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The 2006 ALMS season will wind down next weekend at Laguna Seca, and teams are already looking toward next year's effort. To that end, Penske Racing and Porsche have made the official announcement that they will once again partner for the 2007 ALMS season. As was the case this year, Penske will field two cars and contest only the ALMS races. Other events, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, are out. Penske has already locked up the 2006 LMP2 team championship, while Porsche has clinched both manufacturer's titles (chassis and engine). Penske/Porsche drivers Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr sit 1-2 in the LMP2 driver's championship standings heading into the final race.
Earlier this month, Porsche unveiled the 2007 RS Spyder, which is more aerodynamic, more powerful, and easier to maintain than the 2006 car. This week, the automaker showed it off in the yellow and red DHL livery that the Penske cars will once again sport next season.
ALMS '07 should be enormously entertaining, as the LMP2 class will see Acura join the fray, creating an instant rivalry with Porsche. Add in the independents like Intersport and you've got the makings for some compelling drama on the track. One could make a strong case that LMP2, and not the Audi-dominated LMP1, is going to be the class to watch.
Starting next year, the RS Spyder will be available to privateer efforts as well, though it remains to be seen if any other than the Penske duo will contest ALMS. It will be interesting to see if someone decides to independently run one of the Spyders at Le Mans.
So, even though the 2006 American Le Mans Series is wrapping up, there's no shortage of things to talk about. After the jump, we have a set of galleries that'll let you compare the 2006 and 2007 cars, as well as a selection of photos of the Penske Spyders contesting their inaugural ALMS season.
(Gallery, press release after the jump)
[Sources: Porsche, ALMS]
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2007 Team Penske Porsche RS Spyder:
2006 Team Penske Porsche RS Spyder:
2006 ALMS Season:
PENSKE, PORSCHE TOGETHER AGAIN FOR LMP2 IN '07
Atlanta – After a successful championship season in 2006, Penske Racing and the Porsche RS Spyder will be back together in 2007 with a two-car effort in the American Le Mans Series' LMP2 class.
Penske Racing has already clinched the American Le Mans Series team championship in the LMP2 class, and Porsche now owns the manufacturers title for both LMP2 engine and chassis for 2006 – with the Penske/Porsche drivers holding a solid lead for the LMP2 drivers championship going into the last event of the season at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway on October 21.
Porsche and Penske are expected to fight for the 2007 class championship alongside factory efforts from Acura as well as top-flight independent efforts from Intersport Racing, B-K Motorsports and van der Steur Racing.
This year, Penske Racing has guided the Porsche RS Spyder to nine consecutive class pole positions and six P2 victories this year. The cars also recorded a historic 1-2 overall finish this year at Mid-Ohio.
"We are excited to continue our successful partnership with Porsche as we look ahead to the 2007 American Le Mans Series championship," said Roger Penske, Chairman, Penske Racing, Inc. "Our immediate focus remains on helping Lucas and Sascha earn the 2006 driver's championship before we turn our collective attention to the development of the next generation RS Spyder."
Penske added that the Porsche RS Spyder team will again concentrate exclusively on the American Le Mans Series' 12-race schedule for 2007 with the goal of winning the LMP2 championship, and will not contest other races or series with the cars including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He said that the driver lineup for 2007 has not been determined at this time.
Hartmut Kristen, Porsche's director of worldwide motorsports, is pleased that Penske Racing is back for 2007, and hopes to repeat this year's success in the coming year.
"Porsche is delighted to renew its relationship with Penske Racing for the 2007 season," Kristen commented. „Their experience and professionalism contributed greatly to achieving the goals we established going into 2006. Utilizing the next generation of the RS Spyder, we are very optimistic this success will continue next year."
Unveiled recently at the Paris Motor Show, the 2007 edition of the Porsche RS Spyder promises to be even more formidable than this year's championship-winning car. For better handling and greater speed, its many changes include enhanced aerodynamics and a more powerful 3.4-liter, V8 engine. In addition the carbon-fiber body has been modified for an even higher standard of ease and convenience for service and maintenance.
The final round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at 2:45 p.m. PDT on Saturday, October 21. SPEED will broadcast the race from 5:30 to 10 p.m. EDT on the same day. MotorsTV will broadcast the race in Europe starting at 10:30 p.m. UTC in England and 11:30 p.m. CET. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage, and IMSA Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.