INDIANAPOLIS (December 21, 2000) -- The close racing competition between the top two Prototype teams in the American Le Mans Series has led to some humorous games of one-upsmanship as the series heads to Australia for the Race of a Thousand Years on the Adelaide street circuit on New Year's Eve.
Last week, the championship Audi team announced that Allan McNish and Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello would drive an Audi R8 sporting a crocodile design in the Adelaide race. In the land of "Crocodile Dundee," the Audi team designed artwork for the car as a greeting to the Australian hosts of the event.
In addition, the team christened Capello "Crocodile Dindo" for the six-hour race on the famed circuit that formerly hosted the Australian Formula One event. Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, winners of the most recent ALMS race at Las Vegas, will drive another Audi R8, carrying its normal paint scheme.
Now, as a reaction to the Audi team's plans, the Panoz Prototype team has christened the three Panoz LMP Roadsters that it will field in the event as "Crocodile Hunters." While the Audi team is currently riding a winning streak of seven races in the ALMS, the Panoz team was the last team to beat the Audis, and the competition between the two sports car manufacturers has been intense.
Jan Magnussen and Klaus Graf will team to drive the new 2001 Panoz Prototype, while Johnny O'Connell and Hiroki Katoh will be in a 2000 model. In addition, an "All Down Under" team of Australians David Brabham and Jason Bright, along with New Zealand's Greg Murphy, will pilot a third Panoz LMP in the race.
McNish will be attempting to clinch the 2000 ALMS driver's championship in the Crocodile car. "The car is a real work of art," said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport. The idea for the car was born in the AUDI AG design center under the leadership of Audi designer Frank Lamberty. Lamberty converted the exterior of an R8 into a crocodile in the middle of its natural habitat.
The designation has led to some good-natured exchange between Dr. Ullrich and Don Panoz, owner of the Panoz team. "We're naming our cars 'Crocodile Hunters' in the spirit of the close racing we have had with the Audi team this year," said Panoz. "But Dr. Ullrich said that crocodile hunters are always hunting from the rear, so he must think our cars will be behind his at Adelaide."
The Race of a Thousand Years begins at 4 p.m. (Adelaide time, 12:30 a.m. U.S. Eastern time) on Sunday, Dec. 31. The race can be heard live online at www.americanlemans.com in a broadcast by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web. NBC Sports will have same-day taped coverage in the United States at 2 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time), and highlights will be shown on Eurosport on Jan. 7.