Having received the car just three weeks ago, the team is taking advantage of the west coast swing and is in the middle of two days of testing at Button Willow Raceway.
Bill Sweedler, Westport, Conn., has finished on the podium with AJR in each of the last two races at Long Beach, but that was in the GTC Class.
"We have a good record as a team at Long Beach," Sweedler said. "I really like the challenge of racing on tight street courses. Townsend has an Indy lights win at Long Beach, and I have two podiums in GTC on that tough track. The fans are amazing and how can you beat legally driving 165 mph around town? The Lotus Evora GT is an entirely new challenge. We have had the car less than a month and are diving into the deep-end of the toughest class in the ALMS with a new entry. The entire Lotus AJR team has been burning the candle at both ends to get the car prepped for the first race. The team and our sponsor partners, Battery Tender, Yokohama, and William Rast are anxious to see what we have."
Townsend Bell, San Luis Obispo, Calif., has a strong history at Long Beach, as does co-driver Bill Sweedler. Bell has won on the tight 1.98-mile, 11-turn temporary street course in Indy Lights in 2001.
"I won the Indy Lights race at Long Beach in 2001, the year I won the championship," Bell said. "I qualified fifth there in ChampCar in 2002. Long Beach is the best street racing event in the country. It draws a great fan base that is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about racing and cars. There is just a great energy and it also my home race. This will be a good opening event for the Lotus Evora GT. The point-and-squirt aspect of the Long Beach track will help us to capitalize on the handling aspects of the car, while not having to rely on all out speed. We are looking to see the checkered flag and collect as much data as possible for the rest of the season."
Sweedler, Westport, Conn., has also had success at Long Beach. He has been on the podium the last two years in an AJR Porsche and is looking to keep the streak going this weekend.
Team principal Alex Job is excited and cautious about the Lotus Evora GT debut.
"We still have a pretty long list of items to work on with the Evora GT," Job said. "But the schedule won't wait for us. We have only had the car for three-weeks, so we are taking a fairly cautious approach to its first race. Long Beach will be a good place to debut the car. We will not have to worry too much about balancing the car for all out speed and cornering, since handling is a premium at this track. We are going to do two days of testing, but that will just give us a baseline set-up for the weekend, as well as give Townsend and Bill some laps in the car. We really need to get through Long Beach and Laguna Seca, gather the data and see what the car needs to be competitive against the GT competition for the future."
The race will be televised Sat., Apr. 14 at 7:30 p.m., ET on ESPN2; Live streaming of the race will begin at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN3, Sat., Apr., 14; Qualifying can be seen on-line at 8 p.m. Fri., Apr. 13.