Sebring: Team Ascari race report

Banbury, England - 18th March 2002: The 50th running of America& ...

Banbury, England - 18th March 2002: The 50th running of America’s most famous endurance race, the Sebring 12 Hours, was certainly an historic occasion and Team Ascari certainly added to the record breaking feeling.

The Banbury, Oxfordshire based team’s sixth place finish with drivers Justin Wilson of Sheffield, Ben Collins of Bristol and Christian Vann of Birmingham has only once been bettered by an all-British driver line-up in an all-British car. That was back some 49 years ago when Reg Parnell and George Abecassis in a factory Aston Martin DB3S finished second, just a lap behind the winning American Cunningham of John Fitch and Phil Walters in the second ever running of the tough Florida race.

The performance of the Ascari KZR1 actually equalled a similar sixth place finish by an all-British car and driver combination back in 1958 when the legendry Lotus founder Colin Chapman drove a little Lotus Climax into 6th place with fellow Brit Cliff Allison.

With its chassis designed and constructed in Banbury, Oxon, the Judd V10 engine in Rugby, Warwickshire, and the transmission in Maidenhead, Berks, the Ascari KZR1 is very clearly an all-British effort and, with the exception of one Australian, an all-British pit crew headed by Race Director Ian Dawson.

The performance was all the more noteworthy because neither Team Ascari nor the three drivers had ever raced at the track before– a true 'rookie' effort as the Americans would say. Wilson, the reigning International Formula 3000 Champion, had never before raced in an endurance event, in America or at night. The race finished at 10.30 pm.

This year Team Ascari are tackling the endurance classics. At the Daytona 24 Hours in February, the KZR1 qualified on the front row of the grid but retired in the race. Following the Sebring success the team start preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The French classic in June could see a record number of Union Jacks waving with entries from MG and Bentley (albeit with German engine) and, of course, Team Ascari.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Justin Wilson , Ben Collins , Colin Chapman