Official testing for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSCC) series has begun, and Porsche racing fans everywhere are discussing the new classes, the new rules, the new cars, the new venues and how it will all come together on the track. However, let’s take one last look in the rear view mirror at the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which started in March, 1999 at Sebring, and ended in October at Road Atlanta.
Championships, Big Wins, Racing Records and Excitement Populated Porsche’s 15 years in the American Le Mans Series; One Last Look Before the New Era Begins
This retrospective provides a basis for what Porsche, with its 12 ALMS Manufacturer and 14 Driver Championships, thanks to its independent Porsche customer teams, hopes to accomplish going forward. Owen Hayes, Porsche Motorsport North America’s director of racing operations, pointed out that everyone grew during those 15 years of the ALMS.
“We have certainly ramped up our operation both at the shop and at the track in the last decade and a half, to meet the growing needs of our successful customer teams. The fierce competition in the ALMS forced us all to get better,” said Hayes. “Personally, the RS Spyders were near and dear to my heart, but we are looking forward to our factory effort behind the two new 911 RSRs in the United SportsCar Championship.”
The Start Of The America Le Mans Series
When Dr. Don Panoz decided that the American sports car fan wanted to see real Le Mans sports car racing in North America, he put up his own money to bring a one-off event to Road Atlanta in 1998. He then worked with the ACO – organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans – to call the event “Petit Le Mans”. No one knew how it would turn out, but Porsche brought its Le Mans-winning 911 GT1 factory racecars, and other manufacturers followed suit. After the success of that event, Panoz, again with Porsche leading the way, announced that he would start a series in North America in 1999 called the American Le Mans Series. In cooperation with the ACO, it would bring Le Mans-rules racing to the U.S. – important to Porsche, as America was, and is, the company’s largest consumer market.
Again, no one really knew who would show up for that first ALMS race at Sebring in March 1999, but once Porsche announced its support, BMW, Corvette, Audi and others followed and the ALMS was born.
The majority of Porsche’s ALMS activity has centered on the Le Mans GT class, where, through its customer teams, the company has pitted its best Porsche 911 racecars against the world’s factory efforts over the years from Ferrari, BMW, Corvette, Dodge/SRT Viper, Aston Martin, Maserati and others. In nine of those 15 years, Porsche customer teams won the manufacturers’ championship with entrants Dick Barbour Racing, Alex Job Racing, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports. Championship drivers have included Cort Wagner, Dirk Mueller, Timo Bernhard, Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Romain Dumas, Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen and Wolf Henzler.
Porsche's LMP2 Effort
When Porsche teamed up with Penske Racing to initiate a factory LMP2 effort in the 2005, the company developed a clean-sheet-of-paper 3.4-liter V8 engine and matching Porsche-designed chassis and transmission that was an instant success in the series. After winning its class at the car’s debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr), the Porsche RS Spyder went on to three consecutive LMP2 class championships. Hitting above its weight in 2007, Porsche beat the LMP1 Audi seven races in a row to win overall. Winning RS Spyder drivers included Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard, Emmanuel Collard, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe for Penske Racing, while, in a former Dyson Racing RS Spyder, Klaus Graf and Greg Pickett, along with Luhr and Maassen, also scored ALMS wins for Pickett’s Muscle Milk Racing.
Porsche's Final Season In The ALMS
In the final season of ALMS competition, Porsche customer teams CORE autosport, Team Falken Tire and Paul Miller Racing have campaigned Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs in the GT class while multiple teams, including Alex Job, TRG, Flying Lizard, JDX Racing, NGT Motorsports and Dempsey Racing have raced in the one-make GTC class. Perhaps the most fitting end to the relationship between the ALMS and Porsche was the improbable Team Falken Tire Porsche GT win (Wolf Henzler/Bryan Sellers/Nick Tandy) in the series’ finale at Road Atlanta on October 19.
Porsche American Le Mans Series Final Statistics In 148 Races Between 1999 – 2013:
Porsche overall wins. 13 (Mid-Ohio, ‘06; Long Beach, ‘07; Houston, ‘07, Salt Lake City, ’07, Lime Rock, ’07, Mid-Ohio ’07, Road America, ’07, Mosport ’07, Detroit ’07, Sebring, ’08, Salt Lake City ’08, Lime Rock ’10, Mosport ‘10)
GT Manufacture Championships – 9
LMP2 Manufacture Championships – 3
Driver Championships - 14
Porsche Class Victories - 116*
Audi - 82
Corvette – 79
Lola - 45
Honda/Acura – 36
Ferrari - 34
BMW - 33
SRT/Dodge – 16
Porsche P1 Wins - 2 (Muscle Milk P2 car re-classified when ALMS combined P classes)
Porsche P2 Wins - 25
Porsche GTS Wins - 2
Porsche GT/GT2 Wins - 83
Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR Wins - 81
Porsche Class Poles: 98
Audi – 64
Corvette – 64
Porsche won the GT/GT2 ALMS manufacturers title nine of the 15 years of ALMS’ existence – all with the Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR family of racecars. 2006 was Porsche’s first LMP2 title, and Porsche won the drivers, manufacturers, engine and chassis titles in LMP2 for 2006, 2007, and 2008.
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*does not include GTC, unclassified 911 GT3 R Hybrid wins, and GTE-Am WEC wins at Petit Le Mans and Sebring