Sears Point: Team Olive Garden preview

The Battle of Sonoma Sonoma, Calif. (July 16, 2003) - There's a historic marker located in the corner of the main plaza at Sonoma, California. It marks a battle that occurred here 157 years ago. On June 14, 1846, Ezekiel Merritt, William ...

The Battle of Sonoma

Sonoma, Calif. (July 16, 2003) - There's a historic marker located in the corner of the main plaza at Sonoma, California. It marks a battle that occurred here 157 years ago. On June 14, 1846, Ezekiel Merritt, William B. Ide, Robert Semple, and others battled for and seized their prize -- a garrison at Sonoma. It marked one of the early California battles of the U.S. - Mexican War of 1846-1848.

The battle of Sonoma circa 1846 surely must have been fierce, if it was as hard fought as the expected of Ferrari versus Corvette versus Viper conflict in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GTS battle of Sonoma, 2003. That will take place here on July 27 at Infineon Raceway. Team Olive Garden is preparing for the battle by staying on its development plan to wring more speed out of the Italian flag-colored Ferrari 550 Maranello GTS V2003.

In the Series' last round at Road Atlanta on June 27, the Team Olive Garden Ferrari showed it had the pace to match the GTS leaders, with faster official practice times than both the British Veloqx ProDrive Ferrari squad and the # 4 Chevy Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Kelly Collins. In the race, a failed fuel pressure sensor forced a 21-minute stop for diagnosis and repair, dropping drivers Emanuele Naspetti and Mimmo Schiattarella from contention, but throughout practice and the opening race laps, the Team Olive Garden Ferrari was clearly on pace.

No Shortcuts To Success

Since Road Atlanta, both Élan Power Products and Pirelli have been hard at work with the team helping develop GTS category-winning speed for the Olive Garden - Coca-Cola backed Ferrari. Still, Team Olive Garden is taking no shortcuts. Team boss Gabriele Rafanelli put it this way, "I am very happy to see David Brabham and Jan Magnussen enter the GTS Championship. They are both great guys and will definitely raise the interest level for the fans and for our sponsors. But our answer to the increased efforts of the red team is exactly the same as what we say to the Corvette guys; we will stick to our development program.

We have new engine components coming along well at Élan and the Pirelli engineers are hard at work for us as well. We are a small team; almost like a family. We are just 12 men -- in total -- responsible for the design, construction and technical development of the Team Olive Garden Ferrari. But we don't have a small desire to win. We're blessed with the best sponsors in the ALMS and technical partners who are as good and hungry as we are. We're proud to represent all of them and we're proud to be the challengers in what some call the 'de facto' world championship for GTS cars, the American Le Mans Series."

Return Of Olive Garden Drive Against Hunger

The battle of Sonoma also marks the return to the Bay Area of Team Olive Garden's Drive Against Hunger. Since the program began in ALMS' inaugural year, some 367 needy Bay Area families have been fed hearty Italian meals at area Olive Garden Restaurants. That's one family selected for each race lap the team completes. Over the same period of time, Olive Garden has donated $1.2 million worth of food products to community food banks in the areas where ALMS races are run.

The battle of Sonoma can be seen on NBC Sports beginning at 4 PM Eastern Time (check local listings).

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Kelly Collins , Oliver Gavin , Emanuele Naspetti , Mimmo Schiattarella