World Challenge updates 2001-01-23

G&W Motorsports, winner of the 2000 Grand-Am GTU Championship, has announced its intent to field two new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the 2001 Speedvision World Challenge GT season. Former Speedvision Touring Car race-winner and ALMS BMW M3 pilot...

G&W Motorsports, winner of the 2000 Grand-Am GTU Championship, has announced its intent to field two new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the 2001 Speedvision World Challenge GT season. Former Speedvision Touring Car race-winner and ALMS BMW M3 pilot Johannes van Overbeek and rookie Justin Marks will assume the driving responsibilities.

"The opportunities to race in a competitive series with top manufacturers, sponsors and drivers are few and far between," said team manager Cole Scrogham. "The situations that have come up in the past have been interesting, but nothing that I thought could be a winning combination. Now we have that combination with the Flextronics/Intel sponsorship package, great driving talent behind Johannes and Justin and rules stability with Mitch Wright and the professional staff of SCCA Pro Racing at the helm."

The two-car effort will be supported with sponsorship from Flextronics International, a multi-billion dollar worldwide manufacturing corporation specializing in emerging technologies and Level One, a division of Intel.

Grand Sports Racing has signed three drivers to pilot their Chevrolet Corvette C5s in 2001 -- G.J. Mennen, 28; Mark Swain, 22; and Bobby Sak, 21.

Mennen, the 1999 Trans-Am Rookie of the Year Runner-Up, returns to the team to pilot the Haulmark Trailers/AmeriHealth entry from 2000. Ontario's Swain brings Canadian technology giant High Speed Sympatico as the primary sponsor on his car and former Pro Spec Racer standout Sak will step up to Speedvision GT in the new K.B. Inc. entry.

"We're excited to bring such a young driver lineup into Speedvision GT this year," said Terry Lackey, Grand Sports Racing Team Manager. "We're in the process of updating our cars and hope to give G.J. a shot at the title and Mark and Bobby a run at the Rookie of the Year honors."

Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car Championship Runner-Up and Rookie of the Year Neal Sapp will return to the series in a BMW in 2001, albeit with duPont Motorsports, not with TC Kline Racing, as in 2000.

Sapp recorded six podium finishes in the 10 2000 races driving a TC Kline Racing BMW 328Ci -- including his season-ending maiden win at San Diego -- to finish 11 points behind Pierre Kleinubing in the Championship. He joins duPont Motorsports, which had two drivers (Alfred duPont and Paul Alderman) in the top-10 of the final 2000 Speedvision Touring Car standings, recording two poles and one win with team owner duPont.

"DuPont Motorsports gives me a great opportunity to win the Championship," said Sapp. "Aside from having fast cars, as in 2000, the team is stepping up their presentation as well and should become one of the teams that fans will really like to follow in 2001."

Trac Racing has confirmed that it will field as many as two Volkswagen New Beetles by the end of 2001, with its first car making its debut at Mosport International Raceway in May.

"We have secured a great sponsor in Autostrasse, which will help us build the cars right to begin with, as opposed to what we've had to do in the past," said Trac Racing team owner and driver Stephane Trahan. "We're building the cars basically the same way they do in Europe, but without the high cost. The car should be fresh and fast right away. It will be great to see a Beetle pushing a car like the BMW around the track."

Trahan, of Laval, Quebec, has campaigned Volkswagen Jettas and Golfs in the past, and will start the season out in a Jetta. Guest drivers in the other cars will include World Challenge veteran Carl Wener, rookie Graeme Peppler and Canadian rally star Sylvain Vincent.

Autostrasse is a top German car dealer in Montreal owned by racing enthusiast John Raymond. New to World Challenge, the dealership will serve as primary sponsor on the Trac Racing cars.

With entries still streaming in, nearly 80 cars have reserved numbers for the 2001 season. Both the Speedvision GT and Speedvision Touring Car Champions will return in 2001, with Jeff McMillin carrying the No. 1 on his JJ's Snacks/John Hancock BMW M3 in GT and Pierre Kleinubing driving the No. 1 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R.

Returning top GT entries have come in from Peter Kitchak, Derek Bell, Michael Galati, Scott Bove, Phil McClure and Scotty B. White. RealTime Racing has registered No. 42 in GT, albeit without driver and car confirmation. Rookie of the Year Justin Jackson and Jimmy Adams will both drive new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.

In Touring, top returnees include Taz Harvey, Steve Pfeffer, five additional RealTime Racing Acuras without driver confirmation, Alfred duPont, three cars for Turner Motorsport, Drew Hagestad and Walter Markes Jr.

Drivers in new cars include Neal Sapp in a duPont Motorsports BMW, Carl Wener and Stephane Trahan in Volkswagen New Beetles, David Rosenblum and Steve Lisa in Mazda Proteges, Roger Foo in a new Civic Si and Mike Buzzetti in Galati's 1999-championship winning Acura Integra R.

Newcomers to Touring Car include Robert Mumm's Mercury Cougar, Scott Lucas, Mark Hein and former race winner John Green in Acura Integra Rs, Paul Bonaccorsi and a driver to be named later in Mazda Proteges and Paul Lambert and Rob Hines in Audi A4 Quattros.

"There are some new faces and new cars coming into the series, particularly in Touring Car, which is very exciting," said Mitch Wright, series general manager. "We expect that as we approach the first race in Texas, March 4, that list will grow to well over 100 entries, providing some great and diverse racing."

WORLD CHALLENGE HITTING THE NEWS STANDS: The Speedvision World Challenge has received a lot of feature ink lately. Check out the latest Super Street (February), Road & Track (February) and Sports Compact Car (March) magazines available on news stands now.

--Eric Prill

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Michael Galati , Bobby Sak , Derek Bell , Justin Marks , Paul Lambert , Drew Hagestad , Phil McClure , Jeff McMillin , Johannes van Overbeek , Walter Markes Jr. , Steve Pfeffer , Taz Harvey , Paul Alderman , Roger Foo , Scott Lucas , Alfred duPont , Mark Swain , Robert Mumm , Peter Kitchak , Justin Jackson , David Rosenblum , Mark Hein , Scotty B. White
Teams RealTime Racing , Turner Motorsport