Series Winter Test preview

BACK ON TRACK: WINTER TEST NEARLY HERE A group of the most anticipated new entries to the American Le Mans Series will make their public debuts next week at the annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway. It's one of many reasons to...

BACK ON TRACK: WINTER TEST NEARLY HERE

A group of the most anticipated new entries to the American Le Mans Series will make their public debuts next week at the annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway. It's one of many reasons to look forward to the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the start of the Series' second decade of sports car racing and its 100th all-time event.

The highlights? There are plenty:

Three brand new prototypes grace the entry list. The pair that fans are perhaps the most eager to see are Acura's two ARX-02a sports cars in LMP1. De Ferran Motorsports and Patrón Highcroft Racing, which finished second in last year's LMP2 championship and won four times in class, each will field one of the new cars.

All four drivers return with their teams from last season - Simon Pagenaud with team owner Gil de Ferran, and David Brabham and Scott Sharp in the Patrón Highcroft Acura.

"I can't wait for next week; the car looks fantastic," Sharp said. "It is such an innovative design and looks menacing in plain carbon but once it is in the Patrón colors I think it is going to look like Darth Vader on wheels.

"There will be a lot more cars out there at the test laying down a lot of rubber," he added. "That will simulate what conditions are like during a race weekend which will be great."

Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz and Michel Jourdain Jr. will drive Lowe's Fernandez Racing's Acura in LMP2. The ARX-01b received a few updates and improvements over the offseason.

Dyson Racing and Mazda will trot out a Mazda-powered Lola coupe in LMP2. America's premier independent team, Dyson Racing is back with longtime partner Lola after two years with Porsche's RS Spyder. Chris Dyson, Ben Devlin, Butch Leitzinger, Guy Smith all will see time in the sleek Lola coupe, which debuted in the Series last year at Petit Le Mans.

GT2 sees the world debut of Porsche's new 911 GT3 RSR. Fresh on the heels of regaining the class manufacturer championship from Ferrari in 2008, Porsche has made several improvements to an already legendary machine.

Redesigned radiator air ducting, which became necessary with installation of the new air conditioning unit, was added to comply with the ACO 2009 regulations. The aerodynamics under the rear also underwent further fine-tuning. The rear wing now features a wider adjustment range. The weight-optimized brake system and the lighter wiring harness contribute to further improved handling for 2009.

There are six Porsches entered at the Winter Test: three for defending team champion Flying Lizard Motorsports (Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman and Darren Law), and one each for Farnbacher Loles Racing (Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner), VICI Racing and Team Falken Tire.

BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team also will bring one of its fourth-generation BMW M3s to the Winter Test. Full-season drivers Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller will split time. The 2009 season marks BMW's return to the American Le Mans Series, having last competed in 2006.

Entries from Robertson Racing (Doran-Ford GT-R), Panoz Team PTG (Panoz Esperante GTLM) and LG Motorsports (Riley-Corvette C6) fill out the entry. All together there are a near-record 14 cars representing eight different manufacturers.

The American Le Mans Series Winter Test is scheduled for January 26-28 at Sebring International Raceway. Daily passes will be available for $10 with paddock access and overnight camping prohibited.

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. Live Timing & Scoring and American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com.

-credit: alms

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