Notes of Interest 2004-01-16

Sebring to open ALMS season. The 2004 season for the American Le Mans Series will open with the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway Mar. 17-20. The race will be televised live from flag-to-flag...

Sebring to open ALMS season.

The 2004 season for the American Le Mans Series will open with the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway Mar. 17-20.

The race will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage available on the web at www.americanlemans.com.

Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442 (toll-free 800-626-RACE).

IMSA TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION OF RULE CHANGES
With the blessing of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), IMSA will delay the implementation of technical changes to Prototype race cars that compete in the American Le Mans Series during the 2004 season.

The ACO, which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans and makes the technical rules that IMSA administers in the ALMS, responded favorably to a request by IMSA to delay the implementation of rules that would affect rear wing configurations as well as fuel capacities in Prototype cars. At IMSA's discretion, LMP 900 and LMP 675 entries in ALMS events for the 2004 season may run legally under 2003 ACO Technical Specifications without any changes.

If they choose to, LMP 900 and LMP 675 competitors may also run under the 2004 ACO regulations.

"Obtaining this consent from the ACO is consistent with the commitment we made to the competitors last year that their cars would not have to be changed for 2004," said Doug Robinson, Executive Director of IMSA. "We greatly appreciate the spirit of cooperation demonstrated by Mr. (Jean-Claude) Plassart (new ACO President) and his willingness to work with us on this."

ALMS PRESIDENT IN PARIS
Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, traveled to Paris this week to attend Thursday's media event that launched the new Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) for 2004.

The new series is operated by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The American Le Mans Series is based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans and operates on an agreement with the ACO.

Atherton held a meeting with new ACO President Jean-Claude Plassart and other ACO officials regarding the 2004 season and plans for the future of the American Le Mans Series. While in Paris, Atherton also met with Danny Sullivan and John Bosch, drivers for the Barron Connor Ferrari racing team that will compete in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. In front of the Automobile Club of France building, Atherton formally accepted from Sullivan and Bosch the team's entry for Sebring, which was the first received for the 52nd annual running of America's oldest sports car race.

After more meetings in Europe, Atherton will return to the United States early next week.

PIRELLI TEAMS TEST AT SEBRING
Pirelli conducted five days of tire testing this week at Sebring International Raceway with its principal American Le Mans Series development teams: ACEMCO Motorsports, Risi Competizione and Hyper Sport.

The tire test marked the debut of ACEMCO's new Saleen S7R, driven by Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem. The ACEMCO team, owned by Jeff Giangrande, competed in the GT class of the ALMS last season with a Ferrari, but is moving up to GTS this season. Borcheller won the 2001 GTS driving title in the ALMS.

"I drove for ACEMCO last year in the ALMS and was impressed with their professionalism and their commitment to win in the series so I was very excited when Jeff Giangrande discussed his plans for the 2004 season with me," said Borcheller. "I was fortunate to win the 2001 ALMS GTS championship in a Saleen S7R and probably know the car's potential better than anyone. The 2004 version is very impressive right off the trailer.

"As far as the team goes everyone knows my respect for (team engineer) Jim Bell," said Borcheller. "He has been my engineer for four of my championships, and we're looking forward to competing with the Corvettes and Ferraris this year. I'm also excited to be back with Pirelli. They've really made considerable progress since returning to the ALMS and the tests this week confirmed that. And last, but not least, everyone who follows the ALMS knows that Johnny Mowlem has been one of the best Porsche drivers for a long time. He also had the fastest (GTS) lap at Le Mans in 2001 driving a Saleen S7R similar to the factory Saleen that I drove to third place. This really promises to be a great year for the fans watching the GTS battle."

The Risi Competizione team participated in the test with one of the Ferrari 360 Modena cars that it raced in the GT class of the ALMS last year. Drivers Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro conducted the test. The team will have a new-model Ferrari in time for the Mar. 17-20 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Hyper Sport, which campaigns a Panoz Esperante GT-LM in the GT class, had drivers Joe Foster, Brad Nyberg, Rick Skelton and Nic Jonsson on hand. The team also used last year's race car but will have two new machines ready for Sebring.

Pirelli will run a second extensive test at Sebring in late February with more cars on hand. Pirelli Tire North America's Vice-President of Marketing, Peter Tyson, and North American Motorsports Manager, Giuseppe Scrolini, were on hand for this week's session.

LEWIS & DRISSI TO RETURN TO ALMS
Michael Lewis and Tomy Drissi, new drivers on the American Le Mans Series in the 2003 season, will return to the series in 2004 with a different racing team.

AutoCon Motorsports in conjunction with RPM Holdings, LLC will campaign a Riley & Scott MkIIIC in the LMP1 class of the 2004 ALMS Championship. Lewis has been announced as primary driver and Drissi has signed on for a majority of the schedule as well. Lewis and Drissi ran the entire 2003 ALMS schedule as teammates for American Spirit Racing and had encouraging results for a freshman team with a top-three qualifying effort in Miami and strong finishes in the later half of the season. A trip to Le Mans for the world famous 24-hour race is also planned for the duo.

"We certainly learned a great deal during our rookie season in ALMS," said Lewis. "The quality of competition in the LMP class was incredible. Tomy and I both feel as if we have some unfinished business and look forward to returning to the best sports car series in the world." Although new to the ALMS, AutoCon Motorsports has successfully run in the Trans-Am Series for the last six years, culminating in Lewis' third-place finish for the 2003 championship. The challenges of running in a new series are not lost on the veteran team but experience was gained during 2003. "It's not really new for us as we ran last year's American Spirit effort out of our shop in San Diego," said Lewis, "so most of the personnel and equipment will be the same for 2004. It's particularly important, in my opinion, to have that continuity in effort at this level of the sport, particularly for Sebring, Le Mans, and Petit (Le Mans). It's undoubtedly our biggest challenge yet at AutoCon, but the entire team is looking forward to building on the momentum we had late last year."

Tomy Drissi added, "Michael and I had a blast last year and are anticipating podiums this year. We're both extremely competitive personalities." As for the trip to Le Mans, Drissi continued, "It's always been a dream of mine to run Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing, and I'm really happy to be making the effort to get there. We're both pumped and ready to start testing. I'm excited about the changes in this season's package. I can't wait for Sebring."

About the Riley & Scott MkIIIC, Lewis said, "What a great little car this is. I can't say enough about how good a job Bill Riley and his boys did in turning out such a tremendous car with a fraction of the development budget the factory teams had. We definitely were interested in continuing with it, so when it became available from American Spirit Racing, AutoCon and RPM snapped it up. Just look at the run that Matthews Racing had at Le Mans last year and you can see the potential. We'd love to realize that potential this year."

AMERICAN SPIRIT NAMES NEW ENGINEER
American Spirit Racing President Jon Lewis has announced that Tony Dowe has been signed as Chief Engineer for its two-car LMP2 program in 2004.

"I cannot say how excited I am to have the expertise of Tony on board our Team this year," said Lewis. "Tony brings a wealth of experience to the program and his understanding of our Lolas is unsurpassed. Our drivers and the entire Team will benefit tremendously from his knowledge."

"I'm delighted to be joining American Spirit Racing in this project," said Dowe. "The ALMS is the perfect platform for the drivers and team to display their talents and expertise. I'm also looking forward to continuing the relationship with Lola, Pirelli and AER-Nissan, super companies. The challenge of the coming year will be to improve on last years results against the Dyson and Intersport teams, it's going to be a lot of fun."

Dowe's resume includes spending the 2003 season as Chief Engineer with Essex Racing (with the Lola B2K/40's now owned by American Spirit Racing). Prior to that he was the Team Manager for Arrows Grand Prix (Formula 1) and Ligier Formula One. His accomplishments include Team Director of the IMSA TWR Jaguar Prototype Team, winning the 1990 24 hours of Le Mans, Daytona 24 Hours in 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1993. He was also the Team Manger for the Carl Haas Can-Am Championship winning Team with driver Patrick Tambay and Chief Mechanic for Keke Rosberg's Newman Budweiser Can-Am car, which claimed 12 pole positions in 13 races.

His Formula One experience includes the Lead Mechanic position at Wolf Formula One with driver James Hunt and Brabham Formula One with drivers Niki Lauda, Hans Stuck and John Watson.

American Spirit Racing has joined forces with Miracle Motorsports for the 2004 season and will take to the track at Sebring with drivers; John Olsen, Bobby Sak, Guy Cosmo, John Macaluso and Ian James.

ALMS PROMOTERS HOLD SUCCESSFUL MEETING
Promoters of the nine races on the 2004 schedule for the American Le Mans Series recently concluded two days of planning meetings at the Chateau Elan near the headquarters of the ALMS in Braselton, Ga.

All nine venues on the schedule were represented at the meeting by either the track president or other officers/directors from the marketing and public relations areas, or combinations of all three. "It was a very successful couple of days from both a business and personal relationship standpoint," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the ALMS. "Our series has the best road racing venues and promoters in North America and getting all of that knowledge and experience together in one room is an outstanding benefit. It's immensely important that our event promoters are directly involved in the formation of plans not only for 2004 but the entire future of the series.

"It's also important for the promoters to have time together away from the meeting to talk and exchange ideas, and I saw a lot of that happening," he said.

"I've been to 15 or 20 of these meetings over the years for various racing series and this was by far the best and most productive I've been in," said Tres Stephenson, President of Sebring International Raceway.

"We all have to work together," said Skip Barber, owner of Lime Rock Park. "We're not in competition with each other. Anything we can do collectively to help the American Le Mans Series also helps us."

"It was a good meeting and the ALMS has come a long way in a short time," said George Bruggentheis, President of Road America. "We all have a lot of hard work to do to make sure it keeps growing and improving."

GUNNAR JEANNETTE HONORED IN WISCONSIN
American Le Mans Series driver Gunnar Jeannette was among the honorees at the 13th annual Wisconsin Motorsports Charities Recognition Dinner, held this past weekend.

Fox and SPEED Network commentator Jeff Hammond was honorary chair for the event, held at the Country Inn, in Waukesha, Wisc., a Milwaukee suburb. The dinner, organized as a benefit for Ranch Community Services, a facility for developmentally disabled adults and children, annually draws top drivers from various racing series. The evening activities included an autograph session, raffle and prizes.

Noted race car driver and SPEED F-1 commentator David Hobbs and Jim Tretow, SPEED ASA commentator and Racing Round-Up Radio Show host, were co-hosts of the festivities.

Jeannette, who drove a Panoz LMP01 Prototype in the 2003 American Le Mans Series season, competed in the ALMS event held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The Road America 500 for the ALMS will be held Aug. 20-22.

In addition to Jeannette, motorsports notables honored at the banquet included Kim Mock, IRA Sprint car series driver; Erik Darnell, 2003 Wisconsin Challenge Series champion; Brad Mueller, 2003 Slinger (Wisc.) Super Speedway champion, and ARCA and Craftsman Truck Series driver; Kevin Cywinski, 2003 ASA Champion; Dave Estok, Formula USA National Thunderbike Class champion, Buell Motorcycles; Howie Lettow, ASA crew chief and driver mentor for Jimmie Johnson and David Stremme, among others.

Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel motorsports columnist, received the Ted Lake Dedication to Auto Racing Award, presented to an individual who has made long-time contributions to the motorsports industry.

"Each year we find wonderful drivers and riders who are willing to give back to the community," said Russ Lake, event founder and organizer. "We are deeply grateful for their participation and we appreciate the many race fans who come out to see their racing heroes and to help out with a worthwhile cause."

Over the past 12 years the banquet has contributed $330,000 to Ranch Community Services, located in Menominee Falls, Wisc., a Milwaukee suburb.

The Wisconsin Motorsports Charity Banquet is organized by Russ Lake and a Board of Directors consisting of area race enthusiasts and industry representatives.

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Series ALMS
Teams Risi Competizione