'NEW' IS THE THEME AT WINTER TEST
The entry list for the American Le Mans Series' annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway is out and features several of the most anticipated new entries to the world's premier sports car championship.
The three-day test is set for January 26-28 at Sebring, site of the season-opening 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. A near-record number of entries will test on the same circuit that will play host to the Series' 100th all-time event.
Perhaps the car most Series fans have been waiting to see is the Acura ARX-02a. The manufacturer announced its move to LMP1 in September with de Ferran Motorsports and Patrón Highcroft Racing set to campaign one car each for the full 2009 season. David Brabham and Scott Sharp will drive the Patrón Highcroft Acura at the test, with Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud in the de Ferran entry.
"In 2009 the team starts from a blank sheet and it's a totally different story," Pagenaud said recently. "It is expected to have some mechanical issues as every other new car would have. Acura is putting a lot of effort into it, and it will be really exciting to see the P1 car grow during 2009."
Dyson Racing will have one of its Mazda-powered Lola B08/86 coupes on hand for drivers Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Butch Leitzinger. The team moved to Mazda from Porsche and plans to enter two cars for the full season. Acura also will have an LMP2 challenger present in the form of the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b; Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz are entered along with Michel Jourdain Jr.
There are nine entries representing five different manufacturers from the highly competitive GT2 class. One of the highlight is the new BMW M3 for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team. Familiar faces Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Tom Milner will see time in the M3.
Five Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs will be present with three from Flying Lizard Motorsports. Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek are in one car with Porsche factory drivers and former class champions Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long in the other. All five Lizard drivers will see extended testing time in the third Porsche as well. The team's full-season plans center on a two-car attack in search of a second straight class championship.
Dirk Werner and Wolf Henzler will drive a Porsche for Farnbacher Loles Racing in their first season together. A fifth Porsche is listed for Team Falken Tire, a new entry to the Series.
LG Motorsports is bringing its Riley-built Corvette C6 with drivers Lou Gigliotti, Tomy Drissi and Randy Ruhlman. Robertson Racing has entered its Doran-Ford GT-R for Andrea and David Robertson, and David Murry. Tom Milner's Panoz Team PTG also plans to take the team's Panoz Esperante GTLM.
"It will be a hard year," Milner said. "But the Panoz will be a contender, much more than this past year. I am looking forward to it."