American Le Mans Preview: Peugeot Kicks Aud in Da Lugnuts

Adam Amick@adamamick1Senior Writer IJanuary 31, 2008

I guess I was sleeping when the announcement came down that Peugeot was going to run in the LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) class this season in the American Le Mans Series.

Correction… Peugeot is not going to “run”, they’re going to CHALLENGE Audi, who has run away with the class since the R8 hit the circuit several years ago! Perhaps the French are feeling bolstered by the performance of the cars at last years' 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Maybe it was the fact that Roger Penske’s LMP2 Porsche RS Spyders were able to manhandle the more powerful Audis on the shorter circuits, where handling was more important than speed.

Regardless, I have to think either the boys in the Audi camp are scratching their heads, or have sandbagged just a bit during winter testing at Sebring. Peugeot has lead the way for the past couple of days, albeit by a slight margin, over the perennial champs in silver and red. This, and hopefully some improvement in the other LMP1 class contenders with gasoline-fueled powerplants, should make for more entertainment at the top level of ALMS.

I’m not partial for or against Audi; I just enjoy the competition.

Speaking of competition, I expect the Acura teams (including the recently announced addition of Gil de Ferran’s ARX-01b to the LMP2 class) to push harder against Penske and Dyson’s Porsche’s this year.

Acura did great for a first-year effort, taking the class at Sebring, but that was thanks in part to failures with Penske’s cars. After that, Penske wasn’t worried about the class, they were challenging for and scoring overall wins. It was an outstanding effort, and I was rooting for them to best Audi for the season.

Oh so close…

On that note, I keep reading (and you would as well in the articles I posted links to) the times of the Bell team’s Aston-Martin is improving. I’m more than happy to see someone coming in to challenge Corvette in the LMGT1 (LeMans Grand Touring) but I hope the head honchos in Braselton don’t start slapping ballast on the vettes to bring them back to the competition.

Last I checked, and maybe I’m just a little old-school in this mindset, racing was about who could build the fastest car.

The beauty of sports-car racing is the test of time and punishment on the vehicle in going from point “A” to point “B”. Two years ago Corvette was handicapped with additional weight on the car which allowed inferior Aston-Martins to compete.

That’s not racing, that creating “competition” instead of promoting excellence.

This year that same Aston-Martin team returns, but in the class they belong—LMGT2—where they can compete against Ferraris, Porsches, Spykers, etc.

I’m all for someone coming in to compete against Corvette, but not at the expense of handicapping the Chevys. In 2007, Corvette Racing WAS the GT1 class, and had to deal with their weakest link—the driveshaft. Failure at St. Pete was a hint of trouble that arose and cost the team at Le Mans.

Hopefully the guys over at Corvette have squared that issue away and it won’t arise again this year.

We’ll talk to Ron Fellows and see how things look for Corvette Racing in the coming weeks on The Rubbin’s Racing Show.

The GT2 class provided some of the best racing last season, and the finish at Sebring was voted the greatest moment in ALMS history. Mika Salo and Jorg Bergmeister swapped the lead on the last lap twice, banged doors, and Salo took the checkered flag.

Now THAT was racing, my friends. Those two teams battled it out through the season, but Salo, co-driver Jaime Melo and their Ferrari defined “Domination” in taking the class title in 2007.

I’m looking forward to a great season for the American Le Mans Series. Their improved coverage and level of competition is helping the series grow, and I have to think that with Champ Car in a downward spiral and renewed talk of reunification with Indycar, that those who love to watch cars turn left AND right are giving the series (as well as Grand Am, which is very entertaining in its own right) a closer look.

ALMS and CCWS run together a couple of weekends, and if I had to choose, I’m going to see the sports cars race, because it’s a much better show.