WINTER TEST AT SEBRING OPENS SEASON FOR AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES
Braselton, Ga. - Several hundred representatives of the media, teams, manufacturers and corporate sponsors will convene at Sebring International Raceway on January 23-25 for the second annual American Le Mans Series Winter Test, marking the unofficial opening of the Series' 2006 season.
This year's Winter Test features 14 teams, including the long-awaited American debut of the innovative diesel-powered Audi R10 prototype. A year ago, the Audi R8 stalwart, under the auspices of Champion Racing, captured the Series championship as well as key titles in the world's most difficult endurance races - the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans and the storied 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now, great anticipation reigns for Audi's next generation race car, the R10, two of which are expected at the Winter Test.
Audi is not the only team with a new race car. Dyson Racing brings its new Lola B06/10-AER to Sebring for the first time, hoping to challenge Audi and make a run at the 2006 overall championship. Dyson Racing captured six poles and podium spots at every race last year, winning at Mid-Ohio and Mosport. The other LMP1 prototype at Sebring will be the new Highcroft Racing team, which will be testing in a Lola EX257-AER.
Penske Racing heads the LMP2 class at the Winter Test. The Porsche RS Spyder made a spectacular debut with a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Series' finale last year. Although Penske Racing will field two Porsche teams this year, it will only test one car next week. All six Porsche drivers - Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard, Patrick Long and Emmanuel Collard - are expected to test in the car. Long and Collard have been signed for the endurance races at Sebring and Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta) and will have other assignments during the season.
Other LMP2 teams testing will be class champion Interport Racing (Lola B05/40-AER) with Clint Field, Jon Field and Liz Halliday; B-K Motorsports with its Courage C65-Mazda featuring last year's Rookies of the Year Guy Cosmo and Jamie Bach; and 2004 class champion Miracle Motorsports, which sports a Courage C65-AER.
The GT classes are highlighted by the return of BMW and the introduction of Lexus to GT2. BMW will bring two M3s to the Test operated by BMW of North America's Team PTG. Lexus will not have a car at the Winter Test but is expected to have representatives on site in preparation for its debut at the 12-hour race in March. Both BMW and Lexus will compete for points in GT2; however, they will be entered as GT2S, a classification created to encourage racing for high performance luxury coupes and sedans.
Other GT2 race cars at the Winter Test include two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs from Flying Lizard Motorsports and two Panoz Esperante GTLMs, one from Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz and the other from England's Team LNT. Multimatic Motorsports, long involved with the Panoz factory effort, was handed control of the Panoz effort during the offseason with the goal of improving upon last season's sole win at the Grand Prix of Atlanta.
Track hours for the Sebring Winter Test will be 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. American Le Mans Series cars will be on the track for three daily intervals - 9-10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; and 3-6 p.m.
The American Le Mans Series opens its season March 18 with the 54th running of America's greatest sports car race - the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The race will be telecast by SPEED Channel beginning at 10 a.m. and carried live in Europe by MotorsTV. Greenlight Television will distribute the race to more than 500 million households through three different weekly motorsports anthology programs. American Le Mans Series Radio, heard via www.americanlemans.com, will broadcast the race live in its entirety. Live Timing & Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com, as well.