American Le Mans Series notes of interest 2002-01-24

** GURNEY, AKIN, FANGIO TO RETURN TO SEBRING -- Former winners Dan Gurney, Bob Akin and Juan Manuel Fangio II are among the latest legendary drivers to accept invitations to be part of the festivities for the 50th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of ...

** GURNEY, AKIN, FANGIO TO RETURN TO SEBRING -- Former winners Dan Gurney, Bob Akin and Juan Manuel Fangio II are among the latest legendary drivers to accept invitations to be part of the festivities for the 50th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, presented by Dodge, at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway.

The Sebring event will kick off the 2002 American Le Mans Series season on Saturday, March 16. Many former winning drivers and cars of America's oldest sports car race are expected to be on hand for the 50th anniversary celebration.

Gurney, one of America's greatest racing legends, won at Sebring in 1959 driving a Ferrari and then won twice as a car owner in 1992-93. Akin and Fangio are two-time winners, and Fangio's legendary uncle also won twice at Sebring.

Also returning to Sebring for the anniversary race is 1953 winner John Fitch, who co-drove a Cunningham C4R that year.

Ticket information for the Sebring race is available online at www.sebringraceway.com.

** CHAMPION RACING CONFIRMS DRIVERS -- Andy Wallace will again contest the full American Le Mans Series championship for Champion Racing in 2002, and he will be joined in the driver lineup by fellow Englishman Johnny Herbert for all but one of the 10 races on the season schedule.

Champion Racing, based in Florida, was the first non-works team to receive and campaign an Audi R8 Prototype.

Herbert, a former winner in Formula One racing, will be a third driver for the Audi factory team in the 2002 ALMS season opener at Sebring, but will pair with Wallace in the Champion car for the remainder of the season. Herbert joined Champion for six races last season.

"I couldn't be more pleased to have Andy and Johnny aboard our Audi R8 for another season," said Dave Maraj, owner and president of Champion Motors and the race team. "I feel that the Champion Racing team, with our latest-specification Audi R8, can give our drivers all the tools they require to contest for the top podium spot on a regular basis in 2002."

In six races together last year, Wallace and Herbert scored four podium finishes, including a season-best second at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Most observers feel that it is only a matter of time before the Champion car makes its way to victory to become only the second privateer car to score an overall win in ALMS history.

"We learned a lot during the 2001 season," said Brad Kettler, Champion Racing's Technical Director. "We learned a lot about the Audi R8 and how to give our drivers the best chance against the strong competition we face in the American Le Mans Series, not only from other manufacturers but also from the Audi works team. We believe we had their measure last year and the Champion Racing team looks forward to proving that in 2002."

Champion Racing will announce its Sebring driver lineup in the coming weeks.

** JJ LEHTO GRABBED BY CADILLAC -- It wasn't expected that a driver with the experience and accomplishments of JJ Lehto would be idle for very long, and that has turned out to be the case.

Lehto has joined Team Cadillac and will drive in the three long-distance races on the team's schedule for the 2002 season. Lehto will be the third driver with Eric Bernard and Emmanuel Collard for Sebring, Le Mans and Audi presents Petit Le Mans.

The Finnish star has been a factory driver for BMW in the three previous seasons of the American Le Mans Series, but became available earlier this week when BMW announced that it would not compete on the series this season. Two days later, he was announced as a Cadillac driver.

"It's great to have someone like JJ onboard," said Cadillac General Manager Mark LaNeve. "Having a former Le Mans winner and multiple ALMS race winner sign for Cadillac proves that drivers of JJ's stature are convinced that we have what it takes to go for victories this year. We will do our utmost to do so."

Christophe Tinseau, Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli will drive another Team Cadillac entry in the three long-distance races, with Taylor and Angelelli to co-drive the car in selected other ALMS races.

Team Cadillac presented its new Northstar LMP 02 in a test session at Sebring International Raceway last week. The team will run a 26-day testing schedule prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, including several 24-hour endurance tests. The car will make its racing debut at Sebring on March 16.

** ARCHANGEL MOTORSPORTS OWNER BACK ON MTV -- Mike Johnson, the owner of Archangel Motorsports, will return to MTV in the "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" to air January 28 on the popular cable television network.

The show will first be broadcast at 10 p.m. (EST). The program combines past cast members of "The Real World" in a competition against past cast members of "Road Rules." The competition took place in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Johnson was a cast member of "The Real World 4" in London.

Archangel Motorsports fielded a car in the LMP 675 class of the American Le Mans Series last year in Audi presents Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The team is expected to compete in selected events on the series this season.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Emmanuel Collard , Wayne Taylor , Christophe Tinseau , Juan Manuel Fangio , Max Angelelli , Mike Johnson , Bob Akin , Dave Maraj , JJ Lehto