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.

Round five, the Grand Prix of Utah, was held at the new Miller Motorsports Park. This would mark the facilities first professional sports car event. The track was a twenty-three turn 4.486-mile road course – the longest in North America.

The post-race press conference with defending American Le Mans Series Champions and Utah Grand Prix winners. On the left is Frank Biela and to his right is his teammate, Emanuele Pirro. For the pair, it was their first victory of the 2006 season.
The Penske Porsches were the only prototype team to do pre-race testing at Miller. It paid off, as they were at the quickest during test and practice sessions. In qualifying, the Audis and Dyson cars found additional speed. The No. 6 Porsche RS Spyder of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen started first in LMP2. In the closing stages, Luhr chased Emanuele Pirro for the overall victory but had to be satisfied with second overall.
The Audi’s started on the front row with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro driving the No. 1 R10 TDI. Biela was the fastest qualifier and earned his first pole position since 2003. Despite mid-race contact with a GT2 Ferrari and falling to third in the race order - Biela and Pirro were able to score the overall and LMP1 victory.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT was the fastest GT2 car in qualifying (by over a second) but they flat spotted two tires. The team elected to replace the tires and took the penalty which meant they were moved to the back of the starting grid. During the race, their strategy was to make a single pit-stop. The team’s plan worked as Jamie Melo and Mika Salo took the GT2 class win.
The early GT2 race leader was the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entered by Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing. Drivers, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister, battled with the Risi Ferrari, Alex Job Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsches. At the checkered flag, Bergmeister finished 2.528-seconds behind the class winning Risi Ferrari.
The Aston Martins got there first GT1 win at the previous round in Lime Rock – by a margin of 0.033-seconds. In qualifying, they were almost 2.5-seconds quicker than the Corvettes. Early in the event, the teammates ran in tandem but the No. 007 shared by Tomas Enge and Darren Turner maintained the class lead and would take the GT1 victory. The win allowed them to close the point’s gap on the Corvette team.
The Audi R10 TDI was built to replace the very successful R8. The most unique feature of the car was the diesel-powered 5.5-liter turbocharged V12 motor. The engine design distinguished itself from the gasoline power plants by using fewer RPMs and having more torque. It made its debut in 2006 and won the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was the first diesel-powered vehicle to win these events.
After four rounds, the Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 of Clint Field and Liz Halliday led the LMP2 point standings. They were able to finish second in class after the No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder of Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard encountered problems late in the race. The pair left Utah with the class lead but by only a single point.
The No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entered round five with the GT2 points lead as the result of a win at Mid-Ohio and three-second place finishes. At Miller Motorsports Park, the pairing of Johannes van Overbeek and Wolf Henzler started fourth on the grid and were third in GT2 at the checkered flag.
The Dyson team struggled in practice with the Lola B06/10 but it came together for qualifying and James Weaver put the No. 16 car third on the grid. In the early part of the event, he ran second overall. As the teams cycled through their final pit-stops Weaver and his co-driver, Butch Leitzinger found themselves third. They maintained this position to the checkered flag.
The Aston Martins dominated qualifying and ran in one-two early in the race. The No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette of Oliver Gavin challenged Stephane Sarrazin and took second place mid-race. However, the Oliver Gavin/Olivier Beretta car encountered problems and the Aston Martin DBR9 of Sarrazin and Andrea Piccini took the position back – they were second in GT1 at the checkered flag.

1LMP1Biela / PirroAudi R10 TDI65-
2LMP2Maassen / LuhrPorsche RS Spyder65-
3LMP1Weaver / LeitzingerLola B06/1065-
4LMP1McNish / CapelloAudi R10 TDI65-
5LMP1Smith / DysonLola B06/1064-
6LMP1Dayton / WallaceLola EX25762-
7GT1Turner / EngeAston Martin DBR962-
8GT1Sarrazin / PicciniAston Martin DBR961-
9LMP2Halliday / FieldLola B05/4061-
10GT1Fellows / O'ConnellChevrolet Corvette C6-R61-
11GT1Gavin / BerettaChevrolet Corvette C6-R61-
12GT2Melo / SaloFerrari F430 GTC59-
13GT2Bergmeister / LongPorsche GT3RSR59-
14GT2Henzler / Van OverbeekPorsche GT3RSR59-
15GT2Rockenfeller / GrafPorsche GT3RSR59-
16LMP2Dumas / BernhardPorsche RS Spyder58-
17GT2Maxwell / BrabhamPanoz Esperante GTLM58-
18GT2Auberlen / HandBMW M3 E4658-
19GT2Jeannette / MilnerPanoz Esperante GTLM58-
20GT2Neiman / LawPorsche GT3RSR57-
21GT2Marks / SellersBMW M3 E4656-
22LMP1Willman / LewisLola EX25747Mechanical

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