Notes of Interest 2003-07-16

** BRIGGS CUNNINGHAM TO BE REMEMBERED - The American Le Mans Series and its race teams will honor the memory of American sports car racing pioneer Briggs Swift Cunningham during the running of the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at California's ...

** BRIGGS CUNNINGHAM TO BE REMEMBERED - The American Le Mans Series and its race teams will honor the memory of American sports car racing pioneer Briggs Swift Cunningham during the running of the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at California's Infineon Raceway July 25-27.

The ALMS will provide small decals with the initials "BSC" to race teams to carry on their cars during the event weekend in memory of Cunningham, who died three weeks ago at the age of 96.

Cunningham was a proponent of international sports car competition during the infancy of road racing in North America, and built the famed Cunningham race cars, which recorded several victories during the early 1950s. The multi-talented Cunningham also skippered the Columbia to win the 1958 America's Cup.

In 1950, Cunningham brought the first major American racing effort to Le Mans. A Cunningham also won the first ever FIA World Championship sports car race at Sebring in 1953, driven by John Fitch and Phil Walters. Cunningham himself drove several times at Le Mans, finishing fourth in 1952. Cunningham's designs helped establish American-built automobiles as credible Le Mans competitors, winning the respect of European and American motorsports enthusiasts.

There are remarkable similarities in the racing accomplishments of Briggs Cunningham and ALMS founder Don Panoz. Both men fielded race teams featuring namesake racecars, and both brought their teams to Le Mans, reviving American interest in international sports car competition. Both men also established road racing organizations in the United States. Cunningham co-founded America's first road racing sanctioning body in 1934, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA). Although it disbanded during World War II, it eventually became the basis for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Panoz established the American Le Mans Series in 1999, after bringing his race team to the famous French circuit for the first time in 1997.

"Briggs Cunningham is a very significant figure in the history of sports car racing in the United States," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "We hope that this small gesture of appreciation will help modern-day fans and competitors understand the vital role that he played in forging a relationship between America and the organizers of Le Mans, a relationship that continues today with the American Le Mans Series."

** ALMS SPORTS CARS TO RIDE IN SACRAMENTO -- The high-powered world of politics will be traded in for the high-speed excitement of American Le Mans Series sports cars on Tuesday, July 22, on the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento, Calif. The capitol building will be the starting point of a California Highway Patrol-escorted parade of five exotic sports cars through the streets of downtown Sacramento, culminating at Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats, one of the most successful minor league baseball teams in the country, and the Class AAA affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.

The parade will continue a week-long celebration of the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma, presented by the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa and Foster's Lager, which will take place at Infineon Raceway, July 25-27. Other events are planned throughout the week in San Jose, Napa, Berkeley and Petaluma.

Race fans are invited to the west steps of the state capitol beginning at 9 a.m. on July 22 to view these impressive machines, which feature upwards of 600 horsepower and can reach speeds in excess of 180 mph. Cars scheduled to take part in the parade include the Team ADT Champion Audi, JML Team Panoz, Team Bucknum Pilbeam, JMB Ferrari and the Racer's Group Porsche 911. The River Cats will also be part of the parade with their Booster Club Van, which will include Dinger, the team's mascot. The two-mile parade will begin at 3 p.m.

The parade is also an opportunity for the CHP to stress its "Street Legal" program, which encourages motorists to refrain from illegal street racing. The message is simple: If a high-powered racecar can abide by city speed limit laws, everyone should.

"We want to leave the racing to the professionals, like the American Le Mans Series drivers who will be racing at Infineon Raceway," said Arthur Anderson, Chief of the CHP's Valley Division. "Our goal is to keep our streets safe and we hope everyone follows the laws to ensure that they remain safe."

Drivers set to participate in the ride include JJ Lehto, 1995 overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the 2001 overall winner at Infineon Raceway; San Rafael's Kevin Buckler, 2002 GT class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; Eliseo Salazar, who is best known from his racing days in Formula One, CART and the IndyCar Series; Gunnar Jeannette, the youngest driver ever to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans; and Jeff Bucknum, who posted three ALMS victories in the LMP 675 class in 2002.

"It is difficult to sit in a car such as the Audi R8 and not want to drive it to the limit," Lehto said. "But the message of the California Highway Patrol is a very important one and racing should be confined to the race track. Our team is looking forward to being part of this event in Sacramento and we always enjoy meeting the fans."

Once at Raley Field, fans can get up-close and personal with the drivers before the game, and enjoy a first-hand view of these sports cars. The festivities continue throughout the game with the Office of Traffic Safety sponsoring an autograph session, first-pitch festivities, and on-field promotions. Attendees will also be eligible to win prizes, including race merchandise and tickets to the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. The River Cats will play the Portland Beavers that night at 7:05 (for ticket information, visit www.rivercats.com) in what is being called Office of Traffic Safety ALMS Grand Prix of Sacramento Night.

** ALMS DRIVERS, CARS AT SAN JOSE CYBERRAYS GAME - Drivers and cars from the American Le Mans Series will be on hand at San Jose's Spartan Stadium this Sunday (July 20) when the WUSA's San Jose Cyberrays meet the Philadelphia Charge in a women's professional soccer match.

ALMS drivers Johnny Herbert, Gunnar Jeannette and Eliseo Salazar will greet fans before the match to sign autographs, and Herbert will be involved in the "coin toss" prior to the start of the match.

In addition, a Panoz LMP01 from JML Team Panoz and a Porsche 911 GT3 RS from The Racers Group will be on display in the stadium's Fan Zone. The match begins at 3 p.m. and the ALMS drivers will be available starting at 2 p.m.

Fans can bring their July 20th CyberRays ticket stub to the American Le Mans Series event at Infineon Raceway and receive a $10 discount off the raceway ticket price. They can also bring their Infineon Raceway ticket stub from the ALMS weekend and receive a Buy One Get One Free discount at the CyberRays game August 6 & 10.

** BORCHELLER JOINS ACEMCO, TO JUDGE BEAUTY PAGEANT - Terry Borcheller, a former champion in the American Le Mans Series, has joined the ACEMCO Motorsports team and will co-drive a GT class Ferrari 360 Modena with Shane Lewis in the upcoming event at Infineon Raceway.

Borcheller, a resident of Phoenix, Az., was the GTS class driving champion in 2001 in the ALMS. He spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons driving for Konrad Team Saleen, then started the 2003 season with the Risi Competizione Ferrari team. He drove for Risi in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The ACEMCO team moved to American Le Mans Series competition this year and is owned by Jeff Giangrande of Spring Hill, Mich. ACEMCO Automotive has been supplying metal stamping and welded assemblies to the automotive industry since 1947.

Borcheller will also be busy on another front as he and CART Champ Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will be judges at the first installment of the Miss Grand Prix Americas competition in Miami on July 17. The event will be at 8 p.m. at Miami's Radius Nightclub.

The Miss GPA Pageant is South Florida's ultimate sports model search, where beautiful contestants compete to represent the Grand Prix Americas. Both the American Le Mans Series and CART will hold races on the Miami city streets in the Sept. 26-28 event.

Miss GPA Pageant heats will be held throughout South Florida in July, August and September and the finals will be held on Wednesday of race week during the Grand Prix Americas Fan Fest at Bayside Marketplace.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Shane Lewis , Johnny Herbert , Eliseo Salazar , Kevin Buckler , Terry Borcheller , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Gunnar Jeannette , Jeff Bucknum , Don Panoz , JJ Lehto