BRASELTON, Ga. (February 28, 2003) -- Nothing screams "England" quite like a Bentley, and a British racing green Bentley sporting Union Jacks in its motif almost conjures up the familiar strains of "Rule Britannia."
After an absence of more than 70 years, a factory-backed racing Bentley will compete on American soil when two beautiful Bentley Prototypes race in the 51st annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The cars will be among the starting field of some 60 that will compete in America's oldest sports car race Mar. 12-15 at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, the first race of the 2003 American Le Mans Series season.
The impending North American debut of the Bentley has become the story of Sebring for 2003. For the past two years, the cars have competed only in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but their sleek, curvy lines and overall sexiness have made them favorites among race fans around the world.
The British manufacturer is pulling out all of the stops in its effort to score victories in 2003 at both Sebring and later this year at Le Mans. Not only has a top-notch team of engineers and crew been assembled, Bentley has also put together a six-man driving lineup that can only be described as "all-star."
Three of the six are former Formula One stars, with one owning three F1 race wins. Four are former winners of the 12 Hours of Sebring, with two of them having two wins in the event. Two are former winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and four of the six are past race winners in the American Le Mans Series.
Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell, both of England, and Australian David Brabham will share one of the Bentleys at both Sebring and Le Mans. All are former Formula One drivers, with Herbert having claimed three wins before retiring from the championship two years ago. Herbert is also a former winner of both Le Mans and Sebring, while Brabham has seven career ALMS wins.
Sharing the other Bentley will be defending American Le Mans Series champion Tom Kristensen of Denmark, Rinaldo Capello of Italy and Guy Smith of England. Kristensen and Capello are two-time Sebring winners, with Capello part of the winning team the past two years. Kristensen is also a four-time Le Mans winner, including the past three consecutive.
After an absence from racing of 71 years, Bentley returned with an entry at Le Mans in 2001 and finished third. The closed-roof racer also competed in the French endurance racing classic in 2002 and finished fourth. The participation in Sebring will mark the first time that a factory Bentley has raced in the United States since an entry in the Indianapolis 500 in 1922.The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 15, at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442, or toll-free in Florida (800) 626-RACE. Four classes of American Le Mans Series cars will compete in the event, and some 60 cars are expected to take the green flag.
The race will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the SPEED Channel, with live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web online at www.americanlemans.com.