Notes of Interest 2003-12-09

100 DAYS TO SEBRING - The 2004 American Le Mans Series season will begin in just about 100 days with the March 17-20 running of the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. America's oldest sports car...

100 DAYS TO SEBRING - The 2004 American Le Mans Series season will begin in just about 100 days with the March 17-20 running of the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. America's oldest sports car race will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern) on Saturday, March 20. The race will be televised live from start to finish by the Speed Channel, while the American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

Spectator gates will open on Wednesday, March 17.

Sebring ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or from the track ticket office at (863) 655-1442 or (800) 626-RACE.

PORSCHE HONORS ITS DRIVERS - Several American Le Mans Series drivers and team owners were among the honorees Saturday night in Stuttgart, Germany, as Porsche recognized its Porsche Cup stars as well as those who achieved championships and awards in other forms of racing in 2003.

Rising sports car racing star Marc Lieb was honored with the 2003 Porsche Cup Award as the most successful privateer Porsche driver of the 2003 season. Lieb, who competed in selected American Le Mans Series races in 2003, received a silver-gold trophy and 37,000 Euros in prize money as the Porsche Cup champion.

The 23-year-old Lieb drove a Porsche 911 GT3 RS for Orbit Racing in American Le Mans Series competition in 2003 as well as in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team finished second in the GT class at Le Mans, with Leo Hindery and Peter Baron co-driving, while Lieb and Baron scored a third-place finish in the ALMS event at Canada's Mosport International Raceway for the team's best ALMS finish of the year. Lieb also won the N-GT category in Europe's FIA GT Series.

American Le Mans Series driver Kevin Buckler of Sonoma, Calif., finished second in the Porsche Cup standings after winning the award last year. Buckler, driver-owner of The Racers Group team, received 23,000 Euros as the runner-up.

Alex Job, owner of the GT class championship team in the American Le Mans Series, was recognized at the ceremony along with ALMS GT driving champions Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr. Job was also joined by Dale White of Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing as they were recognized for their combined effort that took first place in the GT class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Other regular drivers in the American Le Mans Series who finished in the top 15 in the Porsche Cup were David Murry, Atlanta, driver for J3 Racing, fifth; Cort Wagner, Pacific Palisades, Calif., The Racers Group, sixth; Johnny Mowlem, England, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing, seventh; Craig Stanton, Long Beach, Calif., Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing, eighth.

Also in the top 15 were Alex Caffi, Italy, PK Sport Porsche, 12th; Justin Jackson, Buford, Ga., J3 Racing, 13th; Peter Baron, Deerfield Beach, Fla., Orbit Racing, 14th; and Michael Schrom, Ghent, N.Y., The Racers Group, 15th.

Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, and Doug Robinson, Executive Director of sanctioning body IMSA, attended the ceremony.

TEAMS ANNOUNCING 2004 PLANS - Many racing teams have been announcing plans for the 2004 season, including driver lineups, schedules, etc. A wrap-up of some of the more recent announcements:

* Borcheller, Mowlem in Saleen for ACEMCO: ACEMCO Motorsports, which is moving up to the GTS class in the American Le Mans Series for 2004, has announced that Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem will steer its Saleen S7R with Pirelli tires. Borcheller was the 2001 GTS class driving champion in the ALMS and drove a Saleen in 2001 and 2002. Mowlem, who has raced Porsches in the GT class the past three years, set the fastest GTS lap in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his one and only race in a Saleen. Team owner Jeff Giangrande fielded a Ferrari 360 Modena in the GT class of the ALMS in 2003, the team's first season on the series.

* Sak and Olsen for American Spirit Racing: American Spirint Racing, which had previously announced that it would campaign two cars in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2004, has named Americans Bobby Sak and John Olsen as drivers for one of its entries. Team owner Jon Lewis said that the team will race Lola B2K-Nissan Prototypes. Sak, from West Bloomfield, Mich., was an outstanding rookie in 2003 in Trans-Am racing, while Olsen, from Pismo Beach, Calif., was a top performer in the Star Mazda Series. Lewis also said that former Star Mazda standout Guy Cosmo from New York will join Sak and Olsen for the two long-distance races on the ALMS schedule. The team has not announced drivers for its other entry.

* J3 Racing Expands to Two Cars: Georgia-based J3 Racing, which was in its second season of American Le Mans Series competition in 2003, has announced that it will expand to a two-car team in 2004. Justin Jackson and David Murry will continue as the lead drivers for the team and will drive a new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The car used by the team in 2003 will be upgraded to 2004 specs and will be shared by yet-to-be-named drivers. The team is also moving into a new facility located near Road Atlanta.

* Audi UK entry for Sebring: Audi UK, the British importer of the German prestige car manufacturer, will again contest the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with an Audi R8 Prototype. The car will be prepared and raced by Audi UK's new motorsport partner, Veloqx Motorsport. The team has not yet announced drivers for its second consecutive Sebring appearance.

* Morgan to run Sebring: England's Morgan Motor Company is planning to take on America by unveiling a road-going 2004 Aero 8 at the Los Angeles and New York auto shows and then entering the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March with a racing version of the Aero 8. The racing Morgan, which debuted in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2002 and competes in the GT class, has drawn a great deal of attention and has undergone extensive development.

PETERSEN TEAM PREPARING FOR 2004 - The Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing team is preparing for its sixth season of American Le Mans Series competition in 2004 after having a breakout year in 2003 with two big wins.

The team, which scored its first ALMS race win in 2004 when it took the GT class honors at Road America, also joined forces with Alex Job Racing to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team recently moved into a new 6,000-square foot facility in Las Vegas that will be used to prepare the team's new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR as well as house Premiere Sports Car Service, a Porsche and German car repair and maintenance business. Both White Lightning Racing and Premiere Sports Car Service are owned by Petersen Motorsports team manager Dale White.

The car that the team used to win the Road America race as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans suffered severe damage in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta but will return to duty as the team's backup car in 2004. The car had a 10 G impact with the turn 12 wall just over an hour into the race, damaging the transmission casing, both halfshafts, suspension and brake components on all four corners, the steering, the subframe of the car and several body pieces. The primary frame of the car was undamaged, allowing a complete restoration.

The team is expected to announce its 2004 plans, including its driver lineup, before the first of the year.

DYSON RACING COMPLETES SEBRING TEST - Dyson Racing recently spent three days testing its Lola EX257-AER/MG Prototypes at Sebring International Raceway in preparation for the 2004 American Le Mans Series season.

Dyson regulars James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger were on hand to evaluate tires for Goodyear in the #16 machine. After splitting the first day's running with Andy Lally, series champion Chris Dyson was joined by regular teammate Andy Wallace in the #20 sister car.

The team was quite satisfied with the cars' performance and reliability over the three days. In total, the team completed more than 1,400 miles of testing around the 3.7 mile circuit.

Weaver, who earlier this year qualified third overall for the 12 Hours of Sebring, was delighted with some of the gains made during the test runs. "The car's flying, and we've learned an enormous amount," the English star said. "We have some good direction now for development in the offseason." Lally enjoyed his first run in Dyson's Lola, the 28-year-old standout lapping competitively in setup evaluation runs on the first day of the test. "The crew was fantastic, and this the most solid, compliant car I've ever driven." The team was pleased with the pace of Lally, who raced Prototypes in 2001 and 2002 and spent the 2003 season driving the Zip Racing Porsche in the GT class of the ALMS.

Dyson, fresh off his first ALMS championship win at the Petit Le Mans in October, was happy to return to the cockpit. He enthused about the setup work and the continuing gains the team is making with the car. "After the Petit, I really couldn't wait to get back in the car," Dyson said. "Andy Lally and I worked on refining the setup on the first day, and Andy Wallace and I continued this work on the last two days. I think we've been able to try some interesting things with dampers and the other guys ran some productive evaluations of tires. This test puts us in good stead for offseason development."

-alms-

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