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Thoughts on ALMS Long Beach 2011

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ALMS from Long Beach wasn’t a bad race, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.  It’s also worth mentioning that it was my first time watching ESPN3’s coverage of the series, so I’ll have a few comments on that in addition to the race.  I’ve tweeted it several times over the course of the weekend, but I’ll say it again here on the blog: I’m really worried about the future and the health of the ALMS.  The GT field is solid, but the LMP1 and LMP2 car counts are really weak outside of Sebring and Petit LeMans and it was obvious this weekend.  Others disagree, but I think the current TV package is another indicator of bad series health.  Finally, Joey Hand is one heck of a racer and has established himself as GT star; someone give this guy a ride in a prototype (a real one, not one of those GrandAm DP cars) or an IndyCar soon!

  • Qualifying between 2 cars in which the gap is 3/10 of a second is exciting?  One of the pit reporters (I forget which one) called the prototype qualifying exciting.  Sorry, but only 2 cars with a gap of 3/10 of a second is not exciting.  It actually highlights the major problem the ALMS currently has.  They are very short on prototypes; 2 LMP1 cars showed up for Long Beach and 2 LMP2 cars showed up and they didn’t run the whole race.  Unless things change, the ALMS is desperately close to becoming a GT championship.
  • Just leave it to Hindy and Shaw and you can’t go wrong. This was the first time I’ve watched the streaming ALMS broadcast on ESPN3 and I’m so glad they’re using Radio LeMans‘ John Hindhaugh and Jeremy Shaw to call the race.  They are some of the best in the business and Hindhaugh’s enthusiasm enhances the viewing experience without a doubt.
  • The lead GT BMW is already past 2 LMPC cars.  Almost immediately the lead GT car got past the tail end of the LMPC field. It was really odd to see prototypes being passed by GT cars and getting in the way of the GT cars.  I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been the same on a more wide open, less tight course than Long Beach.
  • RT @toomuchracing Level 5 say they are supporting the series.. if that were true they’d run both cars. I’ve got to agree with Pat here. If they really wanted to support the series, they would run both cars for the whole race instead of sitting out qualifying and stopping after running minimum distance.  As far as I’m concerned, Level 5 slapped the fans in the face this weekend.
  • Oh Good Pass by Pat Long! Then Auberlin and the 2nd Corvette have contact.  Hindy called this exchange bizarre and that is the best word for it!  Not only was the spin and balking of his teammate was definitely out of character for Bill Auberlin but it was also just the first of BMW’s mistakes. Why should there have been a question about the legality of the pass for the GT lead in the first place?  I never understood a question of the legality of Gavin’s pass of Hand after Hand got balked by Auberlin at the fountain.  What was Gavin supposed to do? Just stop and “Oh, I’m sorry – please go though.”  He found an opening and Hand didn’t, it was just that simple.
  • Great move by Joey Hand to take advantage of both the ‘Vette and the Flying Lizard.  Pat Long was flying in the Flying Lizard Porsche but he still wasn’t as fast as Hand in the Rahal Letterman BMW.  Hand lost the positions when he got balked at the fountain but quickly caught back up.  When Long went to pass Gavin for the lead in GT he forgot about Hand catching up and tried to push Gavin out to complete the pass.  Hand passed both of them to retake the lead in what, as far as I’m concerened, was the move of the race.
  • This race between Hand and Long deserves to be on TV, not on streaming internet.  Up until Patrick Long made a rare mistake, he and Joey Hand had a heck of a race and it should have been on live TV, not just streaming over the internet.  This is the kind of thing that can make the casual viewer a fan and it should be live, not next day condensed and delayed.
  • That was harsh. Patrick Long on Scott Sharp – maybe he was doing his hair in the mirror.  I think Long was overly harsh on Sharp here.  Sharp was fighting to stay on the lead lap and I have no problem with that.  If the positions were reversed and Long had just come out of the pits, would he really have just pulled over and let Sharp go?  Shaw commented that Long was classy and admitted his error; Long did admit it was his error, but the personal attack on Sharp was definitely NOT classy and was out of line.
  • If you’re going to change tire pressures, why not make the changes on a new set and just put fresh tires on?  Dyson decided to just make air pressure adjustments during their pit stop rather than change tires and it was definitely a bad idea.  It looked to me like it wouldn’t have taken much longer to make the pressure changes to the new set of tires prior to the stop and put new tires on.  Fresh tires may not have helped them pass the Aston Martin, but they would definitely had them closer at the end.
  • What a mistake laden race for BMW. 2nd stop for 55 to change a missed tire. The Rahal Letterman team missed getting a tire tightned on properly in their only pit stop, forcing them to come back in and putting them farther down the order than Auberlin’s initial mistake did.  BMW would have dominated had it not been for the errors.  To go a step further, if it wasn’t for Long’s error, it probably would have been a BMW, BMW, Porsche podium.
  • It was also a great race by @risicomp – from dead last to the podium in GT!  Congratulations to Muscle Milk Aston Martin and Rahal Letterman BMW, but to me the drive of the race was by Risi Competizione.  They kept their nose clean, raced hard, and came from starting in the rear to finishing on the podium.  Even though I’m a Corvette fan, the Risi guys are one of my favorite teams!

2 Comments

  1. Taylor Edwards says:

    KF —

    Nice clear, clean blog. Compliments!

    I too thought it was a great race to watch despite what everyone says about the lack of LMPs. You have some great points but I take some exceptions as follows:

    “Others disagree, but I think the current TV package is another indicator of bad series health.” — I do respectfully disagree. Would it be great for ALMS to be live on ABC every race? Sure! Possible, given that ALMS has to buy the time and pay to produce the show, hire the talent, rent the TV production trucks, etc., etc. etc.? Ummm.. not so much. We ‘ll see how the viewing audience comes in for Long Beach when the rating get posted, but the fact is that a tape-delayed next-day Sebring race had a record audience. More viewers for a Sebring race than ever before in the HISTORY of the Sebring race. Even further, that all time viewing record came despite an incredible screw up whereby the race was preempted in EVERY Pacific time zone affiliate by a tennis match that (one-in-a thousand-chance) went 88 minutes overtime. Not only that but even the 90-minute re-air which was on ESPN2 on TUESDAY at like 4:30 AM ( Maybe it was 2:30 AM, not sure but it sure wasn’t prime time!) had over 100,000 viewers according to Nielsen. For an Oh dark thrirty re-air of a tape-delayed show to be not an order of magnitude lower than the Versus coverage of the Barber Indy race tells me that it’s too early to proclaim ALMS dead on account of TV failure.

    “Sorry, but only 2 cars with a gap of 3/10 of a second is not exciting.” — Actually, if you watched the mano-a-mano duel between Smith & Graf called with excitement by Hindhaugh, that’s what the tension of qualifying is all about. First one then the other then the other blasting each other off the point was damned exciting to watch, especially with the depth of camera coverage and in-car shots. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.

    “Unless things change, the ALMS is desperately close to becoming a GT championship” — Things are slated to change and here’s how I see it. While I totally agree we’re at a tough and extreme place because the economy has caused sponsorship to dial way back, such swings in class populations are as much a part of Le Mans based racing as driver changes. You get to the season before a major rules change for prototypes and it’s rare that a crop of new cars or teams will want to invest the sums required. They’ll wait for the first season of the new rules — 2012. I believe one can safely predict there’ll be a re-invigorated field of prototypes as business success and profits realized in 2011 brings sponsorship levels back so that the cost capped LMPs will repopulate and manufacturers like Audi return.

    “This race between Hand and Long deserves to be on TV, not on streaming internet.” — Actually, may I respectfully point out that ummm… it IS on TV? 5 PM Eastern on ESPN2. There’s been much hue and cry about ALMS abandoning TV for the internet. Critics also seem to have forgotten that 5 out of the 7 races on SPEED last season were tape delayed shows.

    You’ve raised some great points of opinion in this posting. ALMS needs to act to improve the situation and please it’s core fans — but what else is new? That’ll always be the case maybe until it’s all live on ABC. In the mean time, we all have the right to our opinions. What would social media be without THAT fact? Even so, let’s look at how the FACTS might influence our opinions.

    Cheers,
    TE

  2. KF4LMT says:

    TE, thanks for the feedback – if everyone agreed it would be a dull world indeed! You have a good point about the new rules coming up but the LMP field has been in a slow decline over several years. I hope you’re right about 2012. You are right indeed about the qualifying, I didn’t think about it that way and I really should have.

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