The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Don Panoz. The series has a licensing agreement with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which is the sanctioning body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a result, the ALMS rules are aligned with those used at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Within each race, four classes are competing for the overall victory, as well as the category win.

  • Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) – This is the fastest group. These are purpose-built race cars powered by a 6.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engine, which produces 750-800-horsepower. The vehicles could weigh no less than 900-kilograms (1,980-pounds) and car reach speeds over 200-mph. Teams enter cars manufactured by Riley & Scott, Lola, Dallara, Audi and Panoz.
  • Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – The Le Mans Prototype 2 category was introduced in 2001 as LMP675. This group was renamed in 2004 when the minimum weight requirement was increased from 675-kilograms to 700-kilograms (1,653-pounds). The rules for the vehicles are written so that the two LMP classes (LMP1 and LMP2) could contend for the overall win.
  • Grand Touring Sport (GTS) – This class includes production-based cars such as the Dodge Viper GTS-R, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, Saleen S7-R and Ferrari 550 Maranello. The vehicles are permitted to use 8.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engines, which produce 550-600-horsepowers. These cars are almost as quick as the Prototypes achieving speeds of 180-195-mph.
  • Grand Touring (GT) – The GT cars are restricted to a 1,100-kilogram weight rule. This category also included production-based vehicles. Competitors raced cars such as the BMW M3, Porsche GT3RSR and Ferrari 360 Modena. Unlike the GTS entries, teams in this category cannot use carbon fiber brakes.

The ALMS schedule included nine North American events in 2004. The opening round is the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. The series takes an extended break to accommodate teams participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After Le Mans, teams travel to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for round two. Mid-Ohio is followed by Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park. In July, the series makes a west coast swing with race weekends at Infineon Raceway and Portland International Raceway. Next, teams travel north of the border for their only Canadian stop at Mosport International Raceway. Then it is back to the United States and a stop for competitors at Road America in Wisconsin. The penultimate round is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. This is an important weekend as it serves as a qualifying event for the 2005 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Class winners receive an automatic invitation to compete in the French classic. The 2004 season ends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a four-hour race into the darkness.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca hosted the final round of the 2004 American Le Mans Series. Teams would compete for four-hours around the 2.238-mile eleven-turn road course in an event called the 2004 Audi Sports Car Championships.

The pole-sitter, Nicolas Minassian, leads the field of twenty-five starters into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s turn two. Behind him is the Audi R8 of the 2004 Prototype 1 champions, J.J. Lehto and Marco Werner. In third is Butch Leitzinger, who qualified fourth quickest driving the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola EX257. Behind the top three are the second entries from Champion and Dyson Racing.
Champion Racing entered a second Audi R8 for the final two races of the year. Driver’s, Johnny Herbert and Pierre Kaffer finished second in the previous round at Road Atlanta. In qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Herbert was third fastest. On the opening lap of the race, Chris Dyson hit Herbert and spun him. He and Kaffer were able to catch the field and the last caution period allowed them to grab the lead and ultimately the victory.
The Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40 had more victories than any other Prototype 2 team but drivers, Clint Field and Robin Liddell, were second in the standings. It would be difficult for them to capture the title as Miracle Motorsports driver, Ian James would simply have to be classified as a finisher. Along with Rick Sutherland, the trio turned in a solid performance and won the category but it was not enough to secure the title.
Johnny O’Connell performed the qualifying duties for the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C5.R and was just 0.038-seconds off the pole-winning time. O’Connell and his teammate, Ron Fellows, would start tenth overall. The Corvettes ran in tandem but Fellows and O’Connell moved to first in GTS before the conclusion of the event and grabbed the victory. This would be the last race for the C5.R, which would be replaced by the C6.R in 2005.
Starting second in the GT category were Alex Job drivers, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas. Their teammates, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister, led much of the race. However, late in the going, the pair grabbed to top spot and won the class by a margin of just 0.965-seconds. It was a good way for Lieb and Dumas to end the season – despite two victories during 2004, they often ran in the shadow of Bernhard and Bergmeister.
Five victories during the season and consistent finishes put Timo Bernhard at the top of the GT driver standings. To clinch the championship, Bernhard needed to finish sixth or better. He was paired with Jorg Bergmeister for the final race of the season. The team’s confidence had to be high as they were coming off three consecutive wins and would start on the class pole. After four hours of racing, they finished second in GT.
By the time the series arrived at the finale, J.J. Lehto and Marco Werner had wrapped up the Prototype 1 title. During the qualifying session, Lehto was second fastest in No. 38 Audi R8. He and Werner were challenged by the Creation Autosportif team until the Reynard DBA 035 retired. After that, they dominated the race but a poorly timed pit-stop dropped them behind the pace car, which resulted in a second-place finish.
Qualifying on the GTS pole was Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C5.R. Beretta’s effort tied him with his Corvette teammate, Ron Fellows for the most ALMS pole positions at fourteen. He and his driving partner, Oliver Gavin, led much of the race but the O’Connell/Fellows car was always within striking distance. It was a one-two finish for the Corvettes but Gavin and Beretta were the runner-ups in GTS.
The No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola EX257 qualified fourth fastest with credit going to Butch Leitzinger. Co-driving the Lola was James Weaver. The duo was unable to match the pace set by the Champion Audis and Creation Autosportif Reynard but remained on the lead lap for most of the event. They inherited a position when the Autosportif entry retired and finished third overall – albeit one lap behind the Audis.
Qualifying behind the two Alex Job entries was the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche GT3RSR. This had been the pattern for most of the season for drivers, Johannes van Overbeek and Darren Law. The high point of their year was a victory in round two at Mid-Ohio. During the race, Law and van Overbeek chased the Job Porsches and finished third – one lap behind but a lap ahead of the Risi Ferrari, which was fourth in GT.
The Creation Autosportif team made their first appearance of the season in the previous round at Road Atlanta. Drivers, Nicolas Minassian and Jamie Campbell-Walter, were quick and started in second place. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Minassian went one better and qualified on the pole. During the race, the pair diced with the Audi and led a total of thirty-three-laps before the car retired with a water pump issue.
The ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7.R qualified eleventh overall and third in GTS but failed the stall test in the post-qualifying technical inspection. Drivers, Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem, would start at the back of the field. Over the course of four-hours, the pair made tremendous progress but were no match for the two Corvettes. At the checkered flag, they were sixth overall, third in class but three-laps behind the Corvettes.
At Road America, Miracle Motorsports replaced their Lola B2K/40 with a Courage C65. The switch paid dividends as Ian James was now in a position to win the Prototype 2 championship. Sharing the Courage with James were John Macaluso and James Gue. To secure the title for James, the team had to complete seventy-five percent of the winner’s laps. Despite a series of issues during the event, they were successful.

1P1Herbert / KafferAudi R8169-
2P1Lehto / WernerAudi R8169-
3P1Weaver / LeitzingerLola EX257168-
4GTSFellows / O'ConnellChevrolet Corvette C5.R160-
5GTSGavin / BerettaChevrolet Corvette C5.R160-
6GTSBorcheller/ MowlemSaleen S7R157-
7P2C.Field / Liddell / SutherlandLola B2K/40157-
8GTDumas / LiebPorsche GT3RSR154-
9GTBernhard / BergmeisterPorsche GT3RSR154-
10GTvan Overbeek / LawPorsche GT3RSR153-
11GTKelleners / Lazzaro / de SimoneFerrari 360 Modena GTC152-
12GTWagner / LongPorsche GT3RSR152-
13GTMurry / StantonPorsche GT3RSR151-
14GTJeannette / FranchittiPanoz Esperante GTLM151-
15GTHindery / Maassen / LuhrPorsche GT3RSR151-
16GTJackson / SugdenPorsche GT3RSR150-
17GTPechnik / Neiman / FogartyPorsche GT3RSR150-
18GTEhret / JulienPorsche GT3RSR147-
19P2Bucknum / McMurry / WillmanLola B2K/40145-
20P2James / Gue Lola B2K/40138Mechanical
21GTHalliday / MasaratiPorsche GT3RS108Electrical
22P1Field / JonssonLola B162102Engine
23P1Minassian / Campbell-WalterReynard DBA 03583Water Pump
24P1Dyson / WallaceLola EX25754Engine
25GTSWeickardt / BellocDodge Viper GTS-R43Clutch

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