Peugeot swept the American Le Mans Series season-closer at Road Atlanta, with Pedro Lamy/Franck Montagny/Stéphane Sarrazin winning Petit Le Mans by just over a minute from the similar 908 HDI of Marc Gené/Alex Wurz/Anthony Davidson. The Peugeots finished two laps clear of the lead Audi R15 driven by Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish, while Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft HPD ARX-01c was fourth to take the team’s second straight ALMS title with David Brabham/Simon Pagenaud/Marino Franchitti at the wheel. The Highcroft team has won three races this year and its trio of drivers completed the season without damaging a single piece of the car’s bodywork – a superb achievement.
The GT2 championship has been a feature of this year’s ALMS with teams from Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and BMW fighting for the championship. In fact, Petit Le Mans was a classic as the factory Corvette team came through to score its first win of the year after the leading Risi Ferrari ran out of fuel on the last lap. Oliver Gavin/Jan Magnussen/Emmanuel Collard drove the winning Corvette, finishing 10th overall.
But the GT2 drivers’ championship was taken by Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long aboard the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 RSR, while Bobby Rahal’s BMW team took the GT2 team championship with Bill Auberlen/Tommy Milner/Dirk Werner finishing fourth in class and 13th overall.
Porsche’s new 911 GT3R hybrid made its second competition appearance at Petit Le Mans. Driven by Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller the car ran untroubled all the way to finish 18th overall. It races next at the Zuhai Intercontinental Cup in November with ALMS GT2 champions Bergmeister and Long at the wheel.
A bonus to this year’s Petit Le Mans was perfect weather with bright, sunny skies all weekend, a sharp contrast to last year when heavy rain cut the race short and left everyone dissatisfied. But this year the 1000km race ran unimpeded with a record field of 45 starters and a record crowd too of 124,000 spectators over three days – 11,000 more than the previous Petit Le Mans record.
Meanwhile Dario Franchitti qualified on pole and led most of the final IndyCar race of the season at Homestead to beat Will Power to the championship. A late stop for fuel dropped Franchitti to eighth and Ganassi team-mate Scott Dixon came through to win the race. Power had a disappointing race, falling down the field and then slithering into the wall and retirement as Franchitti drove faultlessly to take his second straight IndyCar championship.
Dario won the IndyCar title in 2007 with Andretti-Green Racing before giving NASCAR an abortive try in 2008. Returning to Indycars with Chip Ganassi’s team Franchitti has shown himself to be the class of the field, winning his second Indy 500 this year and relentlessly pursuing and beating Power and Team Penske to the crown. Dario is not only a great racing driver but also a big fan of Motor Sport magazine, and someone who knows as much about the sport’s history as any driver. Everyone at Motor Sport congratulates Franchitti on an extremely well won championship.