The Petit Le Mans 2013 was held Saturday, October 19th at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia. Rebellion Racing wrote the final chapter in the history of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, winning the season-ending 16th Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda.
Neel Jani and Nico Prost repeated as winners of the 1,000-mile race, joined by Nick Heidfeld in the No. 12 Rebellion Timepieces/Lemo Connectors/Speedy Garage Toyota-powered Lola B12/60. Jani took the checkered flag by six laps over P2 winner Ryan Briscoe, who helped co-driver Scott Tucker to his fourth consecutive championship.
An unscheduled pit stop by Romain Dumas and the retirement of the P1 championship-winning No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c-Honda five hours into the event opened the door for Rebellion, which spent the early hours battling to regain a lost lap resulting from an unnecessary contact penalty.
“The beginning was not easy at all, it was dry, wet, dry, but wet enough so had to keep the slicks,” Jani said. “It was kind of a gamble on the tires. It was a bit of a question what do you risk. I tried not to burn out the tires, but the rain never came so we switched back.”
The race took a dramatic turn at the five-hour mark when Dumas pitted with a one-lap lead in the No. 6 machine co-driven by Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf. After a brief examination by the crew, the car was pushed behind the wall with terminal overheating problems.
“It’s a shame that the season ends like this,” Luhr said. “But in racing, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Luhr ended his ALMS career with a series-leading 49 victories, with the team carrying an eight-race winning streak into the finale that saw Luhr and Graf clinch the driver, team and manufacturer titles. Rebellion Racing led three times for 228 of the 394 circuits, while Muscle Milk Pickett Racing paced the field twice for 158 laps.
Both the P2 and Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire (PC) titles went down to the wire, with Tucker and Chris Cumming earning the respective championships.
Tucker’s co-drivers Marino Franchitti and Briscoe moved from third to first in the closing hour, with Briscoe winning by 1.394 seconds over David Brabham in the No. 01 Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b co-driven by Scott Sharp and Anthony Lazzaro with Extreme Speed Motorsports. Unofficially, Tucker beat Franchitti by eight points while Sharp was 10 points behind. Tucker won his third straight P2 crown after taking the PC title in 2010.
“All of them have been hard, and today it came down to the last race – and we had to win,” Tucker said. “Fortunately, it all worked out. Extreme Speed Motorsports gave us really tough competition, and it could have gone either way.”
A key moment came one hour into the race when race leader Jani brushed PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ No. 52 Molecule ORECA FLM09 as Dane Cameron exited the pits. As a result, that team lost 20 laps in the pits before Mike Guasch returned to the race in seventh position. The team was able to work its way back through attrition to finish fifth.
Cumming and co-drivers Kyle Marcelli and Stefan Johansson had to come from behind to win the third straight PC race for the No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09. Ozz Negri and Sean Rayhall led much of the race – including eight laps overall – in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry, with Marcelli taking the checkered flag by 11.442 seconds over Rayhall.
The victory enabled Cumming to take the driver’s title by one point over Guasch, 141-140, while BAR1 Motorsports took the team title in a tie-breaker over CORE autosport (145-145, three victories to two). CORE finished third in the finale with Jon Bennett, Tom Kimber-Smith and Colin Braun in the No. 05 Composite Resources ORECA FLM09.
“After Baltimore, where we scored no points, we thought the season championship was completely out of our reach,” Cumming said. “We showed up at Circuit of The Americas with the attitude to go all out and win some races. We won COTA, and ended up winning at VIR. We came here with an outside shot at winning, but we needed everything to work out. It was one of those dream days where everything worked out.”
Team Falken Tire took a dramatic GT class victory, while Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia took the drivers’ title with a sixth-place finish in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón finale.
Nick Tandy, Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler took their first triumph of the final season for ALMS in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The winning vehicle was a show car until it was pressed into service last month after an opening-lap incident in the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT damaged the team’s primary car beyond repair.
The class featured drama all the way to the checkered flag. Tandy nearly lost control following the final restart with 11 laps remaining when he clipped a curb, but he recovered and held on to win by 0.741-of-a-second over Dirk Muller in the No. 56 Team RLL Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE co-driven by John Edwards and Bill Auberlen.
“It was clearly difficult winning a race in GT, especially when it’s a 10-hour race,” Sellers said. “It was all about resiliency. Nobody gave up and the guys were fantastic in the pits. It’s pretty special to be here in the last ALMS race and go down in the history books and be part of what is to be part of what is considered to be the best GT racing in the world.”
A sixth-place finish for Garcia and Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6 ZR1 co-driven by Jordan Taylor was good enough to capture the GT drivers’ title, winning by six points over Muller (135-129).
“After not getting points at Sebring, we didn’t think getting the championship was possible,” Garcia said. “But we kept fighting and it came together in the end.”
The competitive battle saw seven of the 11 competitors representing five manufacturers take turns in the GT lead. The No. 91 SRT/Rush Viper GTS-R of Marc Goossens, Dominik Farnbacher and Ryan Dalziel led 126 laps before losing ground after contact with a prototype, while the winning Porsche led 124.
Spencer Pumpelly won in GTC by 5.839 seconds over Andy Lally, but came up short in his bid for the title. Pumpelly co-drove the No. 45 Venezuela/eSilicon/UIS Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with Nelson Canache Jr., and Madison Snow for Flying Lizard Motorsports, while Lally shared the No. 27 dempseychallenge,org Porsche with Dempsey Racing teammates Joe Foster and Patrick Dempsey.
The victory gave Flying Lizard Motorsports the GTC team title by 12 points over Alex Job Racing (157-145). Alex Job teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil won the drivers’ title with a fourth-place finish in the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche shared with Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, beating Pumpelly and Canache by six points (145-139).
“We won the last ever ALMS race and the last ever ALMS pole,” Pumpelly said. “We wanted to win the team and driver titles and a lot of races. We missed the drivers’ championship but won the team. It’s really easy coming to work with Flying Lizard. The guys are just phenomenal.”
Next year the ALMS will combine with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The first scheduled activity for the unified series will be unofficial testing at Sebring International Raceway (Nov. 16-17) and Daytona International Speedway (Nov. 19-20), with the 2014 season opening with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26, 2014.
Photographer Michael DiPleco documented the action from the 2013 Petit Le Mans, offering the following pictures from the race and practice sessions at Georgia’s Road Atlanta road course.