INDIANAPOLIS (June 6, 2001) -- Since it was first organized in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a highly-visible proving ground for automobile manufacturers. Five American makers will be seeking victory in the 69th running of the classic French endurance race on June 16-17 at the famed Circuit de la Sarthe.
Industry giants General Motors and DaimlerChrysler will be represented in the event with factory-backed racing teams as will smaller manufacturers Callaway, Panoz and Saleen. An American manufacturer has not scored an overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans since Fords won four straight years beginning in 1966.
The Cadillac marque of General Motors will challenge for the overall win by fielding a pair of Cadillac Northstar machines in the LMP (Le Mans Prototype) 900 class for purpose-built race cars. American Wayne Taylor will join Italy's Max Angelelli and Frenchman Christophe Tinseau as co-drivers of one of the cars, while the other will be shared by Marc Goossens of Belgium and Frenchmen Eric Bernard and Emannuel Collard.
GM will also be represented by a two-car factory Corvette effort in the race's GTS class for production-based cars. Americans Scott Pruett and Johnny O'Connell will team with Canada's Ron Fellows in one of the cars, while the other will be driven by Americans Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim, along with Franck Freon of France.
DaimlerChrysler will field a three-car team in the LMP 900 class with the new Chrysler LMP. The cars are run by Team ORECA of France, which dominated the GTS class the past two years with the Dodge Viper but is now concentrating on the Prototype. Drivers will include Olivier Beretta of Monaco, the GTS champion of the American Le Mans Series in 1999 and 2000, along with Karl Wendlinger of Austria and Pedro Lamy of Portugal.
Four-time Le Mans winner Yannick Dalmas heads an all-French driving team that also includes Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny in one of the other Chrysler LMP machines, while the third will be shared by Japan's Seiji Ara and Masahiko Kondo and Portugal's Ni Amorim. Four private teams will run Chrysler Vipers in the GTS class.
Callaway, a specialty-car manufacturer based in Connecticut, will field an All-American team for the GT class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving the Callaway C-12 will be Americans Cort Wagner, Bob Mazzuoccola and Vic Rice.
Panoz, which manufactures sports cars in Georgia, will field two Panoz LMP 07 machines in the LMP 900 class in pursuit of the overall win. Drivers will include David Brabham of Australia, Jan Magnussen of Denmark and Franck Lagorce of France in one car, while Klaus Graf of Germany, Jamie Davies of England and Gary Formato of South Africa will steer the other.
California-based muscle car manufacturer Saleen will have three S7R cars in the GTS class, including a factory team and two privateer entrants. The factory Saleen-Allen Speedlab effort will be co-driven by American Terry Borcheller, Oliver Gavin of England and Franz Konrad of Germany.
Following Le Mans, many of the participants will return to North America to compete in the seven remaining rounds of the American Le Mans Series, which resumes July 22 at California's Sears Point Raceway.
Race fans in the United States will be able to watch live, flag-to-flag coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the Speedvision television network. In addition, fans will be able to listen to Radio Le Mans on the Internet at www.radiolemans.com. Radio Le Mans will be on the air 24 hours a day beginning at midday French time on Wednesday of race week until well after the checkered flag falls on the race.