The newly created Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will begin its first full season with the 59th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
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2011 ILMC Season To Start At Historic Sebring Raceway
The newly created Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will begin its first full season ten days from now, with the 59th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. When Florida State Representative Denise Grimsley drops the flag at 10.30 on Saturday, March 19, a strong 57-car field will begin the race for this American classic. The 12-hour endurance race, which dates back to 1952, is the opening round of the ILMC series. Covering seven events on three continents, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the ILMC is at the forefront of endurance racing today and Rolex is proud to be the series' official timekeeper.
The 1952 12 Hours of Sebring was first run following the founding of the raceway at a former WWII airport in central Florida by aviation businessman Alec Ulmann. Together with road racing pioneer Sam Collier, Ulmann transformed the former Hendricks Field into a 3.5-mile road-racing course and from the beginning, attracted top teams and drivers from America and Europe. Now verging on its sixtieth edition, the 12 Hours of Sebring was always an important round in the World Sportscar Championship as well as in many American championships. The winners list includes some of the great drivers of the last six decades: Stirling Moss (GBR), Mike Hawthorn (GBR), Juan Manuel Fangio (ARG), Phil Hill (USA), John Surtees (GBR) and Mario Andretti (ITA/USA), all famous Formula 1 champions, along with sports car specialists Brian Redman (GBR), Jochen Mass (GER), Hurley Haywood (USA) and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen (DEN).
Tom Kristensen, record eight-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
After the B-17 bombers left the airfield in 1945, the township of Sebring took over the property and created America's first long endurance race. Today, the raceway measures 3.7-miles of both concrete and asphalt. Next week, the track will host the first of seven events in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, a series introduced by the A.C.O. - the Automobile Club de l'Ouest - last summer. This series includes European endurance races at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Imola and Le Mans, along with Road Atlanta and Sebring in the USA and, later this year, a race in China.
This year, like last, fixes the main battle between the Audi and Peugeot prototypes, who will also be challenged by a number of privately-run sports cars. Last year the German Audi team won the 24 Hours of Le Mans while the French Peugeot squad won the three ILMC races. "Sebring is a fine test for the Le Mans race. Although the track has a completely different lay-out, we still can work on the development of our cars," said Audi Sports Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Like Audi, Peugeot is relying on diesel fuel power and the French team is hoping to continue their winning streak. Other main opponents are the new Lola coupes powered by Aston Martin, Mazda or Toyota engines along with Honda and Pescarolo Spyders. Outside the LM P1 class, there will be fierce battles in the LM P2 and GT classes. In the latter, the main competition will be between the BMW and Corvette works teams, Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari and Jaguar. Additionally there are LMPC and GTC classes for smaller cars that will only run in the American Le Mans Series Championship.
Audi Sport Team Joest has two entries, one made up of experienced-trio Kristensen (DEN), McNish (SCO) and Capello (ITA), a team that has won here several times since the late nineties. Danish sports car legend and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen will be seeking his 6th victory in the Florida race. Peugeot is hoping the team of Gene (ESP), Wurz (AUT) and Davidson (GBR) can repeat last year's win. The French manufacturer has two works and one private entry. In the GT class the new Ferrari F458 Italia will make its debut with, among others, former Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA).
Practice for the 59th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring will be on Thursday, 17 March and qualifying on Friday, 18 March. The race will start on Saturday, 19 March at 10.30 local time.
Rolex and motorsports:Rolex is the Official Watch and Timekeeper for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Rolex has been Official Timekeeper for 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 and Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in North America since 1992. In 1965, Rolex added the name Daytona to the dial of its Cosmograph line in tribute to this great race at the International Speedway. The presence of the Rolex brand in automobile racing has grown steadily ever since.
Rolex supports the tradition of auto racing through events that celebrate design, speed and passion including the Goodwood Revival (UK), the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (USA), the Pebble Beach Tour D'Elegance presented by Rolex (USA), the Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance (USA) and The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering (USA).
Rolex affiliation also extends to two key figures in the sport: Sir Jackie Stewart from Scotland, one of the greatest drivers of his generation, and Danish driver Tom Kristensen, record eight-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.