STARS AND CARS FROM 24 HOURS OF LE MANS HEAD TO SILVERSTONE
Stars and cars from 24 Hours of Le Mans head to Silverstone The stars and the cars from the 24 Hours of Le Mans -- the world's most famous endurance race -- are heading to Silverstone, ready to do battle over 1000km during an action packed weekend on 15-16 September.
The Northamptonshire circuit will host the final European round of the 2007 Le Mans Series, the season-long championship that features the same cars that compete in the annual French endurance classic. The premier league sportscar series stars at many of Europe's classic Formula One venues including Monza, the Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. Silverstone has the honour of hosting the only UK round on this year's LMS calendar which is also the final European race of the 2007 campaign.
The championship finale will be staged in Brazil during November. The 1000km race features at least two drivers per car with a full grid, of more than 50 cars, battling it out during six hours of intense competition. Four separate classes compete in the championship, providing four separate races within the same event.
The "LM"P1 class does battle for outright honours with high-tech prototype sportscars fighting it out on track. These include the championship-leading Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. The "LM"P2 class features similar prototype machines that have less horsepower, but are also lighter and more agile. Based on production supercars, the "LM"GT1 class is hugely popular among race fans. Representing road car manufacturers, the sleek lines of the Aston Martin DBR9, Chevrolet Corvette C6-R, Ferrari 550 Maranello and Saleen S7R will be seen in action at Silverstone. "LM"GT2 is also filled with exotic supercars that race fans would love to have in their driveway including the Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Panoz Esperante GTLM and the road car that lends its name to the Silverstone-based Formula One team, the Spyker C8 Spyder GT2R.
The factory Peugeot team has dominated the 2007 championship winning each of the four LMS rounds staged to date. The unique 908 HDi FAP coupe actually uses diesel power, the second major international manufacturer to follow this lead after Audi's debut at Le Mans last year. The Peugeot driving strength includes ex-Formula One driver Pedro Lamy; versatile F1 and WRC pilot Stephane Sarrazin; Ferrari F1 tester Marc Gene and British-based French ace,
Nic Minassian. "Silverstone is my all-time favourite race track. I like Silverstone even more than places like Spa or Monza. The section through Copse and Becketts is fantastic, I can't wait to drive the Peugeot there," said Minassian. "I've been on pole in Formula 3 on the full Grand Prix circuit and also won there in Formula 3000 so this track has always been good to me. I think the fans are going to be very excited about the entire championship. We have a very full grid and it is a great challenge for us."
Minassian believes the Silverstone crowd will be in for a unique experience at the Le Mans Series weekend. "The thing the fans will really like is the fact that this championship is very open," Minassian said. "You can walk through the paddock and see the cars really close-up and meet the drivers. It is very different from Formula 1 where you basically have to watch from the grandstand."
In the "LM"P2 championship battle, the British RML squad is leading the title chase aboard their MG-powered Lola. Driven by Brit Mike Newton and Brazilian Tomas Erdos, the pair is looking for a home win to cement RML's championship chase.
"We're delighted to be back at Silverstone, and really look forward to racing there for the next round of the Le Mans Series," Newton confirmed. "Silverstone is exactly the type of circuit that the LMS should be racing on, and will be the perfect setting for the next round of the championship."
In LM GT1, the on-going battle between the prestigious marques and traditional rivals Aston Martin and Corvette will be a highlight. Leading British stars including Oliver Gavin (Luc Alphand Racing Corvette) and 2007 Le Mans "LM"GT1 winner Darren Turner (Modena Motorsport Aston Martin) will be out to challenge the championship leading Saleen SR-7 from the French Oreca Motorsport team.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back out in that car. I have driven a GT2 car recently in America and I am also doing the full programme in the British Touring Car Championship with SEAT so I am in different cars all the time," Turner said. "At least when I get back in the Aston Martin, it feels like home. I am really looking forward to teaming up with Antonio Garcia again. We drove together at Sebring earlier this year and I know he has a huge amount of pace. The competition we had last year between the factory Corvette and Aston Martin teams was fantastic but this year we have the Corvette, the Aston Martin and the Saleen all fighting for race wins."
Silverstone fans will also have something to cheer for in "LM"GT1. The Essex-based Virgo Motorsport Ferrari 430GT squad holds a three point lead in the championship with British driver Rob Bell driving with Dane, Alan Simonsen. While Bell lives nearby in Northampton, he has yet to actually drive the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.
"Getting a win on my home track is certainly the plan," said Bell. "We tested the Ferrari very early in the season on the National circuit but I haven't actually ever raced on the full Grand Prix track. Considering I only live 30 miles away, you'd think I would have done a few laps there but it isn't the case. It will be nice to get that opportunity at the Le Mans Series weekend. I know half the circuit, I will just have to learn the rest in the first practice session."
Other leading drivers contesting the high profile Silverstone LMS event include British aces Warren Hughes, Martin Short, Jamie Campbell Walter, Darren Manning, Johnny Mowlem plus BTCC star Tom Chilton and his younger brother Max. A number of ex-Formula 1 stars will also be on track including Alex Caffi, Alex Yoong, Jean-Christophe Boullion, Eric van de Poele and Shinji Nakano.
Special 'Event Tickets' for the Silverstone round of the Le Mans Series represent fantastic value for admission on both Saturday and Sunday, available to purchase in advance. Parking, roving grandstand seating, paddock access and centre transfers are all included in this price. Saturday and Sunday-only tickets will also be available on the day. Children aged 15 years and under, accompanied by an adult, go free.