We always return to our first love, Le Mans. Ever since McQueen gave the double-fingered salute in the movie, we’ve been hooked. We started attending ALMS races in 1999, and we’ve winced as the series struggled for TV time and manufacturer interest.
The closest round to our home base is the annual visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. A walk through the paddock on qualifying day allowed us to spend some quality time with the machinery. Some of the details on these cars are difficult to see from a distance at speed, or on television. Sometimes you have to stop in order to appreciate their brilliance.
The prototype ranks were thin this year, courtesy of a weak global economy. Only a few of the European-based Le Mans teams attend ALMS races, aside from Sebring (part of the FIA’s new World Endurance Challenge) and Petit Le Mans (formerly part of the Intercontinental Cup). Aston Martin made the trip to Monterey, and capably handled the Dyson Mazda/Lola and the Muscle Milk Racing Aston Martin/Lola. Next year, Muscle Milk will switch to an HPD chassis with a Honda power plant. Dyson will stay with Mazda power.
Given Muscle Milk’s previous success with a Porsche LMP2 Spyder, we expected more from their first Aston Martin campaign. We assumed that 12 British cylinders would prevail over a Japanese four-cylinder lump. Muscle Milk missed out on points opportunities at Sebring, Baltimore and at Mazda Raceway. By contrast, even when Muscle Milk took top honors, Dyson was usually on the next step. It was enough to hand the title to Dyson.
The GT ranks are the best entertainment when there are only three or four prototypes to watch (we don’t pay much attention to the LMPC cars, to be honest — to spec). By comparison, a brace of Corvettes, Ferrari 458s, BMWs and Porsches are always entertaining. It’s too bad that Risi Competizione will switch its allegiance to the Grand-Am series.
Flying Lizard is one of the top GT teams, consistently running at the front end of its class. We love these guys because they’re from Northern California (like us), and the cars always look immaculate. Presentation is everything, we say.
The GT3 hybrid (below) is an amazing car that uses Porsche’s flywheel hybrid technology. Not your mother’s Prius. This car finished 10th overall at Mazda Raceway, although it runs in its own class due to a lack of equivalency.
The Patron Ferrari 458 looks great in the tequila brand’s familiar color. Scott Sharp was a successful IndyCar driver before turning his attentions to sports car racing.
Special delivery for Aston Martin.
Mazda was out in force to support Dyson’s championship effort. Mazda brings out the heritage at its home race track, including a classic Le Mans 767 prototype (below).
No frills in the cockpit.