Was it a good year? To answer that question for the American Le Mans Series, it depends on how you define success. Clearly this past weekend’s season ending Petit Le Mans 1,000-mile show at Road Atlanta was representative of the 2012 campaign in terms of highs and lows experienced by the sanctioning body on the track.
Those highs were to be found in the production-based GT arena where the General Motors Corvettes squared off against the European Ferraris, BMWs and Porsches in a war that went to the European Ferrari, but which held everyone’s attention down to the final seconds of the nine hours and 32 minutes it took to complete the 1,000 mile contest.
In the end, after countless lead changes, crashes, penalties and wavering fortunes, the Extreme Speed Ferrari 458 of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Toni Vilander stretched their fuel mileage to the maximum, just beating the Corvette of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor to the line.
That performance salvaged a last bit of glory for the iconic Italian manufacturer, whose fortunes during the course of the season were, at best, mixed when compared to those of their rivals. The uncertainties in terms of results in the GT sandbox are due almost entirely to the intense efforts by the car makers and their surrogate teams to win not just for bragging rights, but more importantly for meeting marketing expectations in dollars and cents.
Next year, with the new Viper coming into its own, the assembly line warfare could be even more entertaining than it was in 2012. However, the real question is whether or not the ALMS, in its last season before it merges with Grand-Am, can end its stand alone days on a high note fueled by the GT contingent alone.
While there were a number of prototypes that arrived from Europe for the ALMS season closer for the most part they were “forgettable” second tier LMP2 category entries. Such was the paucity of the headlining LMP1 category that, of the four cars contending for the overall victory there, only
The World Endurance Championship Rebellion Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Andrea Belicchi survived with out problems to finish on top.
As for the rest, it came down to a question of survival. While the Muscle Milk Honda HPD ARX-03a of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas survived a heavy collision with a errant GTC production Porsche 911GT3 that cost it nearly an hour to repair, it finished well down the order in the final results. Even so, because it completed 70 percent of the distance, it won the year ALMS LMP1 title over the Lola Mazda of Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Steven Kane which was even more hampered by electrical gremlins, ending Dyson and Smith’s slim hopes of claiming the crown.
In short, while there was tension in the championship contest, it was of a negative and not positive variety. As for LMP2, the title contest went down to the end with Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz taking first in class and second overall in the HPD ARX-03b to garner the points honors.