INDIANAPOLIS (June 4, 2001) -- Haywood. Hill. Holbert. Gurney and Foyt. Shelby. Names that are known to nearly any observer of American motorsports. Fifteen American racing drivers will be trying to join those legendary names as winners...
INDIANAPOLIS (June 4, 2001) -- Haywood. Hill. Holbert. Gurney and Foyt. Shelby. Names that are known to nearly any observer of American motorsports.
Fifteen American racing drivers will be trying to join those legendary names as winners of the world's most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, on June 16-17 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France.
In the 68 previous runnings of the classic sports car race, 12 American drivers have been part of the overall winning team, while numerous Americans have scored class victories. Davy Jones' win in 1996 marked the last time an American was on the overall winning team.
As the three-year-old American Le Mans Series has grown, American interest in the 24 Hours of Le Mans has grown with it. The 15 Americans competing in the 2001 version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans represent eight states, with five from Florida, two from California, Georgia and Pennsylvania and one each from Arizona, New York and North and South Carolina.
Eighteen-year-old Gunnar Jeannette of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will compete for the GT class win at Le Mans in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS fielded by Freisinger Motorsport of Germany. In the 2000 Le Mans race, Jeannette, at 17, became the youngest driver ever to finish the event.
Also representing Florida will be Shane Lewis of Jupiter, who will drive a Callaway C-12 in the GT class; Andy Pilgrim of Aventura, who will drive a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R in the GTS class; Charlie Slater of Fort Lauderdale, who will compete in the GTS class in a Saleen S7R; and Wayne Taylor of Altamonte Springs, who will drive a Cadillac Northstar in the LMP 900 class.
Kelly Collins of Corona del Mar, Calif., will co-drive in the GTS class in the Corvette with Pilgrim, while Vic Rice of San Rafael, Calif., will co-drive with Lewis in the GT class in the Callaway. Drivers from Georgia will include David Murry of Atlanta, just named to the Dick Barbour Racing Reynard 01Q for the LMP 675 class, and Johnny O'Connell of Flowery Branch. A veteran of several Le Mans appearances, O'Connell will drive a Corvette in the GTS class.
Butch Leitzinger of State College, Pa., one of the most successful American road racers of the past decade, will have a legitimate chance at the overall win as he will be one of three drivers of the new Bentley Prototype. Also representing the Keystone State will be Chris Gleason of Johnstown, who will compete in the LMP 675 class in a Lola B2K-Nissan fielded by Roock/KnightHawk Racing.
Terry Borcheller of Phoenix will represent Arizona as he drives for the Saleen-Allen Speedlab Team in a Saleen S7R in the GTS class, while Bob Mazzuoccola of Staten Island, N.Y., will co-drive with Lewis and Rice in the Callaway entrant in the GT class.
Scott Pruett, who has had a long career that has included NASCAR, CART and road racing, will make his first Le Mans appearance and will team with O'Connell in the GTS class in a Corvette. Pruett now lives in the Charlotte, N.C., area. South Carolina will be represented by Rick Fairbanks of Greenville, who will race with Gleason in the Roock/KnightHawk entry. The 15 Americans, and possibly others, hope to join past American winners of the prestigious race. Legendary road racing stars Hurley Haywood, Phil Hill and Al Holbert were each three-time winners at Le Mans during their illustrious careers, with Hill's win in 1958 the first for a United States native.
In addition to Jones, other American drivers who have tasted overall victory at Le Mans include Price Cobb (1990), Masten Gregory (1965), Dan Gurney (1967), A.J. Foyt (1967), Carroll Shelby (1959) and Bill and Don Whittington (1979). In addition, Luigi Chinetti scored his third Le Mans win in 1949 after becoming an American citizen. Race fans in the United States will be able to watch live, flag-to-flag coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the Speedvision Network.