** Dodge Viper Team ORECA, which has been the dominant force in the GTS class of the American Le Mans Series for the better part of 1999 and 2000, will have several extra incentives to win the Race of a Thousand Years at Adelaide, Australia, on Dec. 31. The race will close the 12-event ALMS season for 2000.
One of the biggest incentives is financial, as the team is eligible for a $425,000 (U.S.) bonus if it wins the Adelaide race with car #91 driven by Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger. The Adelaide race is the final race of the "Three out of Four" bonus award program posted by ALMS founder Don Panoz for a team that can win three of the four biggest races in Le Mans competition: Sebring, Le Mans, the Petit Le Mans and Adelaide.
Beretta and Wendlinger were winners at both Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If the same chassis is used at Adelaide as was used at Sebring and Le Mans, and Beretta and Wendlinger drive enough of the race and win, the bonus will belong to Team ORECA. Because of the six-hour length of the race, they will be joined by co-driver Dominique Dupuy.
But the incentives don't stop there: the team is also trying to wrap up the GTS Driver's Championship for Beretta, who was the champion in 1999, the inaugural year of the ALMS.
And, Team ORECA is trying to give the Dodge Vipers one more moment in the spotlight before the cars are retired from service. The team will concentrate on developing a new Prototype for Le Mans in 2001.
"The decision to have Olivier, Karl and Dominique together for the final race is an emotional one," said Hugues de Chaunac, Director of ORECA. "Especially for Olivier and Karl, who have achieved the most success with this car. I am not thinking of the bonus too much so that we are not too disappointed if we don't get it. We simply want to record one more win with the Viper."
The Adelaide street circuit will be hosting its first ALMS race, and many drivers will be seeing the circuit for the first time when practice begins on Dec. 29.
"I have never been to Adelaide before, or even Australia," said Beretta. "Everything will be new to me, but I'm looking forward to it."
** Adelaide, Australia, is 15.5 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the United States. The Race of a Thousand Years is a six-hour race that will start at 4 p.m. in Adelaide (12:30 a.m. in the U.S. Eastern zone) on Sunday, Jan. 31.
ALMS cars will be on the circuit at Adelaide for the first time on Friday, Dec. 29, for practice, while qualifying will be held on Saturday, Dec. 30.
The race will be televised in the United States by NBC Sports on a same-day, tape-delay basis at 2 p.m. (Eastern time). Highlights will be shown on Eurosport at 20:30 (GMT) on Jan. 7.
** Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Tex., which will host the opening race of the 2001 American Le Mans Series season on March 4, has set Jan. 2 as the first day for tickets for the Grand Prix of Texas to be on sale.
"The 2001 race season will be an exciting one at Texas Motor Speedway," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "The Grand Prix of Texas features some of the most prestigious sports cars in the world battling on our challenging road course."
The ALMS inaugurated the road course at TMS in 2000.
** The Race of a Thousand Years will be the race of 27,700 miles traveled for BMW Team PTG driver Nic Jonsson.
Jonsson will travel 13,800 miles from his childhood home in Bankyerd, Sweden, to drive in the ALMS season finale on New Year's Eve. The travel during the holiday season will total 27,700 miles from his home in Aliso Viejo, Calif., to Sweden, back to Los Angeles, to Australia and then back to California.
Why is Jonsson enduring such a lenghthy time in airplanes? His late addition to the BMW Team PTG driving roster for the Adelaide race left him with few flight options, so he will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on planes. He and Helene, his bride of fourth months, will celebrate an early Christmas in Sweden before he embarks on his trip. Joining him in Sweden will be his brother, Mathias, crew chief for CART champion Gil de Ferran.
"It's going to be a very long trip, all the way from Sweden via the United States, because it was the only way I could find tickets this late," said Jonsson. "But I definitely think it's worth it because I've been very happy to drive with BMW Team PTG this year and I would like to finish the season with them. Hopefully it will work out so I have the opportunity to race with them again next year."
** The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have three broadcasts from Adelaide, all available online at www.americanlemans.com.
The first broadcast will be on Friday, Jan. 29, with two hours of coverage of night practice beginning at 8 p.m. (Adelaide time). The qualifying broadcast will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30, with the race broadcast starting at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 31.
** One of the most significant awards that will be presented at the ALMS awards ceremony in Adelaide on Jan. 1 will be the second annual "From The Fans" award. Fans of the American Le Mans Series have the opportunity to vote online at www.americanlemans.com.
The voting is for the person who has done the most for sports car racing during the 2000 season. The name of the recipient will remain a closely-guarded secret until being revealed during the awards ceremony.
The recipient of the first award in 1999 was ALMS founder Don Panoz.
** Fans of the American Le Mans Series and sports car racing also have the opportunity to vote for the Sports Car Driver of the Millennium, and the Sports Car of the Millennium. The poll is being conducted on the ALMS website at www.americanlemans.com.
The winners will be announced at the Australia race.
A feature of the online poll on the ALMS website will be soundbites with ALMS drivers, owners and team managers talking about their choices in the two categories.
QUICK NOTES: Milka Duno, who competed in the Women's Global GT Series in 2000 as well as several ALMS races, has been recognized as the top racing driver in Venezuela for 2000 by the motorsports media of the country .... Sascha Maassen, who is one of the top contenders for the GT class driver's title in the ALMS, has announced that he will return to the ALMS in 2001 and will continue to work with Porsche. The team he will drive for has not been announced ....