2006 was the eighth season for the American Le Mans Series. The only significant change to the championship involved this year’s schedule. There would no longer be two events at Road Atlanta. The Road Atlanta date would be replaced by a race weekend at Houston’s Reliant Park. Also, Infineon Raceway was dropped in favour of a new venue in Salt Lake City called Miller Motorsports Park.

The rules for the championship were the same as those used at the legendary 24-Hour of Le Mans. This meant there were four categories competing for class honours.

  • Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) – These were the purpose-built race cars powered by a 6.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engine. The vehicles could weigh no less than 924-kilograms (approximately 2,040-pounds). Competing in the series was the new factory supported diesel-powered Audi R10. Privateer teams were entered in cars such as the Lola B06/10, Creation CA06/H, MG-Lola EX257 and Zytek 06S.
  • Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – LMP675 class was introduced in 2001 for vehicles that could weigh no less than 675-kilograms. In 2004, this became the LMP2 class and the minimum weight was set at 775-kilograms (approximately 1,708-pounds). The rules were written so that the two LMP classes (LMP1 and LMP2) would be contending for the overall win. Manufacturers producing cars for this category included Courage, Lola, Radial and Porsche.
  • Grand Touring 1 (GT1) – This class included production-based vehicles such as the Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, Saleen S7-R and Aston Martin DBR9. The cars were permitted to use 8.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engines. These vehicles could weigh no less than 1,125-kilograms (approximately 2,480-pounds).
  • Grand Touring 2 (GT2) – The GT cars were also restricted to a 1,125-kilogram weight rule and had similar engine limitations as the GT1 class. These were also production-based machines, which included vehicles such as the BMW M3, Porsche GT3RSR, Panoz Esperante GT-LM and Ferrari F430 GTC.

The 2006 American Le Mans Series schedule includes ten North American events. The season kicks off with the 54th edition of 12 Hours of Sebring. It is followed by a new venue - the temporary street circuit at Houston’s Reliant Park. At the end of May, teams travel to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Then the championship takes a break in June to allow some teams to compete at the 24-Hour of Le Mans. In early July, competitors return to North America to participate in the New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. The series then heads to the West Coast for race weekends at the new Miller Motorsports Park and Portland International Raceway. After the West Coast swing, events are held at Road America and the series only Canadian stop, Mosport International Raceway. The penultimate round is a visit to Road Atlanta for Petit Le Man. Class winners at this event earn an automatic invitation to next year’s 24-Hours of Le Mans. In October, the 2006 season comes to a close with a 4-hour contest at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the final round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series. Teams would compete Saturday evening in a four-hour event around the eleven-turn 2.238-mile road course.

Twenty-seven starters rush into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s turn two for the season’s finale. Leading the way is the No. 15 Zytek 06S driven by the pole-sitter, Stefan Johansson. Slotting in behind Johansson is the second fastest qualifier, Nicolas Minassian driving the Creation CA06/H-01. The third-place starter, Sascha Maassen in the Penske Porsche is already under attack from the two Audis of Capello and Pirro.
Quickest of the ALMS LMP1 regulars was Dindo Capello in the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI – in fact; he set a new lap record. Sharing the driving duties with Capello was Allan McNish – the pair had already wrapped up the LMP1 championship. Heading into the final hour of the race the overall lead had been shared by eight different drivers. At the end of four hours, it was McNish out front – this was the duos eighth win of the season.
The Aston Martins, with fifty additional kilograms after Petit Le Mans, did not appear on course until halfway through qualifying but it did not matter as Stephane Sarrazin went out and clocked the quickest GT1 time. Sarrazin’s co-driver at this event was Pedro Lamy. The duo battled for the lead with the No. 4 Corvette and their teammates in the second Aston Martin entry but at the conclusion or the race won the class by 4.945-seconds.
During the 2006 season, it was one of the series regulars starting on the pole but not when the European teams were entered. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the fastest qualifier was the LMP1 Zytek 06S driven by Stefan Johansson and Johnny Mowlem. Johansson was leading in the first hour when he was penalized for avoidable contact. On the last lap, Mowlem and Chris Dyson made contact leaving the Zytek stranded.
Mika Salo driving the No. 62 Ferrari F430 GTC dominated GT2 qualifying taking the class pole by a margin of 0.529-seconds and set a new record. Salo’s regular driving partner, Jaime Melo was replaced by Stephane Ortelli. Contact in the first hour earned Salo a fifteen-second penalty, he and Ortelli were able to move back into contention. With just ten minutes left in the race, Salo passed the class leader and won GT2.
Romain Dumas could not match the pace of his teammate, Sascha Maassen in qualifying. He and his co-driver, Lucas Luhr would start second in LMP2 and sixth overall. Dumas and Luhr traded the top spot in LMP2 with their Penske teammates early in the event but got the ‘upper hand’ as the contest wore on. In fact, Luhr was challenging for the overall lead when he spun in turn-eleven. At the end of the race, they took the class victory.
Two drivers were in contention to win the GT2 Driver’s crown – Jorg Bergmeister and Johannes Van Overbeek. When Van Overbeek’s Porsche encountered problems early in the race, the title became Bergmeisters. He and his teammate, Patrick Long started third and finished second in class. Other big milestones for Bergmeister in 2006 included the Daytona Prototype championship, marriage and the birth of his first child.
The No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C6-R was qualified by Olivier Beretta who turned the third quickest GT1 time. Sharing the Corvette with Beretta was Oliver Gavin. In the first hour of the race, the Corvette was hit by the Ferrari of Mika Salo. Despite the incident, the two drivers remained in contention and captured the runner-up spot. More importantly, they earned their second consecutive GT1 Driver’s championship.
The Team Bruichladdich Radical SR9 encountered problems during practice but the car was repaired in time to set the third quickest lap in the LMP2 category. Sharing the No. 76 Radical were Stuart Moseley and Michael Vergers. The team was plagued with issues during the race and at the conclusion of four hours of competition were twenty-second overall and fifth in their group.
Second quickest in LMP1 and overall was the Judd-powered Creation CA06/H-01 driven by Nicolas Minassian. He was joined by Harold Primat for the four-hour contest. Minassian led early in the race when Stefan Johansson was penalized for avoidable contact. As the contest moved into the second hour, it became evident that the series regulars had control of the event. The Creation team succeeded in finishing third.
The second quickest car during the GT1 qualifying was the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6-R driven by Johnny O’Connell. O’Connell would contest the four-hour event with his season-long driving partner, Ron Fellows. Problems with a lack of grip from the rear tires prevented them from challenging for the lead. At the checkered flag, Fellows and O’Connell were third in class and tenth overall.
Qualifying honours for the No. 1 Audi were performed by Emanuele Pirro who was just 0.235-seconds slower than his teammate, Dindo Capello. Pirro and his teammate, Frank Biela were in contention the entire race but never led a lap. In the final hour, Pirro closed to within 18.579-seconds of the McNish/Capello Audi but had to settle for second overall and LMP1 at the checkered flag.
Fastest in the LMP2 class and setting a new track record was Sascha Maassen who drove one of the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyders. Maassen and his co-driver, Timo Bernhard were challenged by their teammates in the second Penske entry - driven by Romain Dumas and Lucas Luhr. They could not maintain the pace set by Dumas and Luhr and finished second in their category - a lap behind the winners.
The second fastest qualifier in GT2 was Mike Rockenfeller driving the Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3RSR. Rockenfeller and his co-driver, Marcel Tiemann were leading at the mid-point of the four hour contest. However, the running order changed as teams cycled through their pit-stops and the pair dropped to third place. They were able to maintain their position and capture the last spot on the class podium.
Liz Halliday and Clint Field led the LMP2 Driver’s Championship until Petit Le Mans. Unfortunately, they were no match for the Penske Porsches. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the driver line-up for the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 included – Halliday, Clint Field and team principal, Jon Field. The trio were unable to record a time in qualifying and started twenty-fifth. At the finish, they were third in class.

1LMP1Capello / McNishAudi R10 TDI159-
2LMP1Pirro / BielaAudi R10 TDI159-
3LMP1Minassian / PrimatCreation CA06/H159-
4LMP2Dumas / LuhrPorsche RS Spyder159-
5LMP2Maassen / BernhardPorsche RS Spyder158-
6LMP1Weaver / DysonLola B06/10158-
7LMP1Johansson / MowlemZytek 06S157-
8GT1Lamy / SarrazinAston Martin DBR9153-
9GT1Beretta / GavinChevrolet Corvette C6-R153-
10GT1Fellows / O'ConnellChevrolet Corvette C6-R152-
11GT1Turner / EngeAston Martin DBR9152-
12LMP2Field / Field / HallidayLola B05/40151-
13GT2Ortelli / SaloFerrari F430 GTC149-
14GT2Bergmeister / LongPorsche GT3RSR149-
15LMP2Bach / CosmoCourage C65149-
16GT2Rockenfeller / TiemannPorsche GT3RSR148-
17GT2Law / NeimanPorsche GT3RSR147-
18GT2Milner / JeannettePanoz Esperante GTLM146-
19GT2Henzler / Van OverbeekPorsche GT3RSR141-
20GT2Bertolini / MedianiFerrari F430 GTC140-
21GT2Auberlen / HandBMW M3 E46139Did Not Finish
22LMP2Moseley / VergersRadical SR9134-
23LMP1Lewis / Graham / WillmanLola EX257128-
24LMP2Devlin / van der Steur / PecorariRadical SR9 100Mechanical
25GT2Sellers / MarksBMW M3 E4680Suspension
26LMP2Theys / LienhardLola B05/4078Accident
27GT2Maxwell / BrabhamPanoz Esperante GTLM76Accident

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