Danica Patrick gets first laps in Prodrive Ferrari; will make American Le Mans Series debut Sunday BRASELTON, Ga. - It didn't take Danica Patrick long to look like a member of the famed Prodrive Ferrari team. The rising young American racing ...
Danica Patrick gets first laps in Prodrive Ferrari; will make American Le Mans Series debut Sunday
BRASELTON, Ga. - It didn't take Danica Patrick long to look like a member of the famed Prodrive Ferrari team. The rising young American racing star made her first laps in the bright-red Ferrari 550 Maranello on Wednesday and Thursday in a private test session and will make her debut in American Le Mans Series competition in this weekend's Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta.
Patrick, who also drives for Bobby Rahal's CART Toyota Atlantic team, was fitting in with the British team, wearing the Ferrari red in her new Prodrive racing suit and in a designer team shirt when not in the car. She spent part of the day Wednesday getting fitted into the car's seat as well as getting to know her crew and her new co-driver, Jerome Policand of France, and had her first laps in the car late Wednesday afternoon.
"It's going well and I really like the Ferrari," said the 21-year-old from Roscoe, Ill., on Thursday. "I'm glad to have this time in the car in a testing situation because it's different from the cars I'm used to driving.
"The brakes are especially different because I've never driven a car with carbon brakes," she said. "I also have to adjust to a car that rolls. It's really important that I have a good weekend with this team. I'm happy to be here because I want to race."
Rahal, the former Indianapolis 500 winner who is working with Patrick as a mentor and advisor, was on hand Wednesday and will return Sunday for the two-hour, 45-minute race.
The Prodrive team won the GTS class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago. Tomas Enge of the Czech Republic and Peter Kox of The Netherlands, two of the three winning drivers from Le Mans, will steer the other Prodrive entry in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta.
HERBERT CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY FOR REUNION WITH CHAMPION - Former Formula
One winner Johnny Herbert celebrated his 39th birthday Wednesday as he prepared to re-join ADT Champion Racing for this weekend's Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta.
The English driver, whose last F1 win was in the 1999 Grand Prix of Europe at the Nurburgring for the Stewart-Ford team, will be looking to score his second career win in the American Le Mans Series and to help the Florida-based Champion team win for the first time on the series.
Herbert will co-drive with another former F1 pilot, JJ Lehto of Finland, in the same Audi R8 that the Champion team ran to third overall and the LMP 900 class win in the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans. It marked the first appearance by an American team on the overall Le Mans podium in 19 years.
Herbert, who drove for the Champion team on the ALMS in 2001 and 2002, drove for Team Bentley at Le Mans and finished second overall. "Our Audi arrived in Atlanta direct from France on Monday," said Herbert. "It has been washed and polished plus an oil change which is remarkable considering it completed around 3,200 miles at around 130 mph at Le Mans."
DRIVERS ENJOY TASTE OF ATLANTA
Three foreign-born American Le Mans Series drivers experienced real down-home Southern cooking Thursday morning at Bobby and June's Kountry Kitchen, one of Atlanta's most popular breakfast restaurants.
Olivier Beretta of Monaco and David Saelens of Belgium, drivers for JML Team Panoz, and Eliseo Salazar of Chile, driver for JMB Racing USA, were served such Southern delicacies as grits, sausage gravy and biscuits by Corvette Racing driver Johnny O'Connell.
O'Connell, who lives in nearby Flowery Branch, Ga., donned a chef's hat and apron as he served his fellow drivers. Though most American Le Mans Series drivers are on strict workout regiments and diets, the three were willing to sample the popular fare.
"It was certainly a unique experience," said Beretta, who has lived in Monaco his entire life. "You can't get food like this at a cafe in Monaco. I will try and talk to my wife to see if she can make some for me, but I don't think she would be that keen. It was very nice of Johnny to introduce us to the local cuisine and we had a lot of fun."
TESTING ON SCHEDULE FOR FRIDAY
American Le Mans Series cars will have two hours of testing on Friday at Road Atlanta as they prepare for Saturday's qualifying.
The American Le Mans Series will hold an "Open House" on Saturday for the AJC Autograph Party in the Paddock starting at 11:50 a.m. and lasting until 1 p.m. All ticket holders will be allowed to walk the paddock, get driver autographs and see the ALMS cars at close range. Sunday's race starts at 3 p.m.