Notes of interest 2003-07-09

** CALIFORNIA AND CANADA NEXT - The professional sports car racing drivers and teams of the American Le Mans Series will return to action with back-to-back weekends of racing in California and Canada starting later this month as the series kicks...

** CALIFORNIA AND CANADA NEXT - The professional sports car racing drivers and teams of the American Le Mans Series will return to action with back-to-back weekends of racing in California and Canada starting later this month as the series kicks off a segment of seven races in nine weeks.

Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point) in Sonoma, Calif., will host the American Le Mans Series July 25-27, with the series running a two-hour, 45-minute event on Sunday, July 27. The Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa and Foster's Lager will mark the fifth consecutive year that the ALMS has raced at the facility.

The series will then quickly travel across North America to Quebec for the Aug. 1-3 running of Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres on the famous Trois-Rivieres street circuit.

The busiest segment of the 2003 season continues two weeks later at Mosport International Raceway near Toronto Aug. 15-17, followed a week later by an event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Aug. 22-24. After a weekend off, the series will then be back in California at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Sept. 5-7.

** PIRRO TO DRIVE AUDI R8 IN CHINA - Former American Le Mans Series champion Emanuele Pirro has an extraordinary date on his calendar this Sunday (July 11) as he will drive an Audi R8 Prototype on a demonstration run through the streets of Bejing, China.

The Audi R8 will be the same machine in which Pirro, Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen won their third consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2002. To coincide with the market launch of the Audi A8 road car in China, Pirro will drive the powerful 610 horsepower racing sports car along Chan An Avenue, Bejing's splendid boulevard, amd make a lap of the "Forbidden City" before finally stopping in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel where the Audi R8 will be put on display.

"It will definitely be an incredible experience," said Pirro, an Audi works driver who was the 2001 ALMS champion in the LMP 900 class. "China is a large, expanding country with a very unique culture. Motorsport is still relatively unknown in China. That's the reason why I am really looking forward to being able to present the Audi R8 to so many people in the city center."

Pirro will return to China at the end of July to show the Audi R8 in action on a race track close to Bejing.

** LAMBORGHINI DEBUT GETTING CLOSER - The much-anticipated debut of Lamborghini in the American Le Mans Series is getting closer to reality following a successful recent test of the exotic sports car in Germany.

VICI Racing will campaign the Lamborghini in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series when it begins competition later this season. The team tested the car for two days at Germany's Hockenheim circuit and all involved were reportedly pleased with the results.

"It's a very fast car, a sturdy, reliable and fun to drive automobile," said Argentina's Gaston Mazzacane, former Formula One competitor who drove the Lamborghini in the test. "It accepts setup changes easily and improves its performance steadily. I feel very comfortable driving it and I am happy to be a part of the Lamborghini project with VICI Racing."

"It has been a long road," said VICI Racing President Ron Meixner. "But seeing the car in action it was well worth it."

VICI Racing will set up a shop in Florida while competing in the American Le Mans Series.

** COLLINS TIES ALMS RECORD - With his GTS class win in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, Corvette Racing driver Kelly Collins became one of only two drivers in American Le Mans Series history to have won a race in all five seasons that the series has existed. The other is Sascha Maassen, driver for Alex Job Racing, who won the GT class in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Collins scored a GT class win at Sebring in 1999 in the inaugural race for the series, and has now won in GTS every year since 2000. He has three GTS wins at Road Atlanta, having won twice in the Petit Le Mans, and also tied Maassen for the honor of the most ALMS wins at Road Atlanta.

Collins, from Corona del Mar, Calif., enjoys his easy-going California lifestyle away from the race track but is strictly business behind the wheel. He and co-driver Oliver Gavin are a new duo this year and the #4 Corvette has been fast in all of its events this season but plagued by problems.

"The team is working hard," Collins said. "Oliver and I are new teammates and this is bonding time for the new team. We drove hard and pushed hard at Road Atlanta and finally got the results we wanted."

** INTERSPORT CAR SETS TWO ALMS MARKS - When it finished third in the recent Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta, the Intersport Racing Lola EX257-MG set some new standards for the LMP 675 class in American Le Mans Series competition.

Jon Field and Duncan Dayton steered the car to the LMP 675 class win and third place overall, the highest finish ever in ALMS competition for a car from the LMP 675 class. Intersport shattered the previous record of seventh, which it had set at Sebring in 2002 and which KnightHawk Racing tied in last year's event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

In completing 126 laps of the 128 run in the event, the Intersport team completed 98.44 percent of the race, also a record for a car from the LMP 675 class. The previous record of 97.54 percent was set by KnightHawk last year at Miami, when the team finished eighth overall.

The victory also gave the Lola EX257-MG its seventh win in the American Le Mans Series, the most of any type of car in the LMP 675 class.

** QUICK NOTES - The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta was the 40th race held since the formation of the American Le Mans Series in 1999. By not competing in the event, Jan Magnussen surrendered his place as the only driver to have contested all events in series history .. The win by ADT Champion Racing's Audi R8 at Road Atlanta may have been the team's first ALMS win, but it was the 25th win by an Audi R8, the most of any car in series history. The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R has 19 wins to rank second .. JJ Lehto's win in the ADT Champion Audi at Road Atlanta was his series-leading 26th finish in the top three. Ron Fellows and Sascha Maassen are tied for second with 25 each ..

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Series ALMS
Drivers Gaston Mazzacane , Duncan Dayton , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Ron Fellows , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Kelly Collins , Oliver Gavin , Corona del Mar , Alex Job , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Alex Job Racing