Strong Lineup of Miller, Maassen and Collard Has High Hopes at Petit Le MansNo. 48 Chopard Porsche Team Caps Eventful Season with 10-Hour Enduro
It all comes down to this Saturday for No. 48 Chopard/Yokohama/IPC/TOTAL Porsche 911 GT3 RSR co-drivers Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard, and the Paul Miller Racing team as the 2011 American Le Mans Series Tequila Patrón draws to a close with the Petit Le Mans endurance race at Road Atlanta.
It has been a long road to get to this point, and the team has made remarkable progress throughout its first year of competition in the super competitive ALMS GT class. Miller and Maassen, who have co-driven the No. 48 Porsche all season, head into Saturday's season finale already with a sense of accomplishment.
"It's been an amazing experience for us this year to grow and develop as a team, and also to grow with Yokohama and the performance of their tire and working with them," Bryce Miller said. "It's been a development year for us but it's also been very satisfying, because we can see the results all of the time. I feel quite good about our year. We've had some excellent results, demonstrated some excellent reliability and showed some respectable pace. I think that it shows we can compete in this arena."
"We are part of a development program with Yokohama and you can see the progress," Maassen reinforced. "It's very, very encouraging when you see that something is moving forward. I really enjoy being part of a development program, because I can put my experience in there. We have made constant steps forward, which is not always easy. I'm expecting another step here, maybe, in the race. We need a little bit of luck, but I think we can do a good show here."
A number of European racers from the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) make an already tough ALMS GT field even tougher. Miller and Maassen have proven themselves to be equal to the task, and the addition of Collard makes a solid driver lineup even stronger. Collard wrapped up his third Le Mans Series championship just last weekend, and feels good about joining the Paul Miller Racing team this week.
"I'm really impressed," Collard said. "They race on Yokohama tires and I think they've made a big improvement since the beginning. They've made a lot of development and finished in the top five (at Baltimore), which is really, really good here. The level is really high when you see that you race two factory Corvettes, two factory Ferraris and a factory Porsche. It's already difficult to be in the top five. I think it's good for the future."
The respect is mutual between Miller, Maassen and Collard, which should bode well for the team's chances for the remainder of the week at Road Atlanta. All three drivers understand the keys to success in a 10-hour race.
"We have a really experienced driver lineup," Miller said. "I think this Petlt Le Mans will be more about experience amongst the drivers than in other events that we've seen. With Sascha and Manu in the car, they've got a lot of experience and it's great to have them here.
"This event is going to be so much about attrition and so much about pit strategy. Any endurance race normally is, but especially this race will be about the drivers exercising good judgment and patience because the track is just so crowded. There's so much traffic and there's a lot of varying speeds out there, both in terms of the categories out on track, but also in the driver abilities. You really have to be heads up. Having spotters probably doesn't hurt. Spending a lot of time in your mirrors as a GT driver could really make the difference between if you bring it home after 10 hours or not. It's going to require having to pay a lot of attention to what's going on out there."
After a number of test sessions through the early portion of the week at Road Atlanta, the Petit Le Mans proceedings get underway officially on Thursday with three practice sessions. Another practice session on Friday morning precedes qualifying, which for the GT class runs from 2:55 to 3:10 p.m. ET on Friday afternoon.
The Petit Le Mans - which is scheduled to be 10 hours or 1,000 miles in length, whichever comes first - gets the green flag at 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.
ESPN3.com will again offer live broadcasts of qualifying and the race. The qualifying broadcast begins at 2:35 p.m. ET on Friday with the race beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday. ABC will also have a tape-delayed telecast of race highlights beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 2.
Paul Miller Racing is among the top GT teams competing in North American sports car road racing. In 2011, the team will contest the full American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, as well as the Daytona 24 Hours. The team enjoys a long-standing relationship with Porsche and competes with the support of four international sponsors in Chopard, Yokohama Tire, IPC Information Systems and TOTAL Lubricants.