|Pre Le Mans
|It is difficult to envision anything other than another Audi rout for a number of reasons. The first being that Sebring is often such an accurate prologue. The main difference this year is that Audi's principal opponents were not present in Florida. Therein lies part of the problem in that none of them are particularly well experienced.
Obviously, Bentley has received the most attention and has ample resources behind it, especially with Richard Lloyd at the helm. The green Audi coupes (excuse me, Bentleys) will enjoy excellent straight line speed, but their Achilles' Heel will be the difficulty of changing components relative to the fully modular spyders.
Of the privateer Audis, the better one will be the Champion car. It has a fine driving line-up, unlike a seemingly calamitous run-up to the race from Johansson. I believe that the best of the rest will be the Chryslers. The Oreca team's expertise translates well to the upper class, despite that their prototypes did not go particularly well during the very experimental run in 2000.
The Judd powered cars, especially the Domes, will be fast and an annoyance to the Audis, but they will ultimately succumb. I don't see many of them lasting to mid-race. The Courages will finish, but not as well as last year. They will simply be outdone by the Chryslers. Of the two semi-American marques, Cadillac and Panoz, they will spend as much time in the pits as on the circuit. I don't believe the "new and improved laundry detergent" rhetoric of GM / DAMS, and the LMP 07 was an excellent concept, while it was still on paper. It's now a lost cause. Pete Brock believes it has a fundamental flaw. The engine has had internal vibration problems. It may be possible to cure these through slight crank and head adjustments, but all require re-shaping of the surfaces by a few millimeters here and there. However, since the engine is such an integral part of the structure, this can't be done without completely revising the front end.
LMP 675 should provide good close racing from the VW and Judd powered Reynards, at least until the late evening. Then I believe that the ROC car will prevail, with a few others as walking wounded. The no. 36 Barbour car will do well, but the small Judd is too new. I'm afraid that the MGs are showing Panoz like problems. Maybe 2002 for them. The Roock Lola has been a disaster in the ALMS rounds and has shown no signs of improving. The WR Peugeot is a mere field-filler.
As at Sebring, GTS should provide the most interesting racing. It is a complete toss-up between the principal Saleens (works and RML entries) and the Corvettes. I would even place a longshot bet on the Larbre Viper, certainly for a podium finish.
About the only thing certain in GT (other than a Porsche win) is that the Japanese entry won't repeat this year. If I had to guess, it will be between the Perspective entry and the no. 83 Seikel car. The Corvette will be fast during the first two hours and then break.
So there are my thoughts. But I'm not willing to place my stock portfolio behind any of my calls--well maybe I'd trust that Herr Joest will prevail.
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