London, UK, Tuesday 12th June 2001: This weekend sees the 69th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the worlds great motor racing classics, and leading the British challenge for podium honours is the Gulf Oil-sponsored Audi R8,...
London, UK, Tuesday 12th June 2001: This weekend sees the 69th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the worlds great motor racing classics, and leading the British challenge for podium honours is the Gulf Oil-sponsored Audi R8, race-prepared in Littlehampton, Sussex, by Johansson Racing. The car will carry the famous Gulf Oil racing colours of powder blue and orange and the London-based company are looking to add a fourth outright Le Mans victory to its rich racing pedigree.
Gulf Oil Johansson Racing Team Director Mike Earle is fully aware of the cars potential to achieve success but with 30 years of race experience is leaving nothing to chance. "We have recruited a formidable driver line-up led by ex-Formula One star Stefan Johansson and a highly qualified pit crew. It is a gruelling event for drivers and team personnel so everyone has been on a programme of specialised vitamins and supplements to boost energy levels." Mike explains his philosophy, "On the track we can gain time in seconds, in the pits it is possible to gain or lose time in minutes. The car has an awesome record in endurance racing including a '1-2-3' at Le Mans and it is important that we are meticulous in our preparation to give ourselves the best possible chance."
Partnering Stefan, the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours winner, is Formula One Grand Prix test driver Patrick Lemarie and Tom Coronel, the highly rated Dutchman. Patrick Lemarie, who has clocked-up more than 8,000km of testing in Formula One with BAR, comes with a glowing reference from his team and, in particular, Jacques Villeneuve, whilst Dutch driver Tom Coronel was the winner of the 1997 Japanese F3 and 1999 Formula Nippon Championships.
The works Audis are expected to provide the main challenge as Gulf look to add further glory to its love affair with Le Mans that spans 34 years and includes 8 podium finishes, four class wins and three outright wins.
Vasant Bharath, Vice President - Global Brand Development for Gulf Oil, is pleased with the teams preparation. "Mike runs a highly professional operation and our race programme to date - the Sebring 12 hours and two European Le Mans Series rounds - has been very useful preparation and demonstrated our competitiveness. However, there is no other race like Le Mans and we will not underestimate its demands."
As Vasant continues, "The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the pinnacle of the season and it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the advanced performance levels of Gulf products and to create further worldwide of the brand. At Gulf we are all very excited by our return to the track although specialised vitamins and supplements have not become part of our pre-race preparation!"
The Gulf Oil Johansson Racing Audi R8 takes part in qualifying for the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans on Wednesday 13th June, commencing at 6.00pm (BST), with a further qualifying session taking place at the same time the following day, Thursday 14th. A warm-up is scheduled for 08.00-08.45am (BST) on Saturday 16th, with the 24 Hour endurance event starting later that day, at 3.00pm (BST), with a field of 48 cars on the starting grid.