Sears Point preview

INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2001) -- The 2001 season for the American Le Mans Series will be re-launched with the running of The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma at California's Sears Point Raceway on July 22, setting off a busy period of racing for the...

INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2001) -- The 2001 season for the American Le Mans Series will be re-launched with the running of The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma at California's Sears Point Raceway on July 22, setting off a busy period of racing for the sports car endurance racing series.

The series has not raced in North America since the 12 Hours at Sebring event in Florida in March, the second race of the 2001 season, but the Sears Point race will be the first of seven remaining to be run in the championship series. The long gap in the season schedule was designed to allow teams to compete in the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, as well as other European races.

The world's best sports car racing teams are now focused squarely on the American Le Mans Series, which will visit seven of North America's finest racing facilities in the next four months before crowning champions in late October.

Leading the charge to Sears Point will be the Le Mans-winning Audi Sport North America group, which finished first and second in France with its powerful Audi R8 Prototype sports car. Italian Rinaldo Capello, who leads the ALMS driver points following victories in the first two races of the season in March, will attempt to pick up where he left off at Sebring by winning at Sears Point. His co-driver will be Tom Kristensen of Denmark, one of the trio of Audi drivers who took victory at Le Mans in June.

Frank Biela of Germany and Emanuele Pirro of Italy, who co-drove with Kristensen at Le Mans, will steer the second car from the Audi factory team at Sears Point.

Two American manufacturers, Cadillac and Panoz, will challenge the German Audi team at Sears Point with a pair of Prototypes each, while several top private teams will also fight for the overall win.

As is the case in all ALMS events, there will also be races within the race as teams battle for class wins in the other three classes of competition in the series.

Corvette's factory team also comes back to America fresh from victory at Le Mans after taking honors in the GTS class. Canadian Ron Fellows, who led some of the recent NASCAR Winston Cup race at Sears Point, and American Johnny O'Connell will steer one of the machines, while Americans Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins will pilot the other. The Corvettes will races against at least one factory-backed entry from American muscle car builder Saleen as well as several privately-entered Dodge Vipers.

One of the race's hottest battles will be between Porsche and BMW in the GT class for production-based race cars, with American manufacturer Callaway joining the competition against the German brands. American Boris Said, who had a thrilling ride in the NASCAR race at Sears Point last month, will race one of the new BMW M3 machines along with legendary European endurance racer Hans Stuck. The race will also be a homecoming for Callaway driver Vic Rice, who lives only a few miles from Sears Point in San Rafael, Calif.

The newest class of the ALMS, the LMP 675 class for smaller prototypes, will feature a battle among several U.S.-based racing teams, including Dick Barbour Racing and Roock-KnightHawk Racing. Milka Duno of Venezuela, the only female driver in the event, will drive one of the Barbour Reynard cars.

The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live in the United States by NBC Sports, with highlights to be shown one week later on Eurosport. The race can also be heard live on the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at www.americanlemans.com. The event will begin at noon (U.S. Pacific time) on Sunday, July 22, with practice and qualifying held the day before, along with a driver autograph session.

A big part of the weekend at Sears Point will be a Saturday race for the popular Trans-Am Series, America's oldest road racing series. In addition, the weekend will see the debut of the new Historic IMSA GTP Series, featuring many of the great prototypes of the 80's and 90's in a one-hour contest prior to the start of the ALMS race on Sunday.

Ticket information for The X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma is available online at www.searspoint.com, or by calling the raceway ticket office at 1-800-870-7223.

-ALMS

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Series ALMS
Drivers Milka Duno , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Frank Biela , Boris Said , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Kelly Collins , Vic Rice , Emanuele Pirro