turned by Klaus Graf, who will co-drive with Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas.

While things are settled in LMP1 heading into the Petit, four other class championships are still up for grabs.

Level 5 Motorsports owner/driver Scott Tucker currently leads the P2 standings by six points over Scott Sharp, 149-143. Ryan Briscoe, Tucker’s co-driver in the No. 551 HPD ARX-03b, led the class on Wednesday with a lap of 1:12.770 (125.656 mph). He was followed by David Brabham, Sharp’s teammate in the No. 01 Tequila Patrón Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b, 1:14.406 (122.893 mph).

Dirk Muller, currently second in the GT championship, led the class on Wednesday with a lap of 1:19.299 (115.310 mph) in the No. 56 BMW Team RLL Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE co-driven by Bill Auberlen and John Edwards.

“That was definitely a good start for the weekend,” Muller said. “We know where we struggle – on the straights – and we are trying to minimize that weakness. Monday we mainly worked on long runs, to prepare for the race.”

Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen enter the finale with a 125-109 lead over Muller. They were sixth in Wednesday’s session in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6 ZR1.

Leading the Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire (PC) class was the No. 25 8Star Motorsports ORECA FLM09 of Shawn Rayhall, 1:16.131 (120.109 mph). Point leader Mike Guasch’s No 52 Molecule entry from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports was sixth, four positions behind nearest challenger Chris Cumming’s No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA.

Jeroen Bleekemolen, who shares the GT Challenge points lead with Alex Job Racing teammate Cooper MacNeil, led the class with a lap of 1:24.780 (107.856 mph) in the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

Official practice gets underway on Thursday, with the first of three sessions beginning at 10:45 a.m. ET. There also is an afternoon session at 2:45 p.m., followed by two-hour night practice starting at 7 p.m. Final practice and qualifying is set for Friday, with the event taking the green flag at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Road Atlanta is a favorite among man sports car teams and drivers. Its a genuine road circuit that features a variety of challenges.

GT Corvette driver Oliver Gavin, who will be starting his 16th race at the Baselton, Ga. track this weekend, described some of the key features of Road America:

Turn 1: A Thrill

“Turn 1 for me – if you get that right – is a really, really good corner. You come down the frontstraight, are braking on the bumps and go down one gear. Then you try to carry as much speed through the apex. The car tends to slide a little bit just as you apex, but the track starts going uphill and that catches you a bit. It helps with your line and gives the car a little extra grip. Then as you come out of there you have to line yourself up for braking into Turn 3.

“Should you get it right, it builds your confidence for the rest of the lap. If you’re on a qualifying lap, you have to make sure you get that corner right. It’s so important.”

The Esses: Biggest Challenge

“The most difficult section of the track is the combination through turns 3, 4 and 5.

“As you come into Turn 3, you’re braking up and over a blind crest, and you know you have to start turning into the corner before you see the apex. It’s all about repetition and getting that knowledge of where you need to turn in and how much speed you need to carry in there. You need to get over the curb on the inside in a way that the car floats over it. Then when you land on the other side you’re not bottoming out the car and you’re giving it as much speed through there to get down the hill – but not so much that you’re going on the curb at the exit. If you do that, the car gets out of shape and it can be difficult going down the hill.

“Then you’re hugging the curb tightly at Turn 4, and the end of the complex is almost always flat out in our car. Maybe in qualifying we will be flat. But on full tanks and worn tires, it’s harder to do. It’s right on the ragged edge. It’s an area where a lot of prototype cars have caught you out of Turn 1 and they are waiting for you to go through Turn 3 and to go by through 4A. That is a real challenge – either breathe and let them go by or keep them behind you going down the hill.

“It’s difficult then to get the braking point for Turn 5 right. That is a corner where you need to carry speed in and maximize the apex speed. Getting off the corner, you want to be able to use some of the curb on the exit but not too much. If you use too much the car will start leaping and bouncing around and can easily spin or go into the wall. But it’s critical to set up the run to Turn 6.”

Turn 7: Key to the Lap

“Whenever people talk about Road Atlanta, they usually talk about Turn 12, Turn 1 or maybe the Esses. But for me the most important corner is Turn 7 – going to the backstraight. If you get that right, you can make up so much time on everybody. You’re carrying all that speed through and out of the corner and all the way down the backstraight. It’s the longest section of straightaway on the whole circuit. It’s vital to get that right because it can really impact your lap time.”

Dempsey Racing has returned to a two-car Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry for this weekend’s season-ending American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta where No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche drivers Patrick Dempsey, Andy Lally and Joe Foster will be joined by Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Darren Law in the Dempsey Racing No. 10 PRS Guitars Porsche.

“It was definitely a priority to get back to two cars this year,” Dempsey said. “Getting Charlie and Charles with us is great, they are family, and we are looking forward to having Darren join the team too.”

The 1,000-mile (394-lap) or 10-hour Petit Le Mans will be televised live on FOX Sports 2 beginning at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday. Coverage throughout the day alternates between FOX Sports 2 and FOX Sports 1, including a live segment from 6:30-8 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. There will also be an encore presentation the following day on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the entire event will be available on FOX Sports’ new mobile application, FOX Sports Go.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 17 2013
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