American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest
MIAMI NEXT FOR AMERICAN LE MANS - Miami has a storied history of street racing events and sports car racing, and the American Le Mans Series will be part of the continued revival of that history with the second annual Grand Prix Americas presented by Sportsbook.com the weekend of Sept. 26-28.
The sports cars of the American Le Mans Series and the Champ Cars of CART will share the billing in a unique "dual headline" event being called "The Blast by the Bay." A temporary racing circuit for the weekend's event is being constructed in the Downtown area of Miami and will include portions of Bayfront Park as well as Biscayne Boulevard and other city streets. The beautiful Biscayne Bay provides a scenic backdrop for the setting, with cruise ships and yachts visible in the background of portions of the racing circuit as they float anchored in the bay.
The American Le Mans Series will hold a two-hour, 45-minute timed event on Saturday, September 27, starting at 4 p.m. In the tradition of Le Mans-style endurance racing, the race will run into twilight, creating the additional spectacle of glowing brakes and fiery exhaust that has thrilled sports car racing fans for decades.
Many fan-oriented activities will take place around the event weekend, including a Fan Fest at Bayside Marketplace on the evening of Sept. 24 and a street festival in the Coconut Grove section of Miami on the evening of Sept. 25. Music star Elton John will perform a concert on Saturday night after the ALMS race at nearby American Airlines Arena. ALMS drivers will hold an autograph session at the racing circuit at 11 a.m. on race day.
Events for the MotoRock Trans-Am Tour and CART Toyota Atlantics will also be part of the weekend in Miami.
The ALMS race will be televised live by the SPEED Channel and broadcast online by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at www.americanlemans.com. Event ticket information is available online at www.miamirace.com or by calling 1-888-248-7223.
LAMBORGHINI UNVEILS NEW RACE CAR - The long-awaited return of Lamborghini to professional sports car racing edged closer to reality this week when the company unveiled the Murcielago R-GT, a new race car derived from its acclaimed super sports car, the Lamborghini Murcielago. The car was unveiled at the IAA Frankfort Motor Show.
The Murcielago R-GT, developed jointly with renowned race car engineering company Reiter Engineering in Germany, and parent company Audi's sports division Audi Sport, will offer Lamborghini clients a car with which to compete in global professional motorsport.
The car was built to the specifications of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so that it would be eligible to compete at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans Series.
The R-GT will be equipped with a Lamborghini air restricted 6 litre V12 engine, developing a highly competitive power output. The drive train, converted from the Murcielago permanent 4WD to RWD, as per the FIA/ACO regulations, will sport a sequential gearbox. The total weight will be contained within the relevant class specification of 1100 kg.
American Le Mans Series drivers Oliver Gavin and Peter Kox, who compete for rival Corvette and Ferrari teams in the ALMS, will be co-drivers of the car in its maiden race, an FIA-GT event in Estoril, Portugal, on October 5.
"There is already substantial demand for the Murcielago R-GT, from motorsport teams and drivers alike," said Dr. Werner Mischke, Chairman and President of Automobili Lamborghini. "We anticipate this new race car becoming one of the special attractions in GT motorsport. The presence of this new racing Lamborghini at international sports car events will be a perfect opportunity to showcase the competitive and performance advantages of the Murcielago."
AMERICAN SPIRIT BASKS IN GLOW OF BEST FINISH - The American Spirit Racing team is in its first year of competition on the American Le Mans Series and is basking in the glow of its best finish ever, a fourth in the LMP 900 class, in last weekend's event in Monterey, Calif.
The team, which spent the past several years in the Trans-Am Series, made its ALMS debut at Sebring in March and has been on a steady learning curve with drivers Michael Lewis and Tomy Drissi and its Riley & Scott MkIIIC-Lincoln Prototype.
"What an exciting race and what a tremendous job this whole team did," said Jon Lewis, President and owner of American Spirit Racing, Inc. "It was an almost flawless race for us. Our crew was really on top of their game and our drivers were spot on.
"I cannot say enough about both Michael and Tomy and about this team of guys we have," he said. "We jumped into the deep end of the pool when we entered the American Le Mans Series LMP 900 class, but both Michael and Tomy have progressed wonderfully. When you look at the strength of talent that we are competing against, it really goes to show just how talented these two guys are. And our crew has really started to gel. We've really learned a lot about this car and it shows."
Lewis looks forward to the Miami race, which brings back memories of his driving career. He drove his first race in the GTP Prototype at Miami.
"Miami has always been a favorite stop of mine," he said. "Back in the late 80's and early 90's when I was a driver myself, I always looked forward to the old Miami Grand Prix. Miami is a beautiful city with fantastic fans and this event is one of the main reasons my wife, Julie, and I moved to Florida."
MAASSEN ON VERGE OF 20TH WIN - Already the most winning driver in the brief history of the American Le Mans Series, Sascha Maassen is on the verge of a milestone as he approaches what would be his 20th win in the series.
The driver of the Alex Job Racing/McKenna Porsche 911 GT3 RS scored his 19th win in the series when he and co-driver Lucas Luhr won the GT class in the most recent series event at Monterey, Calif. With two races left in the 2003 season, Maassen could become the first driver in series history to record 20 wins if he and Luhr are able to win either at Miami or in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The two won in both races last year.
Maassen will celebrate his 34th birthday on the day after the Miami event.
Maassen and Luhr clinched their second consecutive GT class driving championship in the American Le Mans Series with their win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this past weekend. It was their fourth class win of 2003.
All of Maassen's 19 wins have come in the GT class, and 13 have come while co-driving with Luhr. Fourteen wins came while driving for Job, and the other five with the late Bob Wollek while both drove for Dick Barbour in 2000.
SAELENS STAYING BUSY AWAY FROM ALMS -- JML Team Panoz star David Saelens has been a busy boy of late. Not only has he climbed the podium with partner Olivier Beretta for four consecutive races in a row, the Belgian ex-Formula 3000 driver has been behind the wheel of some distinctly different race cars.
The weekend prior to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race Saelens took part in Formula One team Minardi's "Thunder at the Rock" promotional weekend at Rockingham Speedway in the UK. Saelens was a high speed chauffeur, driving one of the eight Minardi two-seater Formula One cars alongside current Minardi Grand Prix pilots Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa.
Next weekend he will tackle his first ever rally in a round of the Belgian Rally Championship aboard a Citroen World Rally Championship machine. He will have to be careful though - his co-driver is his future father-in-law. Saelens is engaged to a former Miss Belgium pageant winner.
QUICK NOTES -- The win by Alex Job Racing at Monterey was the entrant's 23rd victory in ALMS competition, placing it into a tie with Audi Sport North America (the former factory Audi team) for the all-time entrant win total lead. Corvette Racing is one victory behind with 22 --. Frank Biela's win at Monterey was his 14th LMP 900 win, tying him with Rinaldo Capello for the most LMP 900 wins in ALMS history, Capello drove for the Audi factory team from 2000 through 2002 --. JML Team Panoz drivers Gunnar Jeannette and David Saelens will be judges in the finals of the Miss Grand Prix Americas pageant at Bayside Marketplace in Miami on Sept. 24. ACEMCO Ferrari driver Terry Borcheller, a Miami-area native, helped judge the preliminaries several weeks ago --.