American Le Mans 2005 pre-season test preview

ALMS Drivers Begin Preparation for Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans Braselton, Ga. - For many American Le Mans Series teams, running the inaugural "Wheels Down Winter Test" at Sebring next week will be the first important...

ALMS Drivers Begin Preparation for Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans

Braselton, Ga. - For many American Le Mans Series teams, running the inaugural "Wheels Down Winter Test" at Sebring next week will be the first important step in preparation for not only the prestigious Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring but also the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The ACO (Automobile Club de I'Quest) which sanctions and sets the rules for the 24 Hours of Le Mans - the world's premier auto race - has assured that its sister series, the American Le Mans Series, will be well represented this summer in France in the running of Le Mans. The ALMS is awarded as many as 12 slots in the annual midsummers night/day dream race, which recently verified 78 entry requests to date.

"The path to Le Mans has always been tough one, and only the best reach the goal." Said IMSA COO Tim Mayer "But nowhere is there more opportunity and more reward than in the ALMS. With the fierce competition and world class teams, we are proud not only to provide one of the largest groups of Le Mans entrants, but one of the most competitive."

As part of a continuing agreement with the ACO, the American Le Mans Series will receive up to 12 automatic berths at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer. Each class winner of Petit Le Mans, conducted every fall at Road Atlanta, receives an invitation, as does each class winner for the overall season championship. In instances where the winner of Petit Le Mans is also the overall ALMS season champion, a Le Mans invitation is awarded to the second place finisher in the class championship by the ALMS. Because past winners at Le Mans receive automatic berths, ALMS Petit Le Mans or Championship winners often get their invitations via that criteria, allowing the ACO to fill the remainder of the ALMS slots with discretionary invitations to other top performing teams.

Entering 2005, the LMP1 team of Champion Audi will draw berths for each of its two teams by virtue of its Petit Le Mans' win and overall championship. Champion Audi recently announced a star-studded two-car effort, featuring returning series champions JJ Lehto and Marco Werner along with six-time Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen driving car #1 for the endurance races and Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro driving car #2 along with Allan McNish for the endurance clashes.

Representing the ALMS in LMP2 will be Intersport Racing's Lola winner of class at last year's Petit Le Mans with Clint and John Field behind the wheel. Miracle Motorsports' Courage won the ALMS LMP2 Championship and earned a spot on the Le Mans grid for the John Macaluso team that this year includes Chris McMurry and Jeff Bucknum. In the GT1 class, Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell not only picked up a win at Le Mans last year with Max Papis, but they also won Petit Le Mans on their way to the overall GT1 championship, thus earning a second spot for Corvette Racing. In the GT2 class, Alex Job's Porsche fared just as well as the Corvettes, winning both the overall championship as well as the Atlanta race. Job's factory based efforts features drivers Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Sascha Maassen for the endurance endeavors. Impressive newcomer to the ALMS last year, the Flying Lizards, are likely to earn the second berth in that class although it has yet to be determined whether the team of Lonnie Pechnik-Seth Neiman or Johannes van Overbeek-Jon Fogarty will log the French entry. Third drivers have yet to be named for either Flying Lizard team. The Peterson White Lightening team won its berth in the Sarthe classic by virtue of their impressive class win at the 24 hours in 2004.

Other ALMS teams under high consideration for invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans are Dyson Racing with its Lola in LMP1, ACEMCO Racing's Saleen in GT1 along with Tom Weickardt's Dodge Viper and perhaps BAM!'s GT2 Porsche.

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About this article
Series ALMS , Le Mans
Drivers Tom Kristensen , Allan McNish , Frank Biela , Max Papis , Jon Fogarty , Johnny O'Connell , Sascha Maassen , Timo Bernhard , John Macaluso , Marco Werner , Johannes van Overbeek , Chris McMurry , Jeff Bucknum , Romain Dumas , Tom Weickardt , Seth Neiman , Lonnie Pechnik , Alex Job , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing