CHESTNUT MOUNTAIN - Rebellion Racing drivers Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld won the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday night, overcoming early problems in the final American Le Mans Series event.
The No. 12 Lola-Toyota fell two laps down before rallying for a six-lap win in the 1,000-mile, 394-lap race. The series is merging with Grand-Am to form the United SportsCar Championship.
After qualifying on the pole position Friday, Jani encountered trouble with lapped traffic after the team led 30 laps. While leading, the Lola-Toyota made contact with a slower car that was exiting the pits. The incident forced the Rebellion team to replace damaged bodywork and the car also was brought back into the pits for a stop-and-hold penalty for avoidable contact.
As a result, the No. 12 team fell two laps behind the No. 6 Pickett Racing Honda prototype shared by Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas. The race changed dramatically on lap 200, when the No. 6 car came to pit lane with overheating issues that forced its retirement from the race.
With the Pickett Racing entry out of the race and other P1 class contenders already out of contention, the Rebellion trio cruised to the victory. It was the second straight Petit Le Mans win for the Swiss team, Jani and Prost, and the first for Heidfeld, a Formula One veteran.
The No. 551 Level 5 Motorsports HPD-Honda trio of Ryan Briscoe, Marino Franchitti and Scott Tucker finished second overall and first in the P2 category to wrap up the ALMS P2 championship. The team battled throughout the race with the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda prototype shared by Scott Sharp, Anthony Lazzaro and David Brabham, who qualified on the class pole position and wound up third overall.
The No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche driven by Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Nick Tandy won the GT class. The No. 17 machine was an older show car that was pressed into service when the team's original car was damaged beyond repair in an opening-lap incident at the Grand Prix of Baltimore last month. Co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen wrapped up the ALMS GT championship for Corvette Racing with a sixth-place run.
The Prototype Challenge class victory went to No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA drivers Chris Cumming, Kyle Marcelli and former Formula One and IndyCar driver Stefan Johansson. The victory - which was the third in a row for Cumming, Marcelli and the BAR1 team - gave Cumming and BAR1 the PC championship.
Atlanta's Spencer Pumpelly had a hometown victory in the GT Challenge class in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche he shared with Venezuelan Nelson Canache Jr. and 17-year-old Madison Snow, whose father and mother (Martin and Melanie Snow) also have won previously in ALMS competition. Teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil took the GTC championship with a fourth-place class result.