Laguna Seca: Event preview

Winners of 24 Hours of Le Mans to lead American Le Mans series to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. MONTEREY, Calif. (September 8, 2002) -- Still celebrating its record-setting win in the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Audi Sport ...

Winners of 24 Hours of Le Mans to lead American Le Mans series to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 8, 2002) -- Still celebrating its record-setting win in the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Audi Sport North America team will lead the American Le Mans Series to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Monterey Sports Car Championships the weekend of Sept. 20-22.

Three of the four class-winning teams from the world's most famous endurance race will compete in the two-hour, 45-minute American Le Mans Series race that will be the feature event of a racing weekend at Mazda Raceway. The 24 Hours of Le Mans was held June 15-16 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France.

Drivers Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Audi R8 Prototype, becoming the first drivers ever to win the historic event three years in a row. Pirro, the defending American Le Mans Series champion, and Biela will co-drive at Mazda Raceway in the same Audi that won at Le Mans. Kristensen will co-drive with Rinaldo Capello in the same Audi that finished second at Le Mans.

The Audi R8 is rapidly carving out a legend for itself in the history of sports car racing. In addition to three straight wins at Le Mans, the car has also won the last two American Le Mans Series championships, as well as the last two ALMS events at Mazda Raceway in 2000 and 2001. Biela and Pirro won last year's event at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit.

Also competing at Monterey will be Corvette Racing, which finished 1-2 in the GTS class at Le Mans for the second year in a row. Le Mans winners Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell will look for the Corvette team's first-ever win at Mazda Raceway against formidable competition from a fleet of Ferrari 550 Maranellos, Dodge Vipers and the ultra-fast Saleen S7R Supercar, the winner of last year's event.

The winner of the GT class at Le Mans, California's own The Racers Group, will also compete in the Mazda Raceway event. Kevin Buckler of Novato, Calif., a former Monterey resident, is owner/driver for The Racers Group Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Buckler will co-drive with veteran Brian Cunningham as they seek their second consecutive ALMS win. His co-drivers at Le Mans, Lucas Luhr and Timo Bernhard, will be back in their usual Alex Job Racing machines at Monterey, paired with Sascha Maassen and Jorg Bergmeister, respectively.

Other top challengers will include the Panoz team, featuring drivers David Brabham and Jan Magnussen, as well as former CART star Bryan Herta and California road racing veteran Bill Auberlen. Magnussen and Brabham have pulled off upset wins on two occasions this season against the Audis. Also in action will be the two-car Cadillac Prototype team.

Former Formula One stars Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson will co-drive an Audi fielded by Champion Racing as the privately-entered team looks to unseat the factory squad. The event will also see the Monterey debut of the new MG-Lola in the LMP 675 class, fielded by three teams. The fast and nimble Prototype has been the talk of sports car fans since it came close to outrunning the Audis at Le Mans this year.

The ALMS race starts at 12 noon (PDT) on Sunday, Sept. 22. Practice and qualifying will be held on the previous day, along with an autograph session for ALMS drivers.

In addition to the American Le Mans Series race, the weekend at Mazda Raceway will also include races for the SPEED World Challenge GT and Touring cars, the Star Mazda Series, the Mazda Miata Challenge and World SuperKarts.

Ticket information for the Monterey Sports Car Championships is available online at www.laguna-seca.com or by calling 1-800-327-7322.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Bryan Herta , Johnny O'Connell , Bill Auberlen , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Kevin Buckler , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Brian Cunningham , Alex Job , Emanuele Pirro
Teams Corvette Racing , Alex Job Racing