American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest ** ALMS CARS RETURN TO THE TRACK IN 23 DAYS -- The wait for American Le Mans Series race fans is almost over. In just 23 days, cars from the series will begin practice for the next event, the May 19...
American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest
** ALMS CARS RETURN TO THE TRACK IN 23 DAYS -- The wait for American Le Mans Series race fans is almost over. In just 23 days, cars from the series will begin practice for the next event, the May 19 Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters at California's Sears Point Raceway.
The 2002 season started with the 50th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Dodge at Sebring International Raceway on March 16, and was to continue in Miami on April 7. However, the Grand Prix Americas was shifted to October 5, creating a spectacular doubleheader with the CART FedEx Championship Series on the Miami Downtown Street Circuit.
ALMS fans and participants now eagerly await the Sears Point event to resume the season. The two-hour, 45-minute race will start at 1 p.m. (PDT) and will be televised live by SPEED Channel. Live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web can be heard online at www.imsaracing.net.
Ticket information is available online at www.searspoint.com or by calling the Sears Point Raceway ticket office at -800-870-RACE.
** PETERSEN TO RETURN AT SEARS POINT -- Petersen Motorsports, a mainstay on the American Le Mans Series the past two years, will return to racing in the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters at California's Sears Point Raceway on Sunday, May 19.
The Las Vegas-based team has entered a Porsche 911 GT3 RS in the Sears Point event, with Randy Pobst of Melbourne, Fla., Johnny Mowlem of England and Michael Petersen of Las Vegas, Nev., listed as drivers. Mowlem drove for the team last year, while Petersen is owner/driver. Pobst, who drove for Alex Job Racing the past two seasons, will be making his debut with the team.
Though it appeared at all events held for the series in 2001, and most of the races in 2000, the team did not race earlier this year at Sebring and was expected to take a year off from racing. Sponsors for the team include MPIE, Westward Ho Casino, PAWS, Justice Brothers and Pirelli.
** SEARS POINT HAS PRODUCED COMPETITIVE RACING -- Sears Point Raceway has produced some of the most competitive racing in the brief history of the American Le Mans Series. The 2.52-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit hosts the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters on May 19.
Sears Point Raceway is one of five venues on the 2002 ALMS schedule that has hosted an event for the series every year since 1999. The others are Sebring International Raceway, Road Atlanta, Mosport International Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
LMP 900 (Prototype) competition at Sears Point has been dominated by German manufacturers, with BMW the 1999 winner, and Audi the 2000 and 2001 victor. Each race winner started from the pole, won by Lehto for BMW in 1999, by Allan McNish for Audi in 2000, and by Rinaldo Capello for Audi in 2001. McNish set Fast Lap in 2000, Lehto in 1999 as each winner scored a "sweep" of the honors before 2001 ended that streak as runnerup Audi driver Frank Biela set Fast Lap.
Capello's 2001 co-driver was Tom Kristensen, McNish's 2000 co-driver was Capello while Lehto was teamed with Steve Soper in 1999. Capello leads in Sears Point LMP 900 wins with two, including two consecutive. The 1999 BMW victory margin was only 2.236 seconds over a Panoz. Audi scored a 1-2 in 2000 as the winner won by a lap over its teammates and in 2001 another Audi 1-2 saw the winners 6.674 seconds ahead of their teammates.
The Chevrolet Corvette C5R GTS effort scored a GTS 1-2 in 2001, also finishing fifth and sixth overall with both cars on the same lap. The Konrad Saleen S7R was third in GTS, two laps behind the class winners, and 16th overall. Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell won GTS from second in class starting position with their runnerup teammates Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins starting third in class. Terry Borcheller put the Konrad Saleen on the GTS pole, starting eighth overall, and also set GTS Fast Lap.
The ORECA Dodge Viper team won GTS in both 1999 and 2000. Olivier Beretta was GTS Fast Qualifier, set GTS Fast Lap, and won GTS by a lap in 1999 teamed with David Donohue; a Corvette finished second. In 2000, Donohue won again, this time teamed with Tommy Archer, after they started second in GTS. Beretta and Karl Wendlinger finished second in GTS, on the same lap. Wendlinger was GTS Fast Qualifier and also set GTS Fast Lap.
In 1999, the GTS winners finished 17th overall but in 2000 the GTS winners finished eighth overall.
BMW and Porsche have split the Sears Point ALMS GT victories. BMW Team PTG won in 1999 with an M3 driven by Boris Said and Hans Stuck. They started third in class but won GT with a finish of 22nd overall as the top two GT finishers were on the same lap. Dirk Muller was GT Fast Qualifier and set GT Fast Lap in an Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3R.
In 2000, Muller was GT Fast Qualifier for Dick Barbour Racing in a Porsche 911 GT3R. Teamed with Lucas Luhr, Muller set GT Fast Lap en route to winning the GT class (after Said and Stuck were disqualified from the win for a fuel tank infraction). The 1-2 GT finishers were on the same lap, with Muller and Luhr finishing 10th overall.
In 2001 Dirk Muller was GT Fast Qualifier in a Schnitzer BMW M3 GTR, scoring his third consecutive Sears Point GT pole. Muller's qualifying time ranked 12th overall. Lehto won GT in another Schnitzer BMW M3 GTR after he and co-driver Jorg Muller started fourth in class (15th overall). The GT runner-up, on the same lap as Lehto/Jorg Muller, was the Said/Stuck PTG BMW M3 GTR. The GT Top Five finishers took seventh through 11th place overall. Bill Auberlen set GT Fast Lap in a PTG BMW M3 GTR. The leading non-BMW in GT, the Alex Job Porsche 911 GT3 RS, finished fifth in class and 11th overall, two laps behind the class winners.
The LMP 675 class made its debut in 2001 and the only starter, the Barbour Reynard 01Q-Judd, started ninth overall and finished thirteenth overall. John Graham qualified the car, Didier DeRadigues set LMP 675 Fast Lap, and Milka Duno completed the car's driving trio. The win was the first in ALMS competition for all three drivers.
** PORSCHE TEAMS JOIN SEARS POINT FIELD -- Two private racing teams have entered three Porsche race cars in the May 19 Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters at California's Sears Point Raceway, the next race on the American Le Mans Series schedule.
Orbit has entered two Porsche 911 GT3 RS machines into the two-hour, 45-minute sports car endurance race, while J3 Racing has entered one. The three cars will contest victory in the GT class of the four-class race.
Orbit faces a busy time over the next two months. In addition to running two cars at Sears Point, the Florida-based team was also accepted into the field for the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The team will send its cars and equipment to France for a special practice session at the Circuit de la Sarthe on May 5, then will need to be back in the states and ready to go at Sears Point. After the ALMS event, the team will need to return to Le Mans for the race on June 15-16.
The #42 Orbit Porsche will be co-driven at Sears Point by Gary Schultheis of Boca Raton, Fla., and Tony Kester of Beverly Shores, Ind., while the #43 Orbit Porsche will be steered by Leo Hindery of Hillsborough, Calif., and Peter Baron of San Mateo, Calif.
For Baron, who lives just south of San Francisco, the event at Sears Point will be one of two "home" races for him this year on the ALMS schedule. The Sept. 22 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be the other.
The J3 team is a new entry this year on the ALMS. Drivers for the team at Sears Point will be Justin Jackson of Buford, Ga., and Mike Fitzgerald of Fountain Hills, Az.