** AMERICAN TEAM TO FIELD PROTOTYPE IN 2003 -- American Spirit Racing, a front-running entry in the Trans-Am Series, has announced that it will field a car in the American Le Mans Series beginning in the 2003 season. The team will run a Prototype...
** AMERICAN TEAM TO FIELD PROTOTYPE IN 2003 -- American Spirit Racing, a front-running entry in the Trans-Am Series, has announced that it will field a car in the American Le Mans Series beginning in the 2003 season. The team will run a Prototype in the LMP 900 class, the fastest and most exotic cars in the series.
"The American Le Mans Series has established itself as the premier endurance road racing series in the world," said Jon Lewis, CEO of American Spirit Racing. "From our humble beginnings in 1987, endurance racing has always been our strong point. The American Le Mans Series offers tremendous international coverage and national promotion and we feel the premier LMP 900 class is the only choice for us to compete in."
Details as to the driver lineup, which car/engine package will be campaigned and announcement of marketing partnerships will be forthcoming in the next few months, Lewis said.
"We want to time our announcement correctly to provide our marketing partners with the most value for their investment," said Lewis. "What I can say at this time is that we have made a decision as to the chassis/engine combination and one of our drivers. The program is going to be extremely high-profile in both promotion and performance."
Lewis also indicated that the team would continue its effort in the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup. Michael Lewis drove the AmeriSuites Jaguar XKR to victory in 2001 at Road America, scoring the first win in Trans-Am for a fuel-injected engine in more than a decade.
** TEAM OLIVE GARDEN FEEDS 1,075 HUNGRY FAMILIES -- The Olive Garden "Drive Against Hunger" program in the American Le Mans Series helped feed 1,075 hungry families during the recently-completed 2002 racing season.
The program is simple. For each lap the Team Olive Garden/Coca-Cola Ferrari completes in a race, the local Olive Garden restaurant hosts a hungry family identified by the area's Second Harvest Food Bank. In their eight races this season, Italian drivers Emanuele Naspetti, Mimmo Schiattarella and Max Papis covered a total of 1,075 laps. In turn, Olive Garden extended a like number of invitations to hungry families to enjoy a hearty meal at the many Olive Garden restaurants nearby the racing venues.
"Every time I see the children we help, it makes me wish we could go faster and drive farther," said Schiattarella. "Especially the last few races of the season we hoped to make over 1,000 laps in total and we made it thanks to my partners and everyone on Team Olive Garden."
The program just completed its third year in the American Le Mans Series and more than 14,000 meals have been served to the hungry. In addition, Olive Garden makes a large donation of food products to the Food Bank in each racing event community. Olive Garden has had a long relationship with Food Bank organizations across America.
** MAASSEN LOOKS TO ADD TO SERIES WIN RECORD -- Already the most winning driver in the four-year history of the American Le Mans Series, Sascha Maassen looks to add to that record when he returns to the series in 2003.
The German driver has 15 career wins on the series, all in the GT class, and the most of any driver in any class since the formation of the series in 1999. The 33-year-old Maassen had a personal-best seven wins in the recently-completed 2002 season, all with co-driver Lucas Luhr in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
Behind Maassen on the ALMS all-time wins list are Rinaldo Capello and Olivier Beretta, who have 14 wins each. Capello, driver for Audi Sport North America, had five wins in 2002 and all 14 of his wins have been in the LMP 900 class. Beretta scored all of his wins in 1999 and 2000 while driving Dodge Vipers for Team ORECA in the GTS class.
With the exception of the 2000 season, in which he scored five wins with the late Bob Wollek for Dick Barbour Racing, all of Maassen's wins have been with the Job team. His first win came in the 1999 running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta when he was added to the Job lineup as a third driver.
Maassen and Luhr were co-champions of the GT class in 2002 and Job scored his first ALMS team championship as a car owner. Maassen and Luhr also set an ALMS record by scoring seven wins in 2002, the most in a single season in the GT class by any driver.
** FELLOWS TO START 2003 STILL CHASING RECORD -- Ron Fellows, driver for Corvette Racing in the American Le Mans Series, will start the 2003 season still trying to become the all-time series leader in pole positions.
Fellows won the first six poles of the 2002 season in the GTS class, therefore entering into a tie with Olivier Beretta for the most poles in series history in any class at 14. Beretta won all of his poles in 1999 and 2000 while driving Dodge Vipers in the GTS class for Team ORECA.
But after winning the pole for the ALMS event at Trois-Rivieres in early August, Fellows was shut out in qualifying for the last four races of the season. He was beaten twice by the Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller and twice by Tomas Enge in a Ferrari 550 Maranello.
Though he didn't take sole possession of the poles record, Fellows still enjoyed a stellar season that included winning the GTS class driving championship and scoring wins in seven of the 10 events held for the series. He also was part of the GTS class-winning team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second straight year.
Corvettes won nine races in the GTS class in 2002, giving it 17 wins in the series and moving the marque past Dodge Viper as the most winning in the GTS class in series history.
** QUICK NOTES -- Frank Biela won six poles in 2002 for Audi Sport North America, setting a record for the most LMP 900 poles in a single season. The previous record of four was shared by Alan McNish (2000) and Rinaldo Capello (2001) --. Alan McNish, the 2000 LMP 900 champion in the ALMS, tested an Indy Racing League car for car owner Roger Penske at The California Speedway earlier this week. McNish spent the 2002 season driving for Toyota in Formula One but is uncertain about his plans for the 2003 season and may return to sports car racing --. JJ Lehto, who finished third overall and in the LMP 900 class in the 2002 season finale for the ALMS at Road Atlanta, is the series' all-time leader in top-three finishes with 24. Rinaldo Capello, Ron Fellows and Sascha Maassen have 23 finishes in the top three each --. Lehto is tied with Johnny O'Connell at 28 for the most top-five finishes in series history --. Michelin, which has been the winning tire in the LMP 900 class in all but one ALMS race since the formation of the series, will provide tires for Team Bentley for its runs in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003.