Lotus Elise to debut at Sebring

BRASELTON, Ga. - One of the most revered and successful automotive marques in racing history, Lotus, will debut on the American Le Mans Series in 2004 as Team Elite fields a Lotus Elise in a full season of competition in the professional sports...

BRASELTON, Ga. - One of the most revered and successful automotive marques in racing history, Lotus, will debut on the American Le Mans Series in 2004 as Team Elite fields a Lotus Elise in a full season of competition in the professional sports car racing series.

The full-bodied, green-and-yellow Lotus Elise will compete in the LMP 1 class of the American Le Mans Series beginning with the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway Mar. 17-20.

The team has announced that former Formula One winner Johnny Herbert will assist with the car's testing and development prior to the Sebring event. Herbert, who won four times on the ALMS last season with ADT Champion Racing, has a history with Lotus, being one of the British marque's last F1 drivers. Drivers for the Sebring event and the rest of the ALMS season will be announced at a later date.

Team Elite, a division of Elite Motorsports Management, plans to use 2004 as a test and development season in preparation for a full two-car assault on the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to campaign the Elise in the ALMS," said Keith Smout, Team Elite principal. Smout was Commercial Director for both the BAR and Jaguar Formula One teams before returning to Canada in 2002.

"This is an exciting year for Lotus with 2004 being the 50th anniversary of Team Lotus, and the launching of the Lotus Elise street car to the North American market, of which Road and Track called 'The Purest Sports Car on the Planet,'" said Gary Ankenmann, Director of Team Elite. Ankenmann, who has been involved in commercial marketing for seven years, will run the team's operations on a day-to-day basis from Toronto. The racing team will be based in the Florida shop of JB Racing, Inc., with Technical Director Jim Higgs.

Team partners include Park 'N Fly Canada, Kwikpower International and Jacques Villeneuve - Sonax Car Care Products. Negotiations with tire companies and other sponsors continue. In addition to a full season of American Le Mans Series action, the team may also enter some races in the new Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe.

The 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, and will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442 (toll-free 800-626-RACE).

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Jacques Villeneuve
Teams Team Lotus