The magic started in France, then spread to America, but now the Le Mans Series heads back overseas for its first international event in the UK. Round three of the championship will be staged this Saturday at Silverstone, the home of the...
The magic started in France, then spread to America, but now the Le Mans Series heads back overseas for its first international event in the UK.
Round three of the championship will be staged this Saturday at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix.
For Aussie star, David Brabham, this weekend's race is the first of two "home" races in 2000 - the second being Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years on December 31.
"I spend most of the year living in the U.K., so this is really my home away from home," Brabham said.
"I have done a lot of laps at Silverstone over the years and I am pretty confident we can add Panoz to the list of winners for 2000.
"I know Silverstone very well, and the Panoz cars have traditionally been strong there in other international races, so it should suit us nicely.
"We really need to win. We've had one Audi win, and one BMW; so I hope it'll be Panoz at Silverstone."
Like Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years, the Silverstone race will finish in darkness, providing a unique spectacle for race fans.
The inaugural European Le Mans Series race will take place in the evening, starting at 6pm local time. The finish, 500 km later, should take place after nightfall.
BMW Motorsport, who won the previous round at Charlotte, go into the third round leading in Driver, Team and Manufacturer classifications. Their two BMW V12 LM cars will be driven, as usual, by JJ Lehto and Jorg Müller in the #42 car, while Bill Auberlen and Jean-Marc Gounon will share the #43.
"We've done a lot of work on the car since Charlotte, including three days of testing at Monza," Gounon said.
"We hope the car will be very competitive. It helps that we know the European circuits, and the sort of set-up needed. Obviously Audi and Panoz remain our greatest rivals, but I feel we made a big step forward at Charlotte, where we should have finished 1st and 2nd. As for Silverstone, we'll see!"
Audi, however, will surely not be willing to rest on their Sebring laurels. After a supremely successful practice session for Le Mans, the team will revert to their older cars for the Silverstone race.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Frank Biela, who will share the #78 car with Emanuele Pirro.
"I spent two years in the UK, racing touring cars for Audi, and I have some very nice memories. This will be the first time I have been back since 1997."
The 1996 British Touring Car Champion also recognises the importance of the race.
"We need to score as many points as possible and to do as well as we can. It is an interesting circuit, but unfortunately we won't have the new car, which would have been even better - all the 1999 experience has been put into the new model. But we have proved that reliability is not a problem, so I am optimistic."
The second Audi R8 will be driven by Michele Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish.
Entering the Le Mans Series for the first time is French team SMG, with their brand-new Judd-powered Courage C60.
Another team new to the Le Mans Series, although no stranger to sportscar racing, is Kremer Racing, who will enter their Ford-powered Lola B98 in the 500km race. The drivers will be Christian Vann and Christian Gläsel, leading privateer drivers in last year's FIA GT Championship.
Motorola-DAMS will continue their pre-Le Mans race program by entering their two dramatic Cadillac Northstar LMP cars. The #31 car will be shared by Frenchmen Eric Bernard and Emmanuel Collard, while Christophe Tinseau of France and Marc Goossens of Belgium share the #32 car.
GTS stars Karl Wendlinger and Olivier Beretta will campaign the giant killing Dodge Viper GTS again at Silverstone. After this weekend, the duo will join forces with four-time Le Mans winner Yannick Dalmas aboard a Chrysler powered Reynard prototype machine for the Le Mans 24 Hour.
Australian GT team Skea Racing's lead Porsche 911 GT3R are second in the points prior to Silverstone and lead driver, Brit, Johnny Mowlem, will be looking for a strong result on home soil.
This weekend's race can be heard live via internet on the Le Mans Series web site. http://www.americanlemans.com/pages/00live/index.html The race kicks off at 3.30 am Adelaide time this Sunday morning.
Highlights of the Silverstone event will be screened on Network Ten across Australia on May 28 at 3.30pm.
South Australia will host the final round of the Le Mans Series - Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years - on New Year's Eve this year.
The event a three-day festival of motorsport, music and fun, features three classes of Le Mans' vehicles doing battle around the old Formula One circuit.