BRASELTON, Ga. (June 9, 2003) -- Nineteen American racing drivers will be among the 150 drivers from around the world who will compete in this weekend's 71st running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous endurance race. Only 12 ...
BRASELTON, Ga. (June 9, 2003) -- Nineteen American racing drivers will be among the 150 drivers from around the world who will compete in this weekend's 71st running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous endurance race.
Only 12 American drivers have been able to score an overall victory at Le Mans in the past 70 runnings, including some of the most famous names in American racing history. Interest in Le Mans among Americans had waned over the years until the birth and growth of the American Le Mans Series, which started in 1999 as a series of sports car races in North America using the same rules and many of the same drivers and cars that compete at Le Mans.
Don Panoz, Founder of the American Le Mans Series, has been named Grand Marshal for the event by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Among the 50 cars that will start the race, twenty-one regularly compete in American Le Mans Series events, and 32 were in the field for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring that started the 2003 ALMS season in March.
Though American drivers have scored numerous class wins in recent years, including last year, the last time an American driver won the event overall was Davy Jones in 1996. Legendary road racing stars Phil Hill, Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood were each three-time overall winners at Le Mans during their careers, with Hill's win in 1958 the first for a United States native.
Other American winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans have been Price Cobb (1990), Masten Gregory (1965), Dan Gurney (1967), A.J. Foyt (1967), Carroll Shelby (1959) and Bill and Don Whittington (1979). In addition, Luigi Chinetti scored his third Le Mans win in 1949 after becoming an American citizen.
In last year's event, American Johnny O'Connell was part of the Corvette team that won the GTS class, while Butch Leitzinger helped Bentley win the GTP class in the event. Kevin Buckler was both driver and owner of the car that won the GT class.
Practice and qualifying will be held on Wednesday and Thursday evening, with the 8.625-mile Circuit de La Sarthe open until midnight both nights. The twice-around-the-clock event begins at 4 p.m. (France time) on Saturday, June 14. In North America, race fans will be able to watch 17 hours of live coverage of the event on the SPEED Channel, beginning at 9 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday. Live coverage of the entire race can be heard online at www.radiolemans.com.
The American Le Mans Series resumes action with the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., June 27-29.
The 2003 American participants in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, by state, showing team, type car (class), include:
ARIZONA (3): Terry Borcheller, Phoenix, Risi Competizione, Ferrari 360 Modena (GT); Jeff Bucknum, Lake Havasu City, Team Bucknum Racing, Pilbeam MP91 (LMP 675); Chris McMurry, Phoenix, Team Bucknum Racing, Pilbeam MP91 (LMP 675).
CALIFORNIA (3): Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, The Racers Group, Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT); Kelly Collins, Corona del Mar, Corvette Racing, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (GTS); Rick Sutherland, Los Gatos; Intersport Racing, Lola EX257-MG (LMP 675).
FLORIDA (5): Peter Baron, Deerfield Beach, Orbit Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT); Gunnar Jeannette, Palm Beach Gardens, JML Team Panoz, Panoz LMP01 (LMP 900); Shane Lewis, Jupiter; Risi Competizione-ACEMCO Motorsports, Ferrari 360 Modena (GT); Jim Matthews, Boca Raton; Jim Matthews Racing, Riley & Scott MkIIIC-Ford (LMP 900); Andy Pilgrim, Aventura; Corvette Racing, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (GTS).
GEORGIA (2): Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth; Risi Competizione, Ferrari 360 Modena (GT); Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch; Corvette Racing, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R.
MASSACHUSETTS (1): John Lloyd, Boston; Seikel Motorsport, Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT).
NEW YORK (2): Duncan Dayton, North Salem, Intersport Racing, Lola EX257-MG (LMP 675); Leo Hindery, New York City; Orbit Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT).
OHIO (1): Jon Field, Dublin; Intersport Racing, Lola EX257.
PENNSYLVANIA (1): Butch Leitzinger, State College; Risi Competizione-ACEMCO Motorsports, Ferrari 360 Modena (GT).
WASHINGTON (1): Bryan Willman, Kirkland; Team Bucknum Racing, Pilbeam MP91 (LMP 675).