OURSLER: The Rambling Road
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The late Mark Donohue once described finishing second as worthless.
This past weekend for those running at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the Rolex season finale, and their counterparts racing at Laguna Seca in the six-hour affair that was second to last 2011 round of the American Le Mans Series, the runner-up spot was anything but that.
For Chris Dyson and Guy Smith, second place meant the fulfillment of their dream of becoming the 2011 ALMS LMP1 Prototype champions, while for Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas their runner-up performance came on the day that saw them clinch their third-consecutive Daytona Prototype crown for Chip Ganassi.
In the case of Pruett and Rojas, their title aspirations were almost a foregone conclusion, the pair having only to keep their Telmex BMW-Riley going for the third 35 minutes of the two-and-three-quarter-hour event in order to take home the honors. After that it was all gravy, as Rojas kept their cool to cross the line behind the Ryan Dalziel Enzo Potolicchio Ford-powered Riley, the twosome’s performance giving them their first triumph of the year.
On the GT production side, there the story was similar with Ronnie Bremer and Robin Liddell claiming the victory with the Camaro GTR to end 2011 on a high hot, while Leh Keen and Andrew Davis came home as season champions with their fourth-place effort.
Clinching the crown was especially sweet as it marked the return of Brumos Porsche to the GT arena after an absence of many years, the pair winning two events during the course of the year after a rough start in their GT3 Cup entry, painted in Brumos’ traditional red white and blue colors.
Two thirds of a continent away at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, there was also a prototype championship decided, this coming when the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda of Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Jay Cochran took second in the LMP1 division behind the visiting Aston Martin powered Lola of Stefan Mucke, Adrian Fernandez and Harold Primat.
Because the latter trio was not eligible for points because they hadn’t committed to run the full ALMS schedule, Dyson, Smith received the winning share of the markers instead. Those were enough to clinch the LMP1 title for them, as their closest competitors, Klaus Graf, and Lucas Luhr struggled home sixth in class with their Muscle Milk Aston Martin Lola after spending an hour and a half in the pits for electrical repairs.
Although the LMP1 category suffered something of a dull finish with Muscle Milk folks mired down in the field, the same didn’t hold true in the most watched category at Laguna, the manufacturer supported GT division contest which was settled in the last half of the last lap when Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long pushed their Flying Lizards Porsche GT3RSR into the lead over the Rahal-Letterman BMW M3 of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, was the Risi Ferrari 458 of Jaime Melo and Tony Vilander faded in the final lap with fuel-starvation issues.
With all that happened, and with all that was settled during the two affairs, the real question of who won and who lost was settled on the track, but rather in the living rooms of those who watched from home.
For reasons which are barely understandable, the two events overlapped in real time, the Rolex telecast on Speed, with the ALMS available live via ESPN3 on the Internet, and then the following day on ESPN2 during the Sunday NFL schedule.
Who attracted the largest audience is not that easy to determine given the difficulty in obtaining truly accurate cable ratings, much less truly accurate Internet viewership numbers.
Even so, what stands out is the fact that whatever those figures might be, in terms of the bigger picture, given everything they probably weren’t enough to justify the investment made by the sponsors and participants in either series, which leads to the ultimate question of when will those in charge realize that cooperation in terms of scheduling will result in bigger returns for both.
For that we’ll just have to wait for next year.