Pirelli Returns To U.S. Road Racing At Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 14, 2002 -- In the racing industry fifty candles on your birthday cake usually means you're past your prime. But in terms of the 50th anniversary of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of...
Pirelli Returns To U.S. Road Racing At Sebring
SEBRING, Fla., March 14, 2002 -- In the racing industry fifty candles on your birthday cake usually means you're past your prime. But in terms of the 50th anniversary of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Dodge on Saturday, March 16, it just means one hell of a party. The same thing can be said for Pirelli Tires, the Milan-based tire company, that returns to U.S. road racing at the classic south Florida endurance race after a year's sabbatical.
Celebrating its 95th year of top-level motorsports competition this year, Pirelli has had numerous successes in the U.S. in recent years, including two straight IMSA World Sports Car Championships (Fermin Velez racing Team Scandia's Ferrari 333 SP in 1995 and Wayne Taylor driving Doyle Racing's Oldsmobile in 1996) and three-straight IMSA GTS championships with Porsche. They also helped Saleen/Allen Speedlab win the "Triple Crown" (Drivers', Manufacturers' and Team Championships) of the inaugural Grand-Am season in 2000. Since returning to sports car racing in 1995, Pirelli has won four class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, including two overall titles.
Pirelli's "dance card" for the oldest sports car race in North America is fairly impressive too. Focusing on GTS and GT customers only in 2002, Pirelli earlier announced a renewed relationship with Saleen. Returning to defend its GTS-class win in last year's race, Konrad Motorsports will have two Saleen S7Rs at Sebring. Franz Konrad and Terry Borcheller, 2001 ALMS GTS Drivers' Champion, will defend in last year's winning car (No. 26) ably assisted by Toni Seiler of Switzerland. Also at Sebring will be the No. 83 Graham Nash Motorsports' Saleen S7R driven by Ian McKellar of England, Thomas Erdos of Brazil and Ron Johnson of Laguna Beach, Calif.
McKellar was the 2001 GTS Drivers' Champion in the European Le Mans Series driving the RML Saleen S7R to the Team and Manufacturers' Championships. Johnson was the 2000 GTS Drivers' Champion in the inaugural Grand-Am season racing a Saleen Mustang to the Team and Manufacturers' Championships.
The factory Corvettes are back to challenge the Saleens, as well as a stable of Ferrari 550 Maranellos and a nest of Vipers, including the No. 46 Pirelli-shod Viper GTS-R of Team Carsport Holland driven by Mike Hezemans of the Netherlands, Anthony Kumpen of Belgium and Luca Cappellari of Italy. Two American Viperacing GTS-Rs will also be competing on Pirellis with Tom Weickardt, Mark Bunting and Simon Gregg in the No. 44 car and Shane Lewis, Rick Fairbanks and Norm Goldrich in the No. 45 Viper.
In a strong GT class at Sebring, Pirelli will field a pair of Ferrari 360 Modenas (Nos. 31 and 32) from JMB Racing led by Italians Andre Garbagnati and Andrea Montermini. Also entered in the Ferraris are Americans Jon Vannini, Peter Argentsinger and Ryan Hunter-Reay and Brazilian Oswaldo Negri. Two PK Sport Porsche GT3s should also prove to be very competitive with Robin Liddell of England, and Fabio Babini and Giovanni Anapoli, both of Italy, in the lead No. 60 Porsche and Piers Masarati of England, Canadian Basil Demeroutis and Keith Alexander of New York in the No. 61 entry.
Founded in 1872, the Pirelli Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of tires for most cars and light trucks plus cables for telecommunications, electronic data and power transmission. Pirelli tires are fitted as original equipment to more than 350 different vehicle models, from the world's most powerful supercars to modest gas, diesel and electricity-driven city cars.
Pirelli Tire North America makes a full range of car tires developed specifically for the North American motorist and has ten percent of the country's ultra-high performance car tire market. The company is also an important player in the North American SUV/light truck tire market.
The race will be televised live nationally in the U.S. on the SPEED Channel beginning at 10:30 a.m. (EST) on Saturday, March 16, and tape delayed on Eurosport at 8 p.m. (Central European Time) on Sunday, March 24. Fans can listen to live coverage of the race on the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at www.AmericanLeMans.com.