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ALMS Championships—Three-Way Tie in LMPC

By James Fish
Epoch Times Staff
Created: October 4, 2011 Last Updated: October 10, 2011
Related articles: Sports » Motorsports
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Ricardo Gonzalves drives the #06 Core car towards the checkered flag. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Ricardo Gonzalves drives the #06 Core car towards the checkered flag. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

After as season of tough fights and close finishes the American Le Mans Series LMPC class championship was settled at the season finale at Petit Le Mans—sort of.

While Core Automotive won the team title by a scant one point, the LMPC driver’s championship came down to a three-way tie: Core’s Gunnar Jeannette, and Ricardo Gonzales had precisely the same number of points, first, second, and third-place finishes as Genoa Racing’s Eric Lux.

The race was not easy for either team, and until the final handful of laps, the championships were up in the air. Genoa suffered serious mechanical failures, while Core had minor mechanical failures and collisions holding them back.

After as season of tough fights and close finishes the American Le Mans Series LMPC class championship was settled at the season finale at Petit Le Mans—sort of.

While Core Automotive won the team title by a scant one point, the LMPC driver’s championship came down to a three-way tie: Core’s Gunnar Jeannette, and Ricardo Gonzales had precisely the same number of points, first-, second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-place finishes as Genoa Racing’s Eric Lux. 

The race was not easy for either team, and until the final handful of laps, the championships were up in the air. Genoa suffered serious mechanical failures, while Core had minor mechanical failures and collisions holding them back.

After everything, the three champions seemed pleased enough to share the title; the battles had been that close all season, a tie seemed “fitting,” said co-champion Eric Lux.

Elton Julian in the #063 Genoa Oreca leads Stefan Johansson United Autosports Oak-Pescarolo-Judd. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Elton Julian in the #063 Genoa Oreca leads Stefan Johansson United Autosports Oak-Pescarolo-Judd. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

“From the beginning of the green flag it was chaotic—a lot of cars, a lot of traffic. The 06 and myself, we battled, changed positions several time, even had contact here and there. This has been a great continuation of the battle we fought all year against them. It is quite fitting actually to have a tie after the season we’ve had with them.

“We had a pretty trouble free first hour and then unfortunately we lost the halfshaft, but the team never gave up—really the Genoa characteristic—they all kept at the car and they fought hard and got us back out there and lo and behold, the 06 had their issues, and so did other cars on the track—that’s just how it has all played out.

“I am actually kind of excited to share the championship with them after the season we’ve had. This is some of the best racing in the series right now. We are racers and we like to have intense battles out there and this class has been just that, all season,” Lux concluded.

Gunnar Jeannette drives the #06 Core Autosport Oreca in qualifying. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Gunnar Jeannette drives the #06 Core Autosport Oreca in qualifying. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Core Autosports driver Gunnar Jeannette was thrilled to be part of the winning team, particularly since the team was in its first year in ALMS.

“We really don’t know what happened there at the end, and we still really don’t know what’s happening, but it’s been a fantastic year co-driving with Ricardo, it’s been a lot of fun,” he said after the race.

“To be a part of the Core Autosports organization to have a team that was in the Lites series last year and took on the steepest learning curve anywhere in professional motor sports that I have ever been part of, to come with this team to Sebring and to see how that have progressed throughout the year, to being the sole team champions in the LMPC class, has been absolutely pure joy.”

Co-driver and co-champion Ricardo Gonzales expressed similar sentiments. “I am very happy for the team,” he said.

“In order to participate in the ALMS you require a lot more people. The team did a great job in recruiting first-class talent and it showed during the year. Also, we all get along, which is very important. I am happy working with Gunnar and with Rudy [Junco] who joined us for the three longer races—he added a lot of value to the driver team.

“I am very happy with the result I would like to be champion with Gunnar only, but that’s life. I am also very happy for Eric; we got had good fights with him and he is a very good driver also. So for next year, we continue our success.”

Accidents and Incidents

Ken Dobson drives the race-winning #52 PRI. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Ken Dobson drives the race-winning #52 PRI. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

The LMPC battle featured so many accident and incidents, commentator John Hindhaugh asked, “Does anybody want to win LMPC?”

The #06 Core car started from the class pole, while the #063 Genoa had to start from the back of the pack after missing the formation lap. Both cars had strong driver lineup—Jeannette, Gonzalez, and Rudy Junco in the Core, Eric Lux, Christian Zugel, and Elton Julian in the Genoa.

Jan-Dirk Lueders drives the #18 Performance Tech Oreca. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Jan-Dirk Lueders drives the #18 Performance Tech Oreca. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

The carnage started when Ricardo Gonzalez in the #06 Core Autosports car got punted into the tires in Turn 12, bringing out the first caution of the race—after only 17 minutes running. Kyle Marcelli in the #89 Intersport Oreca took the class lead ahead of Ryan Lewis in the #52 PRI car under yellow.

Jon Bennet in the #05 Core Oreca leads the #54 Black Swan Porsche through the Turn Ten a-b complex. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Jon Bennet in the #05 Core Oreca leads the #54 Black Swan Porsche through the Turn Ten a-b complex. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Eric Lux in the #63 Genoa Oreca took the lead when Marcelli pitted, but the Intersport driver battled back to retake the lead15 minutes later.

At the next pit-stop shuffle, Eric Lux in the #63 Genoa, only to give it to Ryan Lewis in the PRI car, when Lux swapped seats with Elton Julian. After 45 minutes, Julian came to a stop in Turn Three with a broken halfhshaft.

Now it seemed the #06 Core car had a chance. And indeed, after half an hour’s racing Gunnar Jeannette put the #06 into the class lead.

The Genoa car spent a little less than an hour behind the wall getting a new halfshaft, and rejoined the race at the four-hour mark, 17 laps behind.

Kyle Marcelli passed Jeannette for the lead five hours into the race, as Jeannette brought his smoking Oreca into the pits. This could have been a huge break for Genoa, but five minutes later Elton Julian brought the Genoa car into the pits for a long stop too. A few minutes later Anthony Nicolosi brought the #18 Performance Tech Oreca in for major repairs—now three LMPCs were in for serious overhauls.

Genoa was the first to rejoin; Jordan Grogor took the car out, just in time to see the course go yellow again as the #68 TRG Porsche stopped in Turn Nine. This gave the LMPC crews a chance to make repairs without losing as much time, and indeed, when the track went green at 5:134 p.m. with 5: 44 completed, all the LMPC cars were back in the race.

The #06 Core car had thrown an accessory drive belt. That was replaced and the car also rejoined the race.

.172 Seconds After 1000 Miles of Racing

Kyle Marcelli in the #89 Intersport passes the #55 BMW between Turns Six and Seven. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Kyle Marcelli in the #89 Intersport passes the #55 BMW between Turns Six and Seven. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Henri Richard in the PRI car passed Tommy Drissi in the Intersport car to take the lead on lap 227; Drissi, in his eagerness to retake the lead, spun Richard in Turn Ten-a 20 minutes later. The contact was judged a “racing incident” and Drissi was allowed to keep the lead.

Elton Julian races from the Esses towards Turn Six in the Genoa car. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Elton Julian races from the Esses towards Turn Six in the Genoa car. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, Ryan Dalziel in the #05 Core car went off a Turn Seven, then continued for another 20 minutes before pitting and going to the garages. Sagely, he waited until Oscar Slingerland in the #64 Lotus crashed, causing another full-course-caution.

Gunnar Jeannette heads towards 10b in the #06 Core, with the #64 Lotus Evora behind him. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Gunnar Jeannette heads towards 10b in the #06 Core, with the #64 Lotus Evora behind him. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

When the race went green near the seven-hour mark, Ryan Lewis passed Tommy Drissi for the class lead, which he held until the big Audi accident 20 minutes later. The Core crew managed to repair the #05’s transmission during this caution, getting it back on track.

Kyle Marcelli in the #89 Intersport leads Henri Richard in the #52 PRI, with the #40 Robertson Ford GT and the #33 Level 5 HPD trailing. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Kyle Marcelli in the #89 Intersport leads Henri Richard in the #52 PRI, with the #40 Robertson Ford GT and the #33 Level 5 HPD trailing. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Apparently that was more good news than the team could handle. The track went green at 6:57 p.m., and two minutes later Rudi Junco stuffed the #06 car into the gravel at Turn Six. Even with all the incidents, the Core car maintained a four-lap lead over Genoa, and with the #05 Core car right behind the #06., the championship seemed secure for Jeannette and Gonzales.

When the track went back to green at 7:13 p.m. on lap 311 (7:44 into the race,) Ken Dobson led the class—barely. Kyle Marcelli stormed by him six laps later, only to lose it to a new driver (Ryan Lewis) in the same car (#52 PRI) 30 laps later. Marcelli then retook the lead during pit stops.

At this point Marcelli and Lewis were ninth and tenth overall. Meanwhile the Genoa car was mired in 39th overall, with the Core cars a couple of places better. Despite being so far back, the two teams were still fighting.

Disaster struck one more time when with eight laps left to run, the #16 Dyson Lola Mazda contacted the #05 Core Oreca, sidelining it. This left the #06 Core car 30th overall and the #063 Genoa car 34th.

This was a huge break for Eric Lux; had the #05 finished ahead, he would not have tied for the championship.

Meanwhile, the battle for the class lead was full on; Ryan Lewis managed to get by Kyle Marcelli with one lap to go, earning the class win by .172 seconds—less than two-tenths of a second after 1000 miles of racing.




   

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