Series Sebring 12 hour news 2009-02-19

DIVERSE, QUALITY FIELD FORMING FOR SEBRING The second decade of the American Le Mans Series will be off to a roaring start with one of the most exciting and diverse fields ever seen for the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by...

DIVERSE, QUALITY FIELD FORMING FOR SEBRING

The second decade of the American Le Mans Series will be off to a roaring start with one of the most exciting and diverse fields ever seen for the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, America's greatest sports car race. Thirteen manufacturers are present with the initial entry list release, already more than any other motorsport series. The 57th Sebring 12 Hours also will see the debut of the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge that awards teams each race for overall performance, best fuel efficiency and smallest environmental impact.

There is no shortage of world-class entries on any part of the Sebring International Raceway grid with multiple potential class winners throughout. There is a diverse mix of technically innovative new cars and teams along with those that already have proven themselves in Series competition. It all adds up to one of the most anticipated sports car races in the world with additional marques and teams likely to make their entries official in the coming days and weeks as the Series' 100th event draws closer.

"The content of this entry list has all the ingredients to produce one of the best endurance sports car races ever," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "Fans from all over the world will be glued to this one because of its epic field."

Newcomer Acura to Battle Audi, Peugeot in P1

A great deal of attention will focus on the front of the grid with three mainstream premium brand manufacturers competing with LMP1 prototypes for the overall victory. Both Audi and Acura will debut brand-new machines - Acura with its ARX-02a that was presented last month at the annual Winter Test and Audi's new diesel-powered R15 TDI. Patrón Highcroft Racing and de Ferran Motorsports are Acura's P1 teams for 2009 with Audi Sport Team Joest and Audi Sport North America each fielding an all new R15 TDI for the race as the brand seeks to return to the winner's circle with its ninth overall Sebring win since 2000.

After making its North American debut in last year's race with a single entry, Peugeot has entered two of its diesel-powered 908 HDi prototypes for Sebring. Audi and Peugeot waged incredible battles last year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Road Atlanta's Petit Le Mans with Audi narrowly winning both rounds.

"We could always wish we had a little more preparation time but I am looking forward to meeting Audi and Peugeot over here," said de Ferran Motorsports owner and driver Gil de Ferran. "They are formidable competitors but we have a great team and look forward to the challenge."

Intersport Racing, one of the Series' leading independent professional teams, also has entered Sebring with its AER-powered Lola B06/10. The Dublin, Ohio-based squad was the LMP2 class winner and finished as the overall runner-up at the 12 Hours in 2006.

Autocon Motorsports, based in Escondido, Calif., also has entered its Lola B06/10-AER for Sebring. The team is hoping a strong performance at Sebring will provide the catalyst needed for a good result at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans following its debut there last season.

Dyson-Mazda to Challenge Acura in P2

The LMP2 field sees another major auto manufacturer battle shaping up between Acura and Mazda. Dyson Racing will bring its two new Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes in the debut for the Dyson-Mazda partnership. Last year's race will be a tough one to follow for Dyson, which finished second and third in the LMP2 class (second and fourth overall) last year running with Porsche power.

Lowe's Fernandez Racing will fly the flag for Acura in P2 with its Acura ARX-01b, a proven challenger for both class and overall victory. The team finished second overall and in P2 last season at Sebring before being excluded following post-race technical inspections.

Corvette Racing Seeks Third in a Row in GT1

Corvette Racing will make its final GT1 start at the 12 Hours with GM's factory road-racing team moving to GT2 in the second half of the season. Corvette's C6.R supercar has won in class at the 12 Hours every year since 2006 with two cars entered for this year's race.

Corvette Racing will race at Sebring using environmentally friendly cellulosic E85 and for a final time in the Series at the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in April before trying to send the C6.R out with a third and final GT1 class victory at Le Mans in June.

Horn of Plenty in GT2

The GT2 class alone contains eight different manufacturers, more than any other major racing series has in their entire field. Entries from Aston Martin, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Panoz and Porsche fill out the roster with all eight capable of earning a podium finish.

Panoz, Ferrari and Porsche all have won in the GT2 class the last three seasons at Sebring with some of the closest finishes in Series history. Porsche's contingent is led by three factory-supported entries - two from defending race and Series champion Flying Lizard Motorsports and one for Farnbacher Loles Racing. Each entry will be Porsche's new 2009-spec 911 GT3 RSR that provides a number of technical updates and improvements from last year's car that helped Porsche reclaim the team, driver and manufacturer championships in the American Le Mans Series.

"We have as much development to do as anyone else. We'll have to step it up even more again," said Flying Lizard team principal and driver Seth Neiman. "Porsche knows how to win championships and develop customer teams. We want to build a team that can last and be competitive every year. To do that you need the stability of a manufacturer like Porsche."

Three Ferrari F430 GTs are set to take on the Porsches. Two from Risi Competizione, which won the 2007 race and last year finished third at Sebring before taking victory at Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, will be joined by Europe's Advanced Engineering Pecome Racing team - a championship contender in the European FIA GT Championship.

BMW and Rahal Letterman Racing have one of its new BMW M3s on the entry under the banner of BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team. This will be the first Series race for BMW since 2006 and the first for Rahal Letterman since it entered a Porsche in the 2007 championship. BMW enthusiasts from coast to coast are celebrating the return of The Ultimate Driving Machine to the American Le Mans Series.

Panoz, GT2 winner at both Sebring and Le Mans in 2006, will see one Panoz Esperante GTLM entered by Panoz Team PTG. The Esperante was consistently one of the quickest entries last month at the Winter Test and returns in '09 with several improvements to the car and new drivers behind the wheel.

Four other entries will return to the Sebring grid following their debut last season. Primetime Race Group's Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, fifth in class in 2008's race, is entered along with LG Motorsports' GT2 class Corvette C6. Robertson Racing's improved Ford GT MK7, which raced for the first time last season, and Drayson Racing's cellulosic E85-powered Aston Martin Vantage GT2 challenger round out the current entry list.

MICHELIN Green X Challenge Debuts for Entire Season

The Sebring 12 Hours also will mark the beginning of a landmark partnership - the MICHELIN Green X Challenge. The American Le Mans Series and Michelin, firm believers that motorsport is the ultimate test bed for future road-car technologies, will award teams at each 2009 race that deliver the best overall performance and fuel efficiency with the least environmental impact.

At the end of the season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy in conjunction with SAE International will present Green Challenge awards to manufacturers in each class who have scored best during the entire season. Those three entities continue to recognize and praise the American Le Mans Series as the only motorsports body in the world to meet the strict criteria of a green racing series.

Multiple street-legal fuels will power Series entries throughout the season - including cellulosic E85, E10, low-sulfur diesel and an E10-electric hybrid.

11 Hours of Live TV Coverage

The American Le Mans Series will open its 11th season with the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 21. SPEED will televise the race live from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-11 p.m. ET. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

Tickets and Accommodations Still Available

Tickets are available at sebringraceway.com or by calling (800) 626-RACE.

-credit: alms

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