Notes of interest 2003-10-07

American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest Tuesday, October 07, 2003 PETIT LE MANS COMING UP NEXT - The sixth annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Oct. 15-18 will ring out the 2003 season for the American Le Mans Series in grand style. The ...

American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest
Tuesday, October 07, 2003

PETIT LE MANS COMING UP NEXT - The sixth annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Oct. 15-18 will ring out the 2003 season for the American Le Mans Series in grand style. The second-longest race on the series schedule will begin at 11:30 a.m. (ET) and continue well into the night as teams race for 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first, on the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit.

In only six years, the Petit Le Mans has become one of the world's most important sports car races and was an instant hit when ALMS Founder and Road Atlanta owner Don Panoz started the event in 1998 as a "petit" version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Practice, qualifying and support series races will be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 15-17. Ticket information is available online at www.roadatlanta.com or by calling 1-800-

Live television coverage of the event by the SPEED Channel will begin with a pre-race show at 11 a.m. (ET). The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

PRODRIVE TEAMS ADDS STRENGTH FOR PETIT - In an effort to win the American Le Mans Series GTS class Manufacturer's Championship for Ferrari, as well as the Team Championship, the Prodrive team has entered a third car in the Petit Le Mans and has added strength to its driving lineup for the race.

With its season-long battle against the factory Chevrolet Corvette team having swung in its favor recently with three consecutive class wins in ALMS races, the Prodrive team has helped Ferrari close to within only eight points of Chevrolet in the battle for the coveted Manufacturer's title.

Because of the long distance of the race, Prodrive has added third drivers to both of its regular ALMS entries, with the #80 car lineup of Jan Magnussen and David Brabham being joined by F1 test driver Anthony Davidson, and Tomas Enge and Peter Kox being joined by veteran racer Alain Menu in the #88.

The third entry will be driven by Jan Lammers, a longtime veteran of both sports cars and F1 racing, as well as French veteran Jerome Policand and Care Racing Development's Frederic Dor, owner of the three Ferrari 550 Maranellos.

DYSON TEAM ADDS DE RADIGUES, BLOCK -- Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing has announced that Didier de Radigues and Chad Block will be rejoining the team for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The two drivers will be sharing the same #20 Lola EX257-MG with Chris Dyson in which they took a class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

De Radigues, the 2001 ALMS LMP675 champion and former motorcycling star, is delighted to return to the Dyson team's stable. "I'm very happy to be rejoining the Dyson team," the Belgian said. "They are one of the best teams I've ever worked with, and the Lola is a fantastic car. When Chris asked me to come back, I had only one word." De Radigues set pole and fastest lap at the Petit in the LMP675 class two years ago.

Chris Dyson heads the championship tables coming into the Petit Le Mans, the final race in the 2003 American Le Mans Series. In order to clinch the title, Dyson's #20 car needs to complete at least seventy percent of the race distance, expected to be ten hours or 1000 miles.

Block, the 25-year-old who helped KnightHawk Racing claim the 2002 series Team Championship at last year's Petit, is fully aware of the team's championship implications. In a steady drive at Sebring, Block proved that he knows that reliability and patience are key elements. "It's awesome once again to be driving with Chris and Didier in the Dyson Racing #20 car," Block said. "With Chris leading the driver's championship it's important we bring the car home in one piece, and I'm flattered that the Dyson team feels Didier and myself can contribute to that effort. It will be a fun 10 hours and I'm looking forward to it."

Chris Dyson welcomes the return of his winning Sebring co-drivers. "These guys did such a fantastic job at Sebring that picking co-drivers for the Petit was a pretty easy decision," Dyson said. "Both Didier and Chad are smooth, fast, and easy on the equipment. That's what you need in sports car racing, and I'm really looking forward to the race."

Dyson's #16 Lola-MG will be driven by James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace.

ORBIT INTRODUCING NEW DRIVER AT PETIT -- Orbit Racing will introduce a new German star to American Le Mans Series racing, with the addition of Mike Rockenfeller to the team's driver lineup for the final race of the 2003 season. Rockenfeller, of Neuwied, Germany, will join Leo Hindery of New York and Peter Baron of Deerfield Beach, Fla., in the No. 43 YES Network Porsche 911 GT3 RS for the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans endurance race on Oct. 18.

Rockenfeller, 19, is a member of the UPS Porsche Junior Team, driving the No. 1 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car in the German Porsche Carrera Cup series. He led the series driver championship in September, the youngest driver ever to do so. With one race remaining, he is a close second in driver points, with one pole position, one win, three podiums and six top-five finishes in the eight races this season.

In addition to the Carrera Cup, Rockenfeller was a guest driver in five Porsche Michelin Supercup races this year. He is the youngest driver to win a Supercup race, a feat he accomplished at the tough Nurburgring circuit in Germany in June. The Petit Le Mans will be Rockenfeller's first professional endurance race.

"Everything is new - the race track, the car and pit stops," he noted. "I did a 24-hour race in karting, but this is completely different. For me, it's a great experience. It will be good to see how quick I am in this car. And it's a good chance to show Porsche what I can do in endurance races."

Rockenfeller will test a Porsche 911 GT3 RS at Porsche headquarters in Weissach, Germany, to prepare for the race. He has also been training hard, logging intense daily cardio workouts to stay in shape for long races. And he recently completed a three-year mechanic's program, giving him a technical edge over his competitors.

"Porsche checks our fitness every six weeks, so I have to be in shape," he explained. "The education was three years of training, both in the workshop and in school. I know quite a lot of technical things about cars, so it's easier to talk about technical details with the engineers and I understand more than many other drivers."

Rockenfeller is the second young Porsche talent to drive with Orbit Racing this year. Marc Lieb of Niefern, Germany, was the German Carrera Cup champion and Rockenfeller's Porsche teammate in 2002. He joined Orbit for seven races this season, including the 24 Heures du Mans, where Hindery, Baron and Lieb finished second in the GT class. Lieb will not be available during Petit Le Mans weekend due to a schedule conflict.

"Mike Rockenfeller is one of the future stars of ALMS, and we are very privileged to have him join us at the Petit Le Mans, where I am confident he will shine," Hindery said. "If he will teach me to drive faster, I will give him my secret to turn 10A, which is a legendary piece of information in motorsports that my fellow competitors have been seeking for years."

PATERSON JOINS AMERICAN SPIRIT TEAM - Melanie Paterson will move up a class as she joins American Spirit Racing for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the final race of the 2003 American Le Mans Series season.

The Canadian driver will join Michael Lewis and Tomy Drissi as a third driver in the team's Riley & Scott MkIIIC-Lincoln in the Prototype 900 class, marking Paterson's first experience in the most powerful cars that compete in the American Le Mans Series. Since joining the series in 2002, all of her starts have been in the smaller, less-powerful Prototypes of the LMP 675 class, most of them with the Essex Racing team.

"It is a great opportunity for me to race with American Spirit Racing," said Paterson, a former alpine ski racer. "I have been looking to move to LMP 900 and this was the perfect chance. I am looking forward to working with Michael, Tomy and the team to have a great performance at Petit Le Mans."

"I am very excited to have Melanie with us at Petit," said Jon Lewis, owner of American Spirit Racing. "She has proven to have a very consistent driving style, something that is extremely important in long races like Petit. I think Melanie will make a very good addition to our operation."

IMPROVEMENTS CONTINUE AT INFINEON -- Competitor safety continues to be the central theme at Infineon Raceway as crews began work last week on two areas of the twisting road course in Sonoma, Calif.

The bridges at Turns 1 and 6 (Carousel) will be removed, and the adjoining hillsides will be graded back to create additional runoff for both racecars and motorcycles. Once the grading is complete, new bridges will be installed, with the Turn 1 bridge being moved west toward Turn 2 by approximately 100 feet.

Although this portion of the project has been planned for several years, it entails the demolition of the raceway's original wastewater treatment facility, work that could not be performed prior to activating the track's new waste water facilities earlier this year.

This latest $2 million project is part of Infineon Raceway's comprehensive three-year modernization plan, which began in 2000 and is near completion. Much of the $60 million project has focused on competitor safety and has included additional runoff at virtually every turn on the road course, repaving of the entire road course, creation of a new pit road that accommodates a 43-car starting grid and permanent separation of the road course from the quarter-mile drag strip.

The grading of the hillside at Turn 1 will give competitors approximately 130 feet of runoff, which is 100 more than they currently have. Moreover, the bridge abutment at Turn 1 should no longer be a factor once the new bridge is built and positioned 100 feet up the track.

"This is a long-awaited piece of the overall track improvement puzzle and it's terrific to see that work actually underway," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway.

An additional 80 feet of runoff will be created at Turn 6 by grading the hillside. The new bridge will be positioned in the same spot, overlooking the Carousel, but will obviously be much longer, taking the abutment out of play.

The safety enhancements will aid every form of racing at Infineon Raceway, including the American Le Mans Series sports cars.

This marks the second major off-season project at Infineon Raceway as the road course was repaved in August. As part of the repaving, more than 3,000 feet of French Edge Drains were installed to keep water from draining under the track surface - the raceway is just 15 feet above sea level. Curbing was also added at Turns 2, 6, 8 and 10. Portions of the road course that were repaved included Turns 1-3, 6-8 and 11. Turns 4-5, 9-10, 12 and the Chute were repaved prior to the 2003 season.

AUDI WORKS DRIVERS IN CHARITY RACE -- Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro competed in an unusual supporting race held at the DTM finale in Hockenheim, Germany, this past weekend. Both Audi works drivers were among the select starter field chosen to compete in the "Bye, bye Lupo Cup"-Charity Race, in which numerous ex-DTM drivers raced. Pirro, the 2001 American Le Mans Series champion, fought his way up to second position from 11th on the grid, therefore managing to mount the winners' rostrum. "The race with the small VW Lupo was great fun," said Pirro. "And it was all for a worthy cause." The race helped to raise a donation of almost 100,000 Euro for a foundation for homeless children. Frank Biela, driver for Infineon Team Joest in the ALMS, was touched by a fellow competitor during the opening stages of the race. The three-time Le Mans winner brought his battered car home in ninth place.

MAGNUSSEN WINS DANISH TITLE - Jan Magnussen's week off from the American Le Mans Series resulted in the popular driver from Denmark winning the Danish Touring Car Championship for 2003.

Magnussen, who drives for the Prodrive Ferrari team in the ALMS, was already committed to a factory Peugeot ride in the Danish series before joining the Prodrive team in July. Though he had won two consecutive ALMS races in the Prodrive car with co-driver David Brabham, Magnussen was obligated to miss the recent Miami race so that he could be in Denmark to compete in the DTC season finale.

The Prodrive team won again, with Briton Darren Turner subbing for Magnussen at Miami, and Magnussen won his championship at Denmark's Jyllands-Ringen circuit by winning the first of two races.

After securing the title, Magnussen dedicated the championship to Prodrive for graciously allowing him to miss the Miami race. "This championship is high on my list of successes," he said. "I have achieved this result at home, because it happened in front of my Danish fans and with a Danish team, it is very special."

Magnussen, who was missing only his second ALMS race since the formation of the series in 1999, will be back with the Prodrive team for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Oct. 15-19.

ALMS DRIVERS TO SQUARE OFF ON SOCCER FIELD - In what has become a tradition, American Le Mans Series drivers, team members, officials and media will meet on the soccer field for the third annual "ALMS Football Match for the Sports Car Racing Football Cup" on Sunday, Oct. 19, the day after the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

The match will begin at 2:15 p.m. and will be held at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in the Gainesville, Ga., area, approximately 10 miles from Road Atlanta. The public is invited to attend and there will be no charge for admission.

Hazardous Sports, the official sportswear of the American Le Mans Series, will supply jerseys for the players, and E-nergy drink will be the official sports drink of the match.

-alms-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Jan Lammers , Tomas Enge , David Brabham , Didier de Radigues , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Darren Turner , Chad Block , Tomy Drissi , Leo Hindery , Peter Baron , Peter Kox , Michael Lewis , Melanie Paterson , Don Panoz , Marc Lieb , Jérome Policand , Frederic Dor , Mike Rockenfeller , Chris Dyson , Alain Menu , Emanuele Pirro
Teams Dyson Racing