Washington DC: Inaugural race pre-race notes

Washington, D.C., race hailed as "giant leap" for American Le Mans Series, motorsports. BRASELTON, Ga. (July 14, 2002) -- As the American Le Mans Series prepares for next weekend's inaugural racing event in Washington, D.C., series officials and...

Washington, D.C., race hailed as "giant leap" for American Le Mans Series, motorsports.

BRASELTON, Ga. (July 14, 2002) -- As the American Le Mans Series prepares for next weekend's inaugural racing event in Washington, D.C., series officials and competitors are hailing the event as a giant leap in the continued rise of the four-year-old sports car endurance racing series and motorsports in gereral.

The Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., will be run July 19-21 on a temporary racing circuit that has been constructed outside RFK Stadium. The 1.7-mile, seven-turn course will come to life with many of the same drivers and teams that competed in last month's 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, including the overall winning team.

"If a racing series has ever had a breakout race, this could be it for the American Le Mans Series," said Scott Atherton, President and COO of the Panoz Motor Sports Group, which operates the series. "For a number of reasons, this event in Washington, D.C., is one of the most important in the brief history of our series."

No major automobile racing event has been held in Washington in more than 80 years. Over a period of several years, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission worked with Christopher J. Lencheski, founder of National Grand Prix Holdings, LLC, to investigate, plan and stage an event, all with the full blessing and cooperation of Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Williams, wanting to stimulate international travel to Washington, as well as help the city economy, led a press conference last August to announce a 10-year deal and the inaugural event for July of 2002.

Since the announcement, Lencheski's group has set the standard for new motorsports events to follow, Atherton said. In addition to constructing a state-of-the-art racing circuit in what had been a parking lot area at the stadium, the group has brought in sponsors new to motorsports and has gotten the attention of the motorsports industry, as well as the D.C. area.

The event has taken on a festival atmosphere, and the racing is only part of it. In addition to the American Le Mans Series, which will run a two-hour, 45-minute race on Sunday, July 21, as the featured event of the weekend, three other racing series will hold races over the course of the weekend as well.

In addition, a dozen stars of movies, television, fashion and music will compete in a special celebrity race, bringing a Hollywood feel to the event, and daredevil Robbie Knievel will attempt a motorcycle jump prior to the start of the American Le Mans Series race. The adjacent D.C. Armory will host a Lifestyle Expo featuring motorsports-themed exhibits. Ancillary events will include a black-tie gala to benefit the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a "Stars and Cars" party at "Dream," a lavish D.C. nightspot, on the night before the race.

Many Washington movers and shakers will attend the event, as will many corporate representatives. Media coverage will be the highest of any event in the four-year history of the American Le Mans Series, both locally and nationally. The American Le Mans Series race will be televised live by NBC Sports, while Saturday's companion event for the Trans-Am Series will be live on CBS.

"The significance of the Washington, D.C., race has not been lost on anyone in the motorsports industry," said Atherton. "We're proud that the event organizers chose the American Le Mans Series over other racing series to be a part of this historic event."

The American Le Mans Series is a series of North American sports car races based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous endurance race. American Le Mans Series races feature four classes of race cars competing for class wins and the overall win, with the fields including many of the same drivers and cars that compete at Le Mans. The series holds events at many of North America's premier permanent road racing facilities as well as at temporary circuits in key major markets. The series motto is "For the Fans" and all events feature driver autograph sessions and open paddocks. All events are on live television in the United States. Well-known automotive brand names such as Audi, Cadillac, Corvette, Dodge, Ferrari, MG, Nissan, Panoz, Porsche and Saleen are represented on the series. The series, which has its headquarters in Braselton, Ga., was founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Don Panoz and is sanctioned by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

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Series ALMS
Drivers Robbie Knievel , Don Panoz
Teams Williams