Drivers speed the night away at raceway

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    By Daniel Souza

    TOOELE ? Favorite Italian driver Emanuele Pirro piloting the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI had fans on their feet during the final moments of the thrilling Saturday (July 15, 2006) night race. Pirro managed to remain atop to snag another win in the American Le Mans Series?the third straight win for the 6-month old Audi R10 TDI?at the newly finished Miller Motorsports Park circuit.

    This year’s Utah Grand Prix marked the first automotive race in hisotry at teh new state-of-the art Miller Motorsports Park located roughly 25 minutes west of Salt Lake City. The 4.5 mile, 24-turn track and its facilities envisioned by Tuah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller welcomed racing aficionados of all ages.

    ?I am very pleased with the way this racetrack has turned out. Our grandstand has been filled, lots of fans have come out to enjoy the races and it?s really meeting my expectations,? Miller said.

    Taking the overall second place in the podium and first in the LMP2 class, Porsche RS Spyder driver Lucas Luhr initially struggled to make up the half second deficit to first place. As the top drivers navigated their way to the checkered flag, the gap also shortened. Pirro?who climbed positions after teammate Frank Biela had mishaps earlier in the race?credited his own experience as part of the overall winning result.

    ?I?m glad we could produce a really great race. The reason we were so slow was because there was so much pickup. That?s what happens when you have hard tires. I thank God I have 27 years of experience because the last laps were so difficult,? Pirro said.

    Composed with a unique format in which four classes of sports cars competed head-to-head, drivers found challenges of their own as they battled to the win in each category. Clinching their third win in the GT1 series, Darren Turner and Tomas Enge pulled a bit of a stunt on their last stop with the 007-numbered Aston Martin DB9.

    ?The change was pretty short. We were already a lap ahead, and that was actually a scheduled pit stop. We found out there was a problem with the battery voltage. It took a minute and a half to repair that, and we didn?t lose anything,? Enge said.

    Unlike the popular US-sponsored NASCAR, the American Le Mans Series does not boast one single oval track. The road courses in which these vehicles compete dot North America, spanning from Ontario to Florida to California. The eight-year-old series attracts manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Chevrolet, Audi, Porsche, Maserati, Lexus, Panoz, etc, divided into LMP1, LMP2, GT1, and GT2; the last two being production cars with slight modifications for the race track.

    And as obvious as it may sound, none of the competition would be possible without a track. With ALMS as its crowning event, Miller Motorsports Park will bring other racing events to the Deseret state.

    ?This is really for the fan. They are the ones that make this possible. I?m glad that Miller Motorsports Park can be a part of all this.?

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