American Le Mans teams head to France with California on their mind. BRASELTON, Ga. (April 30, 2002) -- The 16 American Le Mans Series racing teams that will compete in the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June are headed to France...
American Le Mans teams head to France with California on their mind.
BRASELTON, Ga. (April 30, 2002) -- The 16 American Le Mans Series racing teams that will compete in the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June are headed to France this weekend with California on their minds.
With the mandatory preliminary practice at Le Mans scheduled for this weekend, the teams are taking different steps to be ready for that but also to be ready for the May 19 Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters, the next race on the American Le Mans Series schedule. The event will be held at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
In its four years of existence, the American Le Mans Series has always scheduled its races around the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the preliminary practice session. The past two years, events were held in Europe, making it easy for teams that already had their cars and equipment overseas.
This year, however, American Le Mans Series officials took a different approach. Not wanting to be idle in North America for two months, the series scheduled the Sears Point event between the Le Mans practice and the June 15-16 running of the classic sports car endurance race. Just two weeks after Le Mans, the ALMS swings back into action with back-to-back weekend events at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 30) and Road America (July 7).
Because of the high-tech nature of the cars in the American Le Mans Series, teams do not have large fleets of the cars as is the case with some racing series. Realizing the logistics involved for race teams, ALMS officials polled teams prior to finalizing the 2002 schedule and the overwhelming majority said they could handle the back-and-forth in May and June.
Teams are taking different approaches. Many, such as Panoz Motor Sports, KnightHawk Racing and MBD Sportscar, are using the same cars at Le Mans and at Sears Point. The teams will air freight the cars and equipment to California after the Le Mans practice, then send them back to France in June.
"We felt that it was vitally important to not only show well at Le Mans, but also to present our best effort at Sears," said Steve Knight, co-owner and driver for KnightHawk Racing. "When we decided to go for the LMP 675 class championship in the ALMS, the logistics of moving the car to Le Mans, to Sears Point and back again just became another challenge to meet."
Other teams, including The Racer's Group and Corvette Racing, will use different cars at Le Mans than they will at Sears Point. The teams will still have to move personnel and some equipment, but the logistics will be less to handle. The Racer's Group is picking up a new Porsche in Germany just before the test, while the Corvette team will run new cars at Sears Point and will use the cars that raced at Le Mans last year again in France. Included will be the car that won the GTS class last year at Le Mans as well as in this year's Sebring 12-hour event.
At Le Mans this weekend, the 48 racing teams that will participate in the event, plus alternates, will undergo scrutineering on Friday and Saturday. The 8.625-mile circuit will be open for practice on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.
American Le Mans Series teams scored three class wins in last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi Sport North America won the event overall for the second year in a row, also taking the LMP 900 class, while Corvette Racing won the GTS class. Seikel Motorsport won the GT class last year. Information about Sunday's practice will be available online at www.lemans.org.