Sebring: American Spirit race report

American Spirit Racing posts solid finish at Sebring. Learning curve matched by resolve in first ALMS start. Number 12 ironic common theme for team. Sebring, FL (March 15, 2003) American Spirit Racing completed their first American Le Mans ...

American Spirit Racing posts solid finish at Sebring.

Learning curve matched by resolve in first ALMS start.
Number 12 ironic common theme for team.

Sebring, FL (March 15, 2003) American Spirit Racing completed their first American Le Mans Series race at Sebring International Raceway. The #12 AmeriSuites/Westward Tools/Cabo Wabo Riley & Scott MKIII C Lincoln finished 12th overall and in 9th class in the 51st Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring. Each of the drivers has competed at Sebring before, but never in the endurance contest and never at night. It was a steep learning curve for them, but each adapted quickly to the grueling contest. Each driver's stint was not without challenges or blisters.

Michael Lewis encountered an early spin as he experienced the changing grip and balance of the car for the first time. Michael, however, became the iron man for the team, driving 150 laps for longer stints and set the best lap time for the team at 1:57.805.

"Considered that the first yellow flag happened more than 9 1/2 hours into the race," said Lewis. "That's even more amazing. It was just flat out the whole time, It was strange; I kind of picked up momentum as the day went. After that first stint, the car wasn't very good, it was a handful. I was sucking air."

Tomy Drissi carried the team into the night after taping his hands to protect from developing blisters. Drissi managed to navigate dicey night conditions, avoid contact with spinners, and moved the car up several positions.

"For all the aches and pains I wake up with tomorrow, there was nothing like seeing the checker for the 12 Hours of Sebring,"" Drissi beamed. "Everybody was pretty clean, everybody was pretty smart. But there was one time in the dark with no lights on, an Audi was passing me and one of the Corvettes came across the track with no lights on. I saw it at the last minute. The Audi was next to me, but I was able to slow down just a bit and tuck in behind him and fortunately miss that. I'm so grateful to the American Spirit Team, AmeriSuites and LXG ... go see it in theaters, coming soon."

Guy Cosmo completed the race for the team and experienced the euphoria of the finish. However, he also experienced probably the most drama. He took over again in hour seven when, on his out lap, the wheel nut came off at turn one, nearly causing him to collect the car. After slowly navigating to the pits without losing the wheel, he returned to action only to get hit by an Audi in Turn one, which cut the rear tire of the #12 car.

"I never even saw the guy," described Cosmo.  "We came up on one of the
GT cars in turn one.   I pulled out to get around and apparently so was
Mr. Audi.  There was a big smack.  I heard the bang above all the engine
and all that other noise.  I immediately realized that I cut a tire."

More time in the pits was sacrificed by a stuck starter solenoid. Bodywork was also interfering with the throttle linkage. American ingenuity and a big Westward Tools hammer were applied to resolve the problem.

In spite of the glitches, team owner Jon Lewis expressed his hopes for race and the season.

"Our goal this year, I think it's a realistic objective, is to finish consistently in the top five and to place on the podium as often as we can. It's obvious we are probably not going to win a race. Sure, we are going to go for it, that's what we're here for. But there are teams that have tremendous financial support who have been operating at this level for years. It's really hard to touch an Audi. When you go down on pit lane and you see Bentley has 30 guys and each one has a laptop doing something else on the car...they have three times more people with laptops working than we have crew.

The Principle of Twelve's

Michael Lewis and American Spirit Racing have been associated with the number 12 for several years. To some, there may be a certain irony in how close they came to a 12th place finish overall.


* The car entered is the #12 AmeriSuites Riley & Scott MKIIIC.
* American Spirit Racing started 12th on the grid for the 12-hour race.
* Driver, Guy Cosmo, celebrated his birthday at Sebring on March 12.
* Driver Michael Lewis, was born on the November 12.
* The third driver, Tomy Drissi, was born in the month of December, the twelfth month of the year.
* There are 12 crew members for the car.

The drivers and team owners concede that this is a strange coincidence, but nothing more.

-asr/cw-

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