published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
New Cars Coming to this year's 12 Hours
By BARRY FOSTER
Special to the News-Sun
SEBRING - Officials of the American Le Mans Series have made a couple of announcements that will mean even more excitement at this year's 61st running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh From Florida.
First comes word that Extreme Speed Motorsports - famous for their Tequila Patron - colored Ferraris will move to prototypes for 2013.
Scott Sharp reportedly has finalized plans for a two-car HPD ARX-03b P2 program.
"I'm very proud that ESM will move to the P2 class, effective immediately," said Sharp. "We enjoyed our three-year run in the GT class with Ferrari. If the GT class is a factory-supported class and you are not a full manufacturer entry, everything falls on the shoulders of the team."
Sharp, who was the 2009 ALMS P1 class champion, said that moving to P2 is a new chapter for ESM and a homecoming of sorts for Tequila Patrón.
He called the move "a terrific opportunity" to learn and develop the P2 car.
The first car, purchased from reigning FIA World Endurance Championship series LMP2 champ Enzo Potolicchio, worked out earlier this week at the Sebring International Raceway and will debut at this year's 12 Hours.
It also is being reported that ESM has ordered a brand-new second chassis that is scheduled to be delivered in time for the ALMS season-opener here.
The driver roster lists all four of its current pilots including Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Guy Cosmo and Ed Brown.
Interestingly enough, the ESM appearance at the ALMS Winter Test at Sebring featured its two Ferrari F458 Italias, which had been upgraded to 2013-spec.
The announcement also could mean another team may re-join the competition.
Officials at Level 5 Motorsports, now say they will "re-evaluate" their announcement to withdraw its planned effort this year due to lack of entries.
Analysts have speculated that should Level 5 re-commit, that could result in a domino effect, with as many as a four-car HPD ARX-03b battle for this year's P2 championship.
Additional entries, including the already confirmed Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN Nissan and potentially two others from Europe, could be on the grid for Sebring
In other news, BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL have rolled out their new BMW Z4 GTE which also is expected to run in anger at this year's 12 Hour classic.
"Obviously I am very excited to enter this new year with the BMW Z4 GTE. There is a lot of enthusiasm in the team for the new car." said team principal and former 12 Hour winner Bobby Rahal. "There will be a development period involved but ultimately I see no reason why we can't be competitive with the great competition that exists in the GT category in the ALMS."
Although he allowed, in many respects, it might be "a development year," Rahal pointed to the team's driver talent.
They include the two new exciting additions with Maxime Martin, who will share the No. 55 car with veteran and former Sebring winner Bill Auberlen, and John Edwards who will drive the No. 56 car with another veteran, Joey Hand.
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