** BMW SETS SCHNITZER DRIVING TEAM: Two of the most successful drivers in the American Le Mans Series for the past two seasons will remain with the series in 2001 as part of a remarkable team of drivers put together by BMW and Schnitzer ...
** BMW SETS SCHNITZER DRIVING TEAM: Two of the most successful drivers in the American Le Mans Series for the past two seasons will remain with the series in 2001 as part of a remarkable team of drivers put together by BMW and Schnitzer Motorsport.
JJ Lehto of Finland and Jorg Muller of Germany will be two of the four drivers for Schnitzer's new effort with the BMW M3 in the GT class of the ALMS in 2001. They will be joined in the stable by Dirk Muller of Germany, the 2000 ALMS GT champion driver, and Sweden's Fredrik Ekblom.
Lehto, 34, and Jorg Muller, 31, spent the 2000 season as teammates in the BMW V12 LMR Prototype that was fielded by Schnitzer. Competing in a car that was in its last year of racing, the duo scored overall ALMS wins at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., and at England's Silverstone circuit. The two also won the 12 Hours at Sebring in 1999, and Lehto co-drove with another driver to three other ALMS wins that year.
Lehto and Jorg Muller will again be working with Charley Lamm, team manager for Schnitzer Motorsport.
Dirk Muller, 25, was a four-time ALMS class winner in 2000 while driving the Dick Barbour Racing Porsche. The 30-year-old Ekblom has American open-wheel racing experience in CART, and has been in the Swedish Super Touring Car Championship the past three years.
"This team and these drivers are top-notch," said Gerhard Berger, BMW Motorsport Director. "In terms of manpower, we have the best prerequisite for making our M3 class-leader in America."
BMW is preparing the race version of the new M3 in Munich, Germany. Four cars are being produced, with two going to Schnitzer and two to the American-based BMW Team PTG. The new cars will not be ready for the ALMS season opener at Texas Motor Speedway on Mar. 4, but will most likely debut at Sebring on Mar. 17.
** MURRY JOINS NEW TEAM FOR 2001: David Murry, who has competed in nearly every race since the ALMS was founded in 1999, has joined forces with Kelly Moss Racing of Madison, Wis., for the 2001 ALMS campaign. The team will field two Porsche 911 GT3 R cars in the GT class.
Murry and a driver to be named will co-drive one of the cars, while Rick Polk will drive the other car with a co-driver to be named. The paint scheme and car numbers are not yet determined. The team will debut in the season opener at Texas on Mar. 4.
Murry, who lives in Atlanta, spent most of the 2000 season co-driving with Johnny Mowlem for Skea Racing International, but Murry and the team parted ways after the Las Vegas race in October. Murry and Mowlem scored a GT class victory in the ALMS race that was held at California's Laguna Seca Raceway in 1999.
Kelly Moss Racing, which has not raced professionally since 1994, has a successful past, including winning the World Challenge Championship and the Porsche Cup in that season.
"We are both very serious about success," said Murry. "We will do whatever we can in our power to win."
** BERETTA TO DRIVE NEW CHRYSLER PROTOTYPE: Olivier Beretta, two-time American Le Mans Series driving champion in the GTS class, has been named by Chrysler Team ORECA as one of its drivers for the new Mopar-powered Prototype for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Beretta will co-drive with Yannick Dalmas in the 69th running of the sports car endurance race in June. Team ORECA hopes to build on the success that it had with the Dodge Viper, which included two ALMS titles and numerous race wins, as well as three class victories at Le Mans.
The Chrysler LMP900 Prototype has been designed and developed by Chrysler engineers in Michigan, as well as the French ORECA group. In addition, Italian chassis builder Dallara has had significant input into the design.
** TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY TO OPEN SEASON: The 2001 American Le Mans Series season will open with the Grand Prix of Texas at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth on Sunday, Mar. 4.
Practice and qualifying for the two-hour, 45-minute race will be held on Saturday, Mar. 3. Sunday's race will be televised live on Speedvision, and Eurosport will have highlights on Mar. 11. Live coverage can also be heard online from the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at www.americanlemans.com.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.texasmotorspeedway.com. Information is also available from the speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500.
QUICK NOTES: Panoz Racing School has been named the Official Racing School of the American Le Mans Series. The school has locations at Mosport, Road Atlanta, Sebring and at Texas Motor Speedway .... ALMS driver Milka Duno, who will also be running a full Formula Nissan schedule in Europe this season, will test in Italy with her Formula Nissan team Jan. 30-31 .... Former Women's Global GT Series driver Audrey Zavodsky has been invited by the NFL Super Bowl American All Stars to speak and be part of Spirit Week. She will be in Tampa on Jan. 21 to address a group of 1,000 girls ranging in age from eight to 18 ....