Team Bucknum upgrading Pilbeams for 2003.

BRASELTON, Ga. (November 11, 2002) -- Though it was a winning team in the American Le Mans Series LMP 675 class in the 2002 season, Team Bucknum Racing is not resting on its laurels as it prepares for the 2003 season. Like all good racing teams,...

BRASELTON, Ga. (November 11, 2002) -- Though it was a winning team in the American Le Mans Series LMP 675 class in the 2002 season, Team Bucknum Racing is not resting on its laurels as it prepares for the 2003 season.

Like all good racing teams, Arizona-based Team Bucknum is spending the off-season trying to upgrade its performance so as to maintain its chances of winning races in the ultra-competitive American Le Mans Series. The team was one of two three-time winners in the 10-race ALMS season in 2002 in the LMP 675 class for smaller, less-powerful Prototype race cars.

The team just finished a test in Nevada and is now preparing to ship its two Pilbeam MP84-Nissan chassis to England for extensive testing and modification at Pilbeam Racing Designs. The first and still only team to win a race in the American Le Mans Series with a Pilbeam chassis, Team Bucknum hopes that the modifications will make its two Fairytale Brownies-sponsored cars even more competitive in the fastest-growing class in the ALMS.

The 2003 American Le Mans Series season begins with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway Mar. 13-15.

"Our list of upgrades is really, really extensive," said team owner/driver Jeff Bucknum. "And when you consider we have less than 150 days before the opener at Sebring to get it all done, there's no time to waste.

"We did remarkably well in 2002 but we didn't win the championship and that is our goal," Bucknum said, noting that the Pilbeams used by the team were originally built for racing in another series. "Everything we're planning is aimed at bringing the car up to American Le Mans Series, higher-performance specifications."

Among the most significant upgrades are moving from a 3.0-liter engine to a 3.4-liter engine that will produce about 100 more horsepower. Also included in the upgrades will be an improved aerodynamic package that will be part of new bodywork, a diffuser, bigger wheels and carbon-fiber brakes. Also in the works are improvements for the drivers including power steering and paddle shifters.

"On the shorter courses, and courses with short straights, our 2002 package was fairly competitive," said team owner/driver Bryan Willman, who co-drove with Bucknum and Chris McMurry to all three of the class wins earned by the team in 2002. "That said, what we had was not good enough and can be a lot better."

The Lola EX257-MG, which was utilized by three ALMS teams during the 2002 season, is the standard by which Team Bucknum is measuring the performance of its Pilbeam in the LMP 675 class. The Lola-MG machines were usually the fastest in qualifying, though reliability problems sometimes struck the sleek cars in the races.

"The Lola-MGs will likely still have a performance advantage," said Willman. "But our silly season efforts, combined with new regulations from the ACO and a possible reliability advantage, will close the gap a lot.

"We gave our competition a run for their money this year, and next year we should be even stronger," he said.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Chris McMurry , Bryan Willman , Jeff Bucknum