Bicester, UK, Monday 23rd March 2001- Donington Park will reverberate to the sights and sounds of high powered sportscars on Easter weekend as the East Midland circuit hosts the British round of this years European Le Mans Series (ELMS). Fresh...
Bicester, UK, Monday 23rd March 2001- Donington Park will reverberate to the sights and sounds of high powered sportscars on Easter weekend as the East Midland circuit hosts the British round of this years European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
Fresh from their victories in the opening two rounds in the United States, the all conquering Audi R8's will be out to make it three in a row on the twists and turns of the Donington Grand Prix circuit. However, American manufacturer Panoz will be looking to wrest victory away from the German marque in the first European round of the championship.
This race is seen as a Le Mans shakedown and offers the British public their only chance to see all four categories of Le Mans cars before the 24-hour French classic in June. The competitors are the cream of the sportscar world, with drivers such as Michele Alboreto, JJ Lehto, David Brabham, Emanuele Pirro, Stefan Johansson, Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela, and Laurent Aiello, who are all past winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Donington round of the ELMS will also give the British fans access to see the cars and drivers up close. Unlike Formula One, there will be an open paddock for the fans to mingle with the stars, see the cars up close, collect a few autographs and maybe talk to the drivers about their careers and the cars they drive. In addition to Audi and Panoz, there will be a full grid of cars with entries by Chrysler, Chevrolet, Saleen, Porsche and BMW.
The Le Mans Prototype (LMP) class is at present the most liberal and, for the engineers, the most interesting class in international motorsport. Even Formula 1 doesn't have as much freedom to play like this class of sportscars. These awesome open racing cars have over 600 bhp 'on tap' and have to be seen, and heard, in the flesh to really appreciate the spectacle of raw power and speed.
The last round at Florida's Sebring circuit had the 168,000 strong crowd on the edge of their seats as Emanuele Pirro crossed the finish line less than 0.5 seconds ahead of Audi team-mate Tom Kristensen at the end of a thrilling 12 hour race. British success came from Oxfords Andy Wallace, who finished third and Yorkshires Guy Smith in fourth place, both driving Audi R8's. Bedfords Oliver Gavin, along with his partners Franz Konrad and Terry Borcheller, took victory in the GTS class in their Saleen S7-R ahead of two works Chevrolet Corvettes.
The two hour, forty-five minute endurance race will take place Saturday 14th April with a full support race package. The cars will be testing on Thursday 12th April, with two qualifying sessions taking place on Friday afternoon. For ticket information contact the Donington Park Ticket Hotline on 0870 4000 699.
- Martin Allerton