Tom Kristensen, the Dane with two Le Mans and two Sebring victories to his credit, has effectively replaced Allan McNish in Audi Sport Team Joest's lineup. McNish will concentrate on his Toyota Formula One test contract, although he hopes to contest some sports car events in order to keep his racing licence.
Kristensen, who has balanced his activities between Honda in Super Touring and Audi in key endurance races, joins Frank Biela, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro in the season-long line-up. Driver pairings have still to be settled, and the four will be joined by Michele Alboreto and Laurent Aiello at Sebring, Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans. Audi's announcement suggests that there will be no third car at Le Mans, and the six drivers named will complete the line-up.
Gerard Larrousse has been recruited by GT Racing Developments to get the Ferrari 550 Maranello GT back on track after a disastrous debut season with the First Racing team. Larrousse, the former Le Mans winner, sportscar champion and Formula One team owner, has been appointed on a consultancy basis. First Racing, formed by Fabien Giroix and Jean-Denis Deletraz, is likely to run a two-car Ferrari team next year. "But first we need to solve the technical problems on the car, including the engine, transmission and suspension" says Giroix. Italtechnica, the Italian preparation company, has been dismissed.
BMW's official team in next year's American Le Mans Series might feature specially prepared M3s powered by V8 engines. And this configuration might, in turn, lead to an involvement in the DTM championship the following season. Dr Mario Thiessen, BMW Motorsport director, admitted that the PTG prepared M3s were down on power this year compared with the Porsches and said that the company would consider an engine transplant. The M3 challenger has already been designed but not built, said Dr Thiessen, and a decision about the DTM would be made in the summer.
JJ Lehto and Joerg Muller are expected to step down two classes to compete in the ALMS LM-GT category. There is little hope for them that BMW will make an early return to Le Mans Prototype racing, as the demand on resources would be too great. "If we built a prototype we would have to try to win Le Mans again" said Dr Thiessen. "We have to think about our resources, and I don't think that a big team is necessarily a good team."
American entrant Michael Colucci has confirmed that he will run two Chevrolet Corvette based Callaway C12s in the American Le Mans Series, at Le Mans, and possibly in a couple of European Le Mans Series events. The cars will be owned by Bob Mazzuoccola, who will drive one of them, and the lead drivers will be Shane Lewis and Darren Law. They will run in the LM-GT class against the Porsche 911 GT3RS and PTG BMWs, and the standard road- going Callaway C12 is already on a par, with 440 horsepower, before race tuning has begun.
"We decided to switch from Porsche to Callaway because we didn't want to be a face in the crowd" says Colucci. The first car will be tested in February, and should make its debut at Texas on 4 March. The second will be ready in time for the Le Mans test day on 6 May.
Ecurie Ecosse, winners of the 24-Hours of Le Mans with Jaguar D-types in 1956 and 1957, will return to Le Mans next June with a Saleen S7 run by Ray Mallock. This is likely to be in addition to the two 'works' Saleens, which will take on the Race Shop Chevrolet Corvettes and a number of Viper GTS R/T's in the GTS category.
Mallock has a long connection with Ecurie Ecosse, going back to the Ecosse Group C2 cars which raced in the World Championship between 1984 and 1987, then had a strong showing on the RML prepared Aston Martin AMR-1s which competed in 1989 until Ford put a stop to the programme.