ALMS drivers in Le Mans spotlight
The roster of American Le Mans Series drivers entered in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans is undoubtedly one of the most experienced groups to ever have taken part in the annual endurance classic. The list of competitors has a heavy American Le Mans Series flavor with 35 drivers who have made a combined 221 starts with 23 overall championships and 53 class wins since 1981.
Dyson Racing's Andy Wallace, who will compete for RML in P2 at Le Mans, is the Series' veteran representative with 18 career starts. Wallace was part of the Jaguar program that won overall in 1988 and has three other class wins (including last year with RML). The charming Brit has made a start in the last 11 runnings at Le Mans and has only missed the race once since 1988 (that coming in 1994). David Brabham (13 starts) and Stefan Johansson (12 starts) are Wallace's closest pursuers from the Series' ranks.
Audi's Emanuele Pirro will compete at Le Mans for the 11th time, and his racing experience in La Sarthe dates back to 1981 when he drove a Lancia Beta Montecarlo that retired after five hours. He returned 17 years later in a McLaren F1 GTR before becoming a staple of Audi's prototype effort the following year. He, Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen made history by winning overall in an Audi R8 from 2000-02 before another landmark win in the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI last year with Biela and Marco Werner.
Of course no one can match Kristensen's record of seven overall wins, the last of which came with Champion Racing in 2005 for the R8's finale at La Sarthe. In total, the Audi contingent this year owns 24 victories in 53 starts.
In total, nine separate Series drivers have taken at least one overall victory. The others are Rinaldo Capello (2002, 2003), Johnny Herbert (1991), Stefan Johansson (1997) and Allan McNish (1998).
Corvette Racing's Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin have been nearly the equal to the Audi group. The pairing have combined for nine class wins in 17 starts (Beretta has five titles in 11 starts and Gavin has four wins in six appearances). They can win their fourth consecutive title this year as can teammate Jan Magnussen. The three were in the same car from 2004-06 but will be in different Corvette C6.Rs in two weeks.
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring. ALMS