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 seven of the 2006 American Le Mans Series was held at Road America. The Generac 500 presented by the Chicago Tribune would be two-hours, forty-five minutes in length around the fourteen-turn 4.048-mile road course.

The No. 1 Audi Sport North America Audi R10 TDI was qualified by Frank Biela. Biela was over a second slower than his teammate, Allan McNish, but it was fast enough to be gridded second. At the start of the contest, Biela went off-course and dropped to the rear of the field. He and his co-driver, Emanuele Pirro, were on a mission. They eventually caught the leaders and Pirro was able to make the pass for the win on the final restart.
Performing the qualifying duties for the No.3 Corvette was Ron Fellows. Fellows was second fastest in GT1, he and his teammate, Johnny O’Connell, would start tenth overall. The Aston Martins moved to the front early in the race, but flat tires took them out of contention. It was a similar story for the No. 4 Corvette, which had to make an extra pit-stop. After three runner-up finishes, Fellows and O’Connell scored their first win of the year.
Entering Road America, Penske drivers, Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen were second in the title chase. To improve Porsche’s chances of securing the championship, the driver pairings were changed. Luhr and Romain Dumas would share the No. 7 RS Spyder and piloting the other car would be Maassen and Timo Bernhard. Bernhard and Maassen ran nose-to-tail with their teammates but were the first to cross the finish line for the LMP2 victory.
The fastest GT2 competitor during qualifying was Jorg Bergmeister driving the No. 31 Porsche GT3RSR. In the process, Bergmeister set and new lap record. Sharing the Porsche with Bergmeister was Patrick Long. They led the class for much of the race, their only challenger was the BMW of Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen. Bergmeister passed Hand after his final pit-stop and grabbed the class win, finishing twelfth overall.
BMW Team PTG had two BMW M3 entries in the American Le Mans Series. Sharing the No. 21 BMW was Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand. The second car was piloted by Justin Marks and Bryan Sellers. Hand was the fastest BMW in qualifying, turning a time good enough for sixth in GT2. During the race, Hand and Auberlen inherited positions as the quicker competitors encountered issues. They finished second in their category.
Alan McNish had never competed at Road America, but that did not prevent him from securing the pole-position and setting a new lap record. Sharing the No. 1 Audi R10 TDI with McNish was Rinaldo Capello. McNish led much of his stint but was challenged by the Dyson Lola of James Weaver. Capello was in first place for the final restart but could not hold-off the other Audi driven by Emanuele Pirro and finished second.
In the previous round, drivers of the No. 4 Corvette C6.R, Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta had the honour of winning Corvette’s fiftieth ALMS race. At Road America, the pair started twelfth overall and fourth in the GT1 category. Gavin drove the first stint and an incident while attempting to pass one of the Aston Martins damaged the Corvette and required an extra pit-stop. They returned the race and finished second in class.
Despite issues in practice, the Dyson Racing crew was able to repair the No. 16 Lola B06/10 in time for qualifying. Sharing the Lola were Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver. Weaver qualified the car third fastest in LMP1. At the start of the race, he attempted an aggressive move on the two Audis, which resulted in Frank Biela going off the track. The two Dyson drivers challenged the Audis but were unable to pass them and finished third.
Starting a Road America, the No. 7 Penske Motorsports Porsche RS Spyder was driven by Romain Dumas and Luca Luhr. Luhr was the fastest LMP2 competitor in qualifying (establishing a new lap record) and started third overall. The Penske Porsches set the pace in LMP2 and were in close contact for the two-hour, forty-five-minute event. Dumas drove the final stint and chased Berhard and finished second by just 0.150-seconds.
The No. 007 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DB9 was shared by Darren Turner and Tomas Enge. The pair had victories at Houston and Utah. Enge drove the car in qualifying and was third fastest in the GT1 category – their teammates captured the pole. Enge drove the final stint and was battling Olivier Beretta for second place when he spun. Unable to rebound, Enge and Turner settled for third in class and eleventh overall.
The Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3RSR was driven by Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Tiemann. Rockenfeller handled the qualifying duties and was second fastest in the GT2 class. During the race, Tiemann was unable to match Rockenfeller’s pace and pair lost a lap to the category leaders. Even with this setback, they were able to finish fourteenth overall and capture the final position on the GT2 podium.
With the Risi Competizione regulars, Jaime Milo and Mika Salo competing in Europe, the driving responsibilities went to Stephane Ortelli and Mario Dominguez. Ortelli set the third quickest GT2 time in the team’s No. 62 Ferrari F430 GTC, but an off-course excursion during the race resulted in a nineteenth-place finish. Risi also entered a second Ferrari shared by Toni Vilander and Marc Gene, they finished fourth in GT2.

1LMP1Biela / PirroAudi R10 TDI76-
2LMP1McNish / CapelloAudi R10 TDI76-
3LMP1Weaver / LeitzingerLola B06/1076-
4LMP2Maassen / BernhardPorsche RS Spyder76-
5LMP2Dumas / LuhrPorsche RS Spyder76-
6LMP1Wallace / DaytonLola B01/6076-
7LMP1Smith / DysonLola B06/1075-
8LMP2Halliday / Field / FieldLola B05/4075-
7GT1Fellows / O'ConnellChevrolet Corvette C6-R74-
10GT1Gavin / BerettaChevrolet Corvette C6-R73-
11GT1Turner / EngeAston Martin DBR973-
12GT2Bergmeister / LongPorsche GT3RSR71-
13GT2Auberlen / HandBMW M3 E4671-
14GT2Rockenfeller / TiemannPorsche GT3RSR70-
15GT2Vilander / GeneFerrari F430 GTC70-
16GT1Sarrazin / LamyAston Martin DBR969-
17GT2Henzler / Van OverbeekPorsche GT3RSR69-
18GT2Marks / SellersBMW M3 E4668-
19GT2Dominguez / OrtelliFerrari F430 GTC63-
20LMP1McMurry / LewisLola B01/6062-
21GT2Maxwell / BrabhamPanoz Esperante GTLM62-
22GT2Jeannette / MilnerPanoz Esperante GTLM62-
23GT2Neiman / PechnikPorsche GT3RSR50Mechanical

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