** AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES TEAMS NOW SWITCH FOCUS TO LE MANS -- With the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring completed this past weekend, many American Le Mans Series teams will now focus on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The next race for the American Le...
** AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES TEAMS NOW SWITCH FOCUS TO LE MANS -- With the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring completed this past weekend, many American Le Mans Series teams will now focus on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The next race for the American Le Mans Series will be the Atlanta Grand Prix at Road Atlanta June 27-29, a new event that was announced last Friday.
Teams that will be competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will ship their cars and equipment to France for the mandatory Pre-Practice on May 4. Some will remain in Europe, while some American-based teams will bring their cars home after the practice day, then return for the June 14-15 race.
American Le Mans Series teams have been very successful in the French endurance racing classic the past four years, with the overall winning team at Le Mans also being a team that competed regularly in ALMS events. In 2002, three class winners at Le Mans were regular ALMS competitors.
** CHAMPIONS RECEIVE RINGS -- The five drivers who won championships in the 2002 American Le Mans Series season received their championship rings from series President and CEO Scott Atherton on Saturday morning prior to the start of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Proudly showing their rings after the presentation at the driver briefing were Tom Kristensen, LMP 900 champion; Jon Field, LMP 675 champion; Ron Fellows, GTS champion; and Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, GT co-champions.
It was the second year that the series presented the rings prior to the start of the first race of the next season, a procedure similar to that used by the NBA, NFL and other professional sports leagues.
** ALMS HONORS PORSCHE EXECUTIVE -- Fred Schwab, who retired as President of Porsche North America last week, was honored by the American Le Mans Series prior to the start of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Schwab, a staunch supporter of professional sports car racing during his career, received a special framed award from ALMS Founder Don Panoz and ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton. The award included some mementos from the inaugural race of the series, the 1999 Sebring event, in which Porsche cars won both the GTS and GT classes.
After receiving the award, which also included a letter of thanks for his support of the series, Schwab waved the green flag to start the race.
** BENTLEYS PERSEVERE TO PODIUM AT SEBRING -- The two Team Bentley Speed 8 Prototypes were definitely star attractions at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, drawing a great deal of media and fan attention in the week leading up to the race.
The cars finished third and fourth in the race, battling from having to start in the rear of the field due to having their qualifying times disallowed because of technical infractions. Drivers in the closed-cockpit car also battled heat on the warm Florida day. The car driven by former Formula One drivers David Brabham, Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell finished third, four laps behind the winning Infineon Team Joest Audi R8.
"The race was pretty tough due to the heat," said Brabham, who, like Herbert and Blundell, was driving the Bentley for the first time in competition. "My first stint was good, but I became dehydrated in the second and I didn't want to cause an accident. The whole crew performed very well and we're pleased with how we did. This is the best result for the Bentley so far, and we have a lot of inspiration and momentum going into Le Mans."
"This was a fantastic experience and my first time to Sebring," said Blundell. "And my first look at the circuit. The team did a fantastic job. I recently came off shoulder surgery, so I drove only about three hours. Give credit to the two other drivers for a great finish. Traffic was certainly an issue as well as having to go off the racing line to pass slower cars."
"The heat was very hard on me," said Herbert. "I only did two stints in the car, and by the middle of the second stint was feeling a little dizzy. The car was nice except it didn't perform all that well in traffic. I was very pleased with the way the team and the other drivers performed, and I was confident all day we would do well."
The Bentley team remained in Sebring after the race to conduct a full 12-hour test with one of the cars on Monday, utilizing the drivers from both cars in an effort to get more prepared for Le Mans by having a full 24-hour run.
JOB CONTINUES REMARKABLE SEBRING RECORD -- Alex Job Racing added to its remarkable record at Sebring by winning the GT class for the third straight year and the fourth time in the last five years. The team has five class wins in America's oldest sports car race.
Lucas Luhr also added to his personal accomplishments by scoring his fourth consecutive class win at Sebring, matching the record of Bob Holbert (1961-64) for consecutive class wins in the event. His last three have been with co-driver Sascha Maassen while driving for the Job team, while his first win in 2000 came for Dick Barbour Racing while co-driving with Dirk Muller. In only one of the wins (2001, with Maassen and Emmanuel Collard) has Luhr driven with two co-drivers in the grinding endurance racing event.
"Afterwards, it is easy to say it was easy, especially running with two guys," said Luhr. "Sebring's always hot and bumpy. It's tough for the cars and drivers. I told Sascha next year we do it with three (drivers). I'm completely worn out. I think to do it with three is a better choice."
For most of the race, the Luhr-Maassen Porsche 911 GT3 RS battled with the Petersen Motorsports Porsche driven by Johnny Mowlem, Nic Jonsson and Craig Stanton. The Petersen car fell victim to an unscheduled pit stop to repair the car's undertray, costing it a lap. Earlier in the race, the other Job Porsche driven by Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard had led the class but was eliminated from contention by a mechanical problem.
Maassen, who was co-champion of the GT class in the ALMS last year with Luhr, said he looks forward to the rest of the season.
"We had 30 entries here in our class," he said. "That's a remarkable number of cars and makes. The Ferrari car did very well. It will be tough competition (this year). We like competition. It's good."