Danica Patrick tests American Le Mans Series car, eyes series debut. BRASELTON, Ga. (May 28, 2003) -- One of the rising and most promising young stars of American racing, Danica Patrick, tested an American Le Mans Series car on Wednesday at Road...
Danica Patrick tests American Le Mans Series car, eyes series debut.
BRASELTON, Ga. (May 28, 2003) -- One of the rising and most promising young stars of American racing, Danica Patrick, tested an American Le Mans Series car on Wednesday at Road Atlanta and hopes to make her racing debut in the professional sports car racing series in the June 27-29 Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta.
The 21-year-old open-wheel racer did some testing laps in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS fielded by Orbit Racing, a Florida-based team that regularly competes in the American Le Mans Series. Patrick's stint in the car was under the watchful eye of former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, her car owner in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series as well as her mentor and advisor.
"I enjoyed it," said Patrick after the test session. "It's a matter of getting used to the car and to some things I haven't done in a race car since last year with the way the brakes work, the way you shift and using a clutch. Plus I've never been to Road Atlanta, and never saw it until today, so the track takes some getting used to.
"The car wasn't too big of a surprise or handful," she said.
Rahal and Patrick have been working behind the scenes for the past several weeks, talking to various teams in the American Le Mans Series to try and put together a ride for Patrick in as many races as possible in the remaining part of the 2003 season and beyond. The Orbit Porsche competes in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series, but the search has not been limited to GT class teams.
"I feel that it's important for a driver to drive in different types of racing," said Rahal, who won the Indy classic in 1986 and was CART champion in 1986, 1987 and 1992. He also enjoyed success in sports car racing, winning the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1987.
"At Danica's age, and with her lack of experience, racing in this series will really help her," said Rahal. "The more you do as a driver, the more you learn. And endurance racing is really good for a driver because you learn how to take care of a car and when to race."
Rahal would also like for Patrick's sports car racing career to include racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the event upon which the American Le Mans Series is based. Twenty-one teams from the series will compete at Le Mans June 14-15, then hustle back to Road Atlanta for the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta. Forty cars are expected to compete in the event.
"Danica is very much committed to road racing," said Rahal. "The idea of her going to Le Mans, and possibly being the first woman to win that race overall, is not out of the question. I feel that she certainly has the capability."
Patrick joined Team Rahal in 2002 and is running the full Atlantic schedule this year. The Beloit, Wis., native started racing at age 10 and was a three-time national karting champion and 10-time Great Lakes/Midwest regional karting champion. In 1998, she made her debut in England at the age of 16 in the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series, then ran a full season in 1999. In 2000, she finished second at the Formula Ford Festival in England, the highest finish ever for an American in the prestigious event. She raced in the British Zetek Formula Ford championship in 2001, then returned to America.
In 2002, she won the Long Beach Grand Prix Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, then ran a limited Barber-Dodge Pro Series schedule for Team Rahal in preparation for 2003.
"I've always wanted to do Le Mans-type racing, and longer races," she said. "I would love to be back here in June and hope to have the opportunity."