American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest. September 16, 2002 ** ALMS RETURNS FROM MONTH SCHEDULE BREAK -- After a month-long break in its schedule, the American Le Mans Series returns to action this weekend with the Monterey Sports Car ...
American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest.
September 16, 2002
** ALMS RETURNS FROM MONTH SCHEDULE BREAK -- After a month-long break in its schedule, the American Le Mans Series returns to action this weekend with the Monterey Sports Car Championships event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
Though the series has not raced since the Aug. 18 event at Mosport International Raceway near Toronto, Sunday's race in California will be the first of three in four weeks for the 10-race series. An event in Miami on Oct. 5 will precede the season-ending Audi presents Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12.
Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute sports car endurance race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca starts at 12 noon (PDT) and will be televised live by NBC Sports beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT). The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.
** SURFER DUDE BUCKNUM AT HOME THIS WEEKEND -- Jeff Bucknum, who has been part of the winning team in the LMP 675 class for smaller Prototypes in three races this season, will be enjoying somewhat of a homecoming in this weekend's American Le Mans Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Bucknum, 36, is a former California "Surfer Dude" who once aspired to be a professional surfer. Growing up just south of the Monterey Peninsula in the Pismo Beach, Calif., area, Bucknum rode the waves for years as a youth, but changed his career path to racing shortly after finishing high school.
Racing did run in his family, as his father, the late Ronnie Bucknum, raced Formula One, Indy Cars and sports cars in the 1960s. Jeff now lives in Lake Havasu City, Az., but his mother Nancy still resides in the Pismo Beach area in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Bucknum and co-drivers Bryan Willman of Kirkland, Wash., and Chris McMurry of Phoenix will seek their third conecutive LMP 675 class win of the season in the event this weekend. Their Team Bucknum Racing/Fairytale Brownies Pilbeam MP84-Nissan has carried them to victory this year at Mid-Ohio, Trois-Rivieres and Mosport.
** GTS BATTLE TO HEAT UP AT LAGUNA -- The entry of the potent Prodrive Ferrari into the battle, the steady improvement of the Konrad Saleen and the Team Olive Garden Ferrari and the historical lack of success for Corvette at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could make for an interesting race in the GTS class of the American Le Mans Series in Sunday's Monterey Sports Car Championships event.
Though Corvette Racing has won the GTS class in all seven ALMS races held this season, the team has never won at the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In 1999, the first year of the series and a developmental year for the Vettes, the team was beaten at Laguna by the all-conquering Dodge Viper of Team ORECA. A year later, even after beating the Vipers in two consecutive head-to-head meetings leading up to the Laguna event, the Corvettes were beaten again by the "snakes" on the twisting Monterey circuit.
Last year, the Konrad Saleen of Terry Borcheller and Franz Konrad handily won the GTS class in the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event, one of only two races the Corvette team lost all season.
The Vettes had been virtually unchallenged in ALMS races this season, but the Konrad team has made progress in recent races, including Borcheller's stunning upset of Corvette's Ron Fellows for the pole in the most recent event at Mosport. Borcheller stayed with Fellows through the first stint in the race, but the car eventually fell off the pace. Team Olive Garden has recently had its Ferrari 550 Maranello in the NASA wind tunnel in Hampton, Va., and has worked hard on improving the car's performance.
But the Prodrive Ferrari could be the spoiler in this weekend's event. The car showed blinding speed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and was leading more than halfway through the race before mechanical problems sidelined it. A pair of experienced, professional drivers (Peter Kox and Tomas Enge) will steer the red machine in its Laguna debut.
** MINI LE MANS IN SAN JOSE WEDNESDAY -- Race fans can get a preview of this weekend's Monterey Sports Car Championships event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the fourth annual Mini Le Mans in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, September 18.
Several drivers and cars from the American Le Mans Series and other series will be driven on display laps on the city streets around Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose at 12:15 p.m. Following the demonstration, drivers will sign autographs for fans.
Johnny Herbert will drive the Champion Racing R8 Prototype on the San Jose streets and in Sunday's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Also taking part will be the Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP84-Nissan driven by Jeff Bucknum from the LMP 675 class, a Dodge Viper GTS-R from American Viperacing, which races in the GTS class, with Jeff Altenburg at the wheel and a GT class Porsche 911 GT3 R from the San Jose-area based Rennworks team, with Los Gatos, Calif., resident Richard Steranka driving. One car from the SPEED World Challenge and one from the Star Mazda Series will also take part in the San Jose event.
** NEW FERRARI CHALLENGER IN GT CLASS -- A new challenger to the Porsche domination this season in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series will debut in this weekend's Monterey Sports Car Championships event.
Risi Competizione is the entrant with a Ferrari 360 Modena that will be co-driven by Anthony Lazzaro of Acworth, Ga., and Ralf Kelleners of Germany. The car will run on Pirelli tires.
Both drivers will be seeking their first career win in the ALMS. Lazzaro posted a career-best of second in the GT class in 2000 at Road Atlanta, while Kelleners finished third overall in the 2001 running of the 12 Hours of Sebring while co-driving an Audi R8 Prototype for Champion Racing.
Lazzaro was a third driver for Alex Job Racing in that second-place finish in the 2000 running of Audi presents Petit Le Mans. The Job team has won the GT class in five of the seven ALMS events run this season, with the other two wins taken by The Racers Group.
** DUNO, HUERTGEN RETURN TO ACTION AT LAGUNA -- Milka Duno and Claudia Huertgen, the most successful female drivers in American Le Mans Series history, will return to action on the series in this weekend's event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Duno, from Venezuela, hasn't raced on the series since the Washington, D.C., race in July due to the temporary inactivity of the MBD Sportscars team she was driving for. For the event this weekend, she will reunite with the Chamberlain team and will drive a Dome S-101/Judd in the LMP 900 class, with her co-driver to be named. She drove a Dodge Viper for the Chamberlain organization when she made her ALMS debut in 2000. She was part of the winning team in three ALMS races last year in the LMP 675 class while driving for Dick Barbour Racing.
Huertgen, from Germany, will again team with KnightHawk Racing and will co-drive with team owners Steve Knight and Mel Hawkins in their Lola EX257-AER MG in the LMP 675 class. Huertgen was fast qualifier twice last year in the LMP 675 class while driving for KnightHawk. The recent event at Mosport was her first action in ALMS competition this year after spending most of the 2002 season racing in German touring cars.