Familiar faces making full-season returns

FAMILIAR FACES MAKING FULL-SEASON RETURNS TO AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES IN 2006 Sebring, Fla. - This week's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening of the 2006 American Le Mans Series, marks the return of several prominent drivers to...

FAMILIAR FACES MAKING FULL-SEASON RETURNS TO AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES IN 2006

Sebring, Fla. - This week's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening of the 2006 American Le Mans Series, marks the return of several prominent drivers to full-season competition.

Among the most notable are Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz' David Brabham, Guy Smith of Dyson Racing and Risi Competizione's Ralf Kelleners. In addition, Penske Racing's Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr are back for a full season after they won in the debut of the Porsche RS Spyder in October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Brabham hasn't taken part in a full American Le Mans Series season since 2002, his last season driving for Panoz Motor Sports. But instead of driving a prototype, Brabham is driving the Panoz Esperante GTLM in GT2. In the previous three seasons Brabham competed in 16 races after being in 36 events during the first four years of the Series.

"I've worked with Multimatic Motorsports before, and I know they are a very professional organization," said Brabham, who drove in three Series events last year with Aston Martin Racing. "But for me, the deciding factor was running a full season in America. I really missed racing over here."

Smith is preparing for his first full season in the American Le Mans Series since 2000. As he did last season, he'll drive the No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola with Chris Dyson. The difference is that after Sebring he'll continue on with the team for all 10 races.

He said he would have liked to have campaigned more in the Series, but he was part of Bentley's Le Mans program that lasted from 2001-03. Smith was part of the winning team at the 24-hour French classic in 2003 with Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen.

"Yes, the Bentley program limited my involvement. It was all about Sebring and Le Mans," Smith said. "But I'm absolutely prepared to start my first full season in the Series in a long time. There's no doubt that the American Le Mans Series is definitely the premier sports car series in the world. This is where I want to be."

Kelleners is back behind the wheel of a Risi Ferrari, which he drove to a historic GT2 victory in 2004. He'll team with Anthony Lazzaro and Jaime Melo in Risi's Ferrari 430 GT at Sebring. Lazzaro and Kelleners won in class at Lime Rock two years ago, ending Porsche's 21-race win streak in the process.

LENDING A HAND: Dyson Racing drivers Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace did a little extra testing prior to Sebring. That normally wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary except they were working with two of the teams Dyson Racing will be competing against this season.

Wallace worked with Highcroft Racing and Leitzinger with Autocon Motorsports as both teams shook down the AER-powered Lola EX257s they purchased during the winter for Dyson Racing.

"When Rob (Dyson) sells a car, he doesn't just throw it away and say 'Go at it,'" Wallace said. "They (Highcroft and Autocon) are nice people and it was great to work with them. It also means that there are still two very competitive cars in the Series."

MORE HORSEPOWER: The world famous Budweiser Clydesdales will take part in the pre-race ceremonies at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, adding even more horsepower to America's premier sports car endurance race.

The Budweiser Clydesdales were formally introduced on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. A Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age. He must stand 6 feet at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds. Each horse consumes 20 quarts of feed, 50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.

This is the first appearance of the Clydesdales at historic Sebring International Raceway, which originated from a World War II B-17 training base known as Hendricks Field.

The Budweiser beer wagons have been meticulously restored and are kept in excellent repair. The wagons are equipped with two braking systems: a hydraulic pedal device and a hand brake that locks the rare wheels when the wagon is at halt.

AROUND THE PADDOCK: Marc Lieb, part of the winning BAM!/Alex Job Racing GT2 entry at Le Mans in 2005, is joining the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche for this week. He will team with Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty. . Konrad Motorsports added three drivers Tuesday for its pair of Saleen S7Rs in GT1. Terry Borcheller will join Tom Weickardt in the No. 25. Fabio Babini and Jamie Davies are teaming with Paolo Ruberti in the No. 26 entry. . Andrew Davis was added to the Miracle Motorsports' lineup in LMP2. . Champ Car stars Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira had their first turns in the two Panoz Esperante GTLMs of Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz on Tuesday. Bourdais did four laps, the quickest of which was in the 2:04 area.

The American Le Mans Series begins its 2006 season with the 54th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The 12-hour endurance classic is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EST on March 18 at Sebring International Raceway. It will be televised live on SPEED Channel in North America and MotorsTV in Europe. In addition, Greenlight-Television will distribute the race worldwide to more than 510 million households. American Le Mans Radio will have flag-to-flag coverage available at www.americanlemans.com, along with IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , Bruno Junqueira , Jon Fogarty , Jamie Davies , Anthony Lazzaro , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Terry Borcheller , Sébastien Bourdais , Andrew Davis , Marc Lieb , Tom Weickardt , Fabio Babini , Paolo Ruberti , Alex Job , Chris Dyson
Teams Team Penske , Aston Martin Racing , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Multimatic Motorsports , Alex Job Racing