Sears Point Brabham and Panoz confident of success

The Le Mans Series returns to the USA this weekend with Aussie star David Brabham confident of repeating his last round success in Germany. The Sears Point circuit is located about 30 minutes north of San Francisco and represents a unique ...

The Le Mans Series returns to the USA this weekend with Aussie star David Brabham confident of repeating his last round success in Germany.

The Sears Point circuit is located about 30 minutes north of San Francisco and represents a unique challenge to the stars of the championship.

A wide variety of fast and slow corners rise and fall over the Sonoma Valley countryside, ensuring engineers from leading teams including Panoz, Audi and BMW have a tough job ahead of them.

"The first time I came here for a Formula Atlantic race back in 1987 I couldn't believe the circuit lay-out," Brabham said.

"The track has every type of corner you could imagine, it is a really unique place.

"About 60 per cent of the corners are blind, so once you commit to turn in, you have no idea what is on the other side."

Brabham and team-mate Jan Magnussen are full of confidence after dominating the last round of the championship in the pouring rain at the Nurburgring in Germany.

"It was great to be back in the winner's circle, and it was a real boost for the team because we probably should have won the previous two rounds at Silverstone and Charlotte," Brabham said.

"BMW won here last year, but we are confident we can repeat our German win.

"Sears Point is a very technical circuit, but the Panoz is very well balanced and provides us with very good feel of the car through the steering wheel.

"You can really throw this car around, which is very handy at a circuit like this."

Panoz will face stiff opposition for round five of the championship including series leader Jorg Muller and BMW team-mate JJ Lehto.

Muller and Lehto triumphed at Charlotte and Silverstone and held the race lead at the Nurburgring in the dying stages of the race.

The Le Mans 24 hour winning Audi squad will also be out to make up for their home soil disappointment in Germany.

Audi qualified 1-2 at the Nurburgring but could only finish third in the event with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro.

The second Audi of Alan McNish and Rinaldo Capello crashed in the wet with McNish behind the wheel.

The Silverstone pole position winning Lola of Didier de Radigues and Mimmo Schiattarella also returns to the championship after missing the last round in Germany.

The dominant ORECA Dodge Viper GTS team nearly spoiled their winning run two weeks ago when Karl Wendlinger slid off the circuit in the rain in the later stages of the German race.

Wendlinger and partner Olivier Beretta will again start favorites for the GTS class, but team-mates Tommy Archer and David Donohue will be out to steal their turn on the top of the GTS podium.

BMW has boosted its attack on Porsche in the GT class by entering a third BMW M3 for this weekend's round.

Boris Said will drive the new #7 BMW M3 with Peter Cunningham; with Brian Cunningham combining with Nic Jonsson; and veteran Hans Stuck pairing up with local expert Johannes van Overbeek

"I think the M3 will do very well here because of the tightness of the track versus some of the other tracks that tend to favor the Porsches because of the long straights," said van Overbeek.

The dominant Dick Barbour Porsche GT3-R should again head the pack, but Australian team Skea Racing will be full of confidence after scoring another second place at the Nurburgring for Johnny Mowlem and David Murry.

This weekend's fifth round of the Le Mans Series will be a 2 hour, 45 minute race, kicking off at 5.30am Monday morning, 24th July (Adelaide time).

Race fans can tune into a live race commentary of the event via Radio Le Mans at http://www.americanlemans.com/pages/00live/index.html

South Australia is set to host the final round of the Le Mans Series - Adelaide¹s Race of a Thousand Years - on New Year's Eve this year.

The biggest New Year's Party ever seen in Adelaide ­ the event is a three-day festival of motorsport, music and fun, featuring the three classes of Le Mans¹ vehicles doing battle around the former Adelaide Grand Prix circuit.

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Series ALMS