Danny Sullivan to drive factory-built Ferrari in return to racing at Sebring 12 Hours
BRASELTON, Ga. - Former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One driver Danny Sullivan, one of the most charismatic and successful American racing drivers of the 1980s and 1990s, will return to professional racing as he drives a factory-built Ferrari in the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 17-20.
Sullivan, 53, will drive a Ferrari 575 GTC at Sebring, part of a two-car entry in America's oldest sports car race by Barron Connor Racing of The Netherlands. The cars will race in the GTS class of the American Le Mans Series, scene of monumental battles in the 2003 season between Ferraris and Corvettes that generated headlines and interest in sports car racing around the world.
"I'm really excited about being back in the saddle again and racing at Sebring," said Sullivan. "I've raced at Sebring a few times but never had the results I'd have liked. This opportunity has come together for me to go there and have some fun again.
"Sebring is a very special track and has such a great history," he said. "The people who come there are special and it's a great crowd with diehard race fans and a festival atmosphere. It has ambience and it's just a neat place."
Sullivan, who was CART champion in 1988 and won 17 races during his career in the open-wheel series, was as popular off the track as he was successful on it. He won the Indy 500 in 1985 with the famous "Spin and Win" incident and spent the 1983 season driving on the Formula One circuit, scoring a career-best finish of fifth at the Grand Prix of Monaco.
Sullivan's charisma led to more than a dozen appearances in movies and television programs, among them a 1986 guest spot on the popular "Miami Vice" TV drama and a role in the movie "The Doors" in 1991. He was also selected as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People magazine in 1990 and served as an analyst for ABC-TV on auto racing broadcasts.
The Louisville, Ky., native, who now lives in France, is no stranger to endurance sports car racing, having made four Sebring starts as well as three in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His best Sebring finish of seventh overall came in a Jaguar XJR-9 that he shared with Jan Lammers, Davy Jones and John Nielsen in the 1988 race, and he finished third overall at Le Mans in 1994 in a Dauer-Porsche he shared with Hans Stuck and Thierry Boutsen. In addition, he has raced 10 times in the Daytona 24-hour event, taking a class win in 1998 and finishing second overall in 1986 and 1998.
"Being back in sports cars means a lot," he said. "I never did as much sports car racing as I wanted to in the first stage of my career and I wish I could have done more. I had some ok results, but when you're busy doing CART, Indy and everything else I was doing at the time, you just have to prioritize."
In addition to his racing memories, Sebring holds a special place in Sullivan's heart for personal reasons. He and his wife, Brenda, had their first date on Jan. 12, 1995, when they went to dinner at a restaurant in Old Sebring.
"I was testing there in a CART car and some people had been trying to hook us up," he said. "She was living down in Naples, so she called and asked if she could come up and watch testing.
"I don't remember much about the restaurant because we were all goo goo and ga ga for each other," he said with a laugh. "We've been together ever since."
In recent years, Sullivan has driven in historic racing events, including the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, and drove in the 2003 Tour de France Auto historic revival event, leading the race into the final day before mechanical problems dropped him out of contention for the win. He has also served as the Director of the Red Bull Driver Search for the next American F1 driver since its inception in 2002, duties that keep him very busy.
Operating from facilities near Amsterdam, the Connor team is run by 2002 European Ferrari 360 champion and 2003 FIA Sportscar champion John Bosch of The Netherlands and his father, Jan, both Ferrari enthusiasts. John Bosch will share one car with Sullivan, while other drivers for the team are yet to be named.
"The Ferrari 575 GTC is the first GT racing car built by the factory in 30 years," said John Bosch. "History is in the making and we are proud and pleased to be part of it. Ferrari has built a fantastic car and their support is exceptional. We race to win, so we are aiming high and have put together the team to achieve those goals."
After Sebring, the team will return to Europe to race in the new Le Mans Endurance Series, but Sullivan said the possibility exists of adding one or two races to the team's schedule later in the year. "We can't commit to too much right now," said Sullivan. "We just want to get it going first. We've got our work cut out for us."
The 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, and will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.
Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442 (toll-free 800-626-RACE).