Bentley's 'satisfying' test
Optimism surrounds the Bentley EXP Speed 8 which completed a two-day test at Monza last week with James Weaver at the wheel, a week after its roll-out run at Snetterton. "It was a systems check and to see if we have a fundamentally sound package" said Richard Lloyd, whose Apex Motorsport company is responsible for Bentley's racing operations. "We do. It was effectively a roll-out, and as roll-outs go it was useful and satisfying."
Very bad weather curtailed the Monza test, also affecting an Audi test programme, and a long run by Allan McNish in the Toyota GT-One testing Formula One components. The Bentley ran in company with an Audi R8 tested by Frank Biela and Dindo Capello, and is powered by an uprated version of the Le Mans winning, twin-turbo V8 engine.
2001 Panoz good, too!
The new 2001 Panoz LMP (still waiting for its proper name) completed a long roll-out at the MIRA test track last Thursday and Friday. David Brabham completed a lot of laps over two days, but the Panoz organisation has put a curfew on official comment until after the LMP's first track test at Sebring next Monday. A team member reports that the new low-line Panoz "ran very well. The engine was good, gearbox, chassis, everything was fine."
At its heart is the brand-new 4-litre V8 engine, which has greatly impressed John Nielsen as installed in the '00 model 'mule' Panoz. Brabham and Jan Magnussen will give the 2001 Panoz LMP its debut race at Adelaide on New Year's Eve.
28 cars for Adelaide
BMW Motorsport has officially stopped its Le Mans Prototype programme and retired the two V12 LMRs, confirming that they will not go to Adelaide. The entry list for the 'Race of a Thousand Years' includes two Audi R8s in the prototype class, two DAMS Cadillacs, three Panoz and two Lolas, those of Team Rafanelli and Konrad Motorsport.
The GTS category includes two Team ORECA Dodge Vipers, two Vipers from Chamberlain Motorsport, and the Roock Motorsport NA Porsche GT2. At the weekend, the Professional Sports Car Racing organisation had received 28 entries for the Adelaide street race, on the former Grand Prix course.
Craig Lowndes, Australia's top V8 Supercar driver, will not after all compete in the Race of a Thousand Years in the third 'works' Panoz. He is quitting the Holden Racing Team after winning the Shell Series V8 championship three times, but Holden is keeping him to his contract until the last day, 31 December, and has refused to release him for the Le Mans Series event. It is expected that Greg Murphy will partner Mark Noske.
BMW out of LMP
Announcing the cessation of its LMP programme, BMW describes the V12 LMR as "the greatest car we've ever raced". Its successes include winning the 24-Hours of Le Mans, the Sebring 12-Hours and five other American Le Mans Series victories, five second places and eight third places.
Only twice in the past two years has BMW failed to finish on the podium. Dr Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director, says that "December will be dedicated to the preparations for the coming season." BMW is expected to support Charly Lamm's Team Schnitzer with an M3 programme in the LM-GT category.
Prize fund for ELMS John Macdonald, European Le Mans Series organiser, says that he is close to signing up a sponsor which will put up "substantial money" for every race in the next three years. "We intend to be a class act" he says. It should soon be announced that Donington Park will host the first ELMS race of next season on Easter Saturday, 14 April.
Mimmo Schiattarella and Didier de Radigues have already signed a fresh contract to drive for Team Rafanelli in next year's American Le Mans Series, again with backing from the Olive Garden restaurant chain. Rafanelli, though, refuses to confirm that he will continue with Lola chassis and says that he is also in discussions with "two French manufacturers, and one German", thought to include Courage and Audi.
Then again, Rafanelli will test a different chassis at Misano at the end of this month, believed to be the work of Giuseppe Angiulli, the Italian who successfully developed Rafanelli's Riley & Scott Mk3. The R&M team competing in the Sports Racing World Cup is also taking an interest in Angiulli's new design.
New LMP675 category for 2001
The Professional Sports Car Racing organisation will create an LMP675 category next year instead of amalgamating it with the LMP900 class. There has been a considerable rise in interest in LMP675 since the ACO opened it up to V6 turbo and 3.4 litre V8 engines for the '01 season.
Private team for Panoz
Jay Cochran, the American who competed in the IMSA Camel GTP championship in the 1980s and early '90s, is close to forming a sportscar team which will be equipped with the current Panoz LMP Roadsters. Dave 'Beaky' Sims, the prospective team manager, says that the deal with Panoz Motorsports is "almost done". The team will take delivery of this year's Panoz team cars on their return from Adelaide with programme that includes the American Le Mans Series, Le Mans, and as many European Le Mans races as do not clash.
Jeff Hazell to Cadillac
Jeff Hazell, the former director of Spice Engineering and McLaren Cars, has been recruited to coordinate the Cadillac Northstar LMP Le Mans programme for 2001. He will work closely with Nigel Stroud, who is building a new LMP around the Northstar's monoque and power- train, and has already started the design of an all-new Cadillac for '02. Hazell will take charge of Cadillac's test programme. He was, from 1994 to 1997, McLaren's F1 GTR project manager responsible for developing the three-seater into the 1995 Le Mans winner and double BPR Global Endurance Champion.
Rolex 24 prize fund
A prize fund exceeding $560,000 has been announced for the Rolex 24 on February 3/4. Lolas topped the field in three days of Daytona testing last week. Jon Field topped the 18-car list in his Intersport Racing Lola B2K/10 Judd at 1:41.707, nearly a full second quicker than Scott Schubot in the Creighton Racing Lola B2K/10 Ford. Third was Dorsey Schroeder at 1:44.9 in the Champion Motorsport Lola B2K/10 Porsche turbo.
Paul Newman, Gunnar Jeannette, Mike Brockman, Wayne Jackson and Ralf Kelleners all drove the ex-Champion Porsche GT1 at Daytona, and it was Kelleners who set the fastest time in the GTO division at 1:49.700. Second quickest were Canadian brothers Klaus and Harry Bytzek (1:49.878), who will campaign two Porsche GT1s in the Grand-Am GTO division. The GTO qualifying record was established by Ron Fellows in February at 1:45.889 in his Chevrolet Corvette, and Fellows also set the class lap record at 1:47.917. Seems that the '97 model Porsche GT1s have been left behind by GTO class developments.
Racing Box Viper wins class at Vallelunga
Raffael Sangiuolo, Stefano Zonga and Gabriele Matteuzzi won the LM GTS class of the Vallelunga 6-hours at the weekend in their Racing Box Viper GTS R/T. They finished fourth overall, and were the first non-prototype finishers. The race was won by Angelo Lancelotti, Denny Zardo and Raffaele Tampolli in the Tampolli RTA 98, that was seven laps clear of the field at the flag.
Luca Riccitelli and Gunther Bleininger led for much of the race in the Pole Team Riley & Scott, but suffered a suspected electrical failure in the fifth hour of the race and finished 18th overall. Michel Neugarten and Jean-Pierre Perrier won the LM GT class in their Perspective Racing Porsche 996 GT3R.