American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest ** ALMS RETURNS TO ACTION JUNE 27-29 -- The American Le Mans Series will return to action with the running of the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta June 27-29 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. The...
American Le Mans Series Notes of Interest
** ALMS RETURNS TO ACTION JUNE 27-29 -- The American Le Mans Series will return to action with the running of the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta June 27-29 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. The 2003 season started with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
The American Le Mans Series builds its annual calendar of events around the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the event upon which the series is based, to give teams that wish to compete at Le Mans the opportunity to do so. Twenty-one racing teams that regularly compete in ALMS events will contest the French racing classic June 14-15.
The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta will be the first of eight races remaining in the 2003 season for the American Le Mans Series. Following the Road Atlanta event, the series will have a couple of weeks off before a race at Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point) in California on July 29, beginning a busy stretch of six races in 10 weeks.
The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, which will be a timed race of two hours and 45 minutes, will be televised live by CBS Sports in North America and on a same-day taped delay by Eurosport in Europe. Live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web of ALMS qualifying and racing can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.
** SPEED CHANNEL LIVE AT LE MANS -- American race fans will be able to watch live coverage of more than half of next weekend's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the SPEED Channel cable television channel.
There will be 19 American drivers in the field at Le Mans, and 21 racing teams from the American Le Mans Series. The American Le Mans Series, founded in 1999 and based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has helped Americans regain interest in the classic French endurance sports car racing event, with growth each year since the formation of the series. ALMS Founder Don Panoz has been named Grand Marshal for this year's Le Mans event as a gesture of appreciation by the event organizers.
SPEED Channel's coverage will begin with at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, June 14, with a 30-minute pre-race show and then three hours of live racing. SPEED will then return to Le Mans several times throughout the race for updates and live coverage, ending with three hours and the finish of the race starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, June 15.
A complete SPEED Channel broadcast schedule for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is available online at www.speedtv.com.
** LEITZINGER PREPARED FOR DIFFERENT LE MANS VIEW -- Most of the time when he races, Butch Leitzinger is at the wheel of Dyson Racing's Lola EX257-MG Prototype, a car that is capable of scoring overall wins in American Le Mans Series competition.
However, the State College, Pa., driver will have a different perspective in the June 14-15 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he shares a GT-class Ferrari 360 Modena. Instead of racing at the front of the pack in an ultra-fast Prototype, Leitzinger will contest the class win in what is normally the slowest class of cars in Le Mans-style racing.
For the past two years, Leitzinger has raced at Le Mans in the Bentley Prototype. The 2003 event, his sixth appearance at Le Mans, will also be his first race with the combined Risi Competizione-ACEMCO Motorsports team, co-driving with Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., and Johnny Mowlem of England. He drove the car for the first time in the May 4 test day at the 8.625-mile circuit.
"Getting used to driving GT cars is actually pretty tough," said Leitzinger, a longtime veteran of American sports car racing who has many race wins and titles to his credit. "Just because those cars are slower than Prototypes, it doesn't mean they are easier to drive. In some ways, they are more difficult.
"Prototypes handle so well and they have a lot of downforce," he said. "You can hustle them and then stand on it when you need to. GT cars don't have nearly as much downforce and driving them is a balancing act."
GT cars are constantly overtaken by faster Prototypes and GTS cars in competition, while they are also racing their own race. Leitzinger is familiar with that approach to racing after spending the early years of his racing career in slower cars. "It's been 10 years," he said. "I was a bit worried about that in the testing session, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. There are only 50 cars and it's more than eight miles around the track. It's not the same as 60 cars at Sebring.
"Having driven both types of cars helps you know what to look for," he said. "When you're in a Prototype, some GT drivers fight you every corner, try to outbrake you and they end up slowing everyone down. A Prototype driver in a GT car, if you are able to recognize when it's time to brake or not, it helps."
Leitzinger used the test session at Le Mans to get used to the car, but feels that he knows his place with the team. "It's a good little car, and the co-drivers are good," he said. "They are used to GT racing and are familiar with the car and know the setups. I'm just going over there as a third guy who won't talk too much and will just do his time in the car the best that he can."
Leitzinger will return to the Dyson team when the American Le Mans Series schedule resumes at Road Atlanta June 27-29.
** DORAN TEAM UPDATES DALLARA FOR ROAD ATLANTA -- The Doran-Lista Racing Dallara-MG Prototype is receiving updating and refreshing before the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta. Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard Sr. will co-drive the car in the next round of the American Le Mans Series.
"We did a fair amount of work on the sub-assemblies since Sebring, and they're all finished," said team owner Kevin Doran. "The gearbox is ready. Most of the bodywork is ready too. We're repainting a tail and some small crash damage that required some bodywork from Sebring, but all of that is partially done to completely done. And we're building a brand-new spare tail too."
A successful professional sports car racing team for many years, the Doran Lista team returned to American Le Mans Series competition for 2003 after several years away from the series. The team plans to contest as many of the nine rounds of the series as possible this season.
** BIELA DRIVES AUDI R8 ON THE NORDSCHLEIFE -- American Le Mans Series driver Frank Biela was thrilled this past weekend when he had the opportunity to drive an Audi R8 Prototype on a ceremonial lap around the famous Nordschleife circuit in Germany prior to the start of a 24-hour touring car race at the Nurburgring.
Biela, a German who now lives in Monaco, described the lap around the 26-kilometer circuit as "mind-blowing." The last sports car race on the Nordschleife was held in 1983, and Biela's lap in the most successful sports car of current times led a mini-revival. Some 194,000 spectators on hand for the race witnessed the demonstration.
"Up to now I've driven the R8 many thousands of kilometers on the most different race circuits," said Biela, co-winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. "But the lap around the Nordschleife was something very magical."
Biela will co-dive with Marco Werner for Infineon Team Joest in the remaining events on the American Le Mans Series schedule this season. He will drive for Audi Sport UK in an Audi R8 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans June 14-15 as he seeks his fourth consecutive win in the famed French endurance racing event.
** TERRY BORCHELLER COMPETES IN BAJA 500 -- American Le Mans Series driver Terry Borcheller was smiling after his first Baja 500 competition this past weekend. Although he usually races cars, he joined fellow Phoenix resident Buddy Stubbs for the grueling 500-mile motorcycle race from Ensenada, Calif., through Mexico. Borcheller got more challenge than he expected when the third rider on the team wasn't able to compete. "It was just an unbelievable experience," Borcheller said. "We were anticipating three riders and one of the riders couldn't make it, so Buddy and I did 425 miles of the 500. There was an 18-hour time limit and we had a problem with the bike that put us down for about two hours. If it hadn't been for that, we would have finished in the top 10." Feeling every bump of the course, Borcheller was grateful to sponsor Alpinestars for providing a pair of Tech 8 professional motocross boots. "They performed awesome," he said. "About the only thing that doesn't hurt on my body is my feet." An estimated 200,000 spectators watched the race, contested by 200 off-road vehicles and 75 motorcycles. The race was an extra event for Borcheller's sponsors K&N Performance Filters, Infinity2 Nutrition, Dark Dog, Alpinestars, Bell Helmets, Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, Gatorz Eyewear and Goodyear.
Borcheller will drive a Ferrari 360 Modena for Risi Competizione in the 24 Hours of Le Mans June 14-15, then will return to American Le Mans Series action with the same team in the June 27-29 Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta. He was the 2001 GTS class champion in the series.