Qualifying practice begins Wednesday

Qualifying practice begins Wednesday at Le Mans; final entries raises number of American drivers to 26. LE MANS, France (June 11, 2002) -- Qualifying Practice begins Wednesday for the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most ...

Qualifying practice begins Wednesday at Le Mans; final entries raises number of American drivers to 26.

LE MANS, France (June 11, 2002) -- Qualifying Practice begins Wednesday for the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous endurance race. Twenty-six American drivers are entered in the sports car racing event.

Fifty cars will start the race, which begins at 4 p.m. (Le Mans time) on Saturday and finishes 24 hours later. The 8.625-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, which has been slightly reconfigured for this year's race, will challenge the drivers through daylight, darkness and fatigue as they chase class wins and the overall victory.

Twenty-four American drivers were originally slated to participate in the event, but two more joined the field late last week. New entries Gary Schultheis of Boca Raton, Fla., and Chris McAllister of Indianapolis will race with Dr. Stephen Earle of San Antonio, Tex., creating an All-American driver lineup for a Ferrari 360 Modena entered in the GT class by JMB Racing.

The participation of 26 Americans is the second-highest of all time at Le Mans, and the most since the formation of the American Le Mans Series in 1999 revitalized American interest in the event. The all-time record for American drivers at Le Mans was set in 1982 when 36 participated.

The field of 50 includes 31 cars that competed in the Sebring 12-hour event that opened the 2002 American Le Mans Series season in March. Teams that regularly compete in ALMS events receive special consideration in the selection process for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Qualifying Practice begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Le Mans time) with two sessions of two hours each, split by a one-hour break. The circuit closes at midnight. The schedule will be repeated for the second Qualifying Practice session on Thursday.

There is no track activity on Friday, but all starting drivers will participate in the annual Driver's Parade in the center of Le Mans at 6 p.m.

In the United States, race fans can watch live coverage of 14 of the 24 hours on the SPEED Channel, while full coverage of practice, qualifying and the race by Radio le Mans can be heard online at www.radiolemans.com.

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Series Le Mans
Drivers Stephen Earle