Maserati & Panoz Look to repeat earlier Road Atlanta successes
Braselton, Georgia, September 29, 2005 - Last week in Istanbul, Pirelli and Maserati clinched the 2005 FIA GT World Championship in a dominating manner by doubling the points held by second place Ferrari with three rounds of eleven still left to contest. In fact, the top six drivers vying for the Drivers crown all ride on Pirelli P Zero racing slicks with Andrea Bertolini, Ferraris primary F1 test driver, leading the pack with three victories in the past 12 months. Interestingly, Bertolini is also leading the Maserati MC12 development program in North America competing in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) against the mighty factory Corvette program that has won 5-straight GT1 Championships while the Pirelli-shod Panoz Esperantes are taking on the dominant Porsches. Both teams were merely hoping to challenge for podiums in the very competitive GT1 and GT2 classes; but at Road Atlanta, only the second round of the ALMS season, Maserati scored its first North American podium in nearly 50 years and the Panoz Esperante upset the Porsches for its first GT2 victory ever. So, both the Maserati and Panoz teams are returning to Road Atlanta in search of more podium performances at this Saturdays 8th annual Petit Le Mans, the ninth round of the tenrace ALMS season. Pirelli, in fact, won the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998 with Doyle-Risi Racings Ferrari 333 SP. Forty-eight years ago, in 1957, racing legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra won the 12 Hours of Sebring with a Pirelli-shod 450S, Maseratis last victory in the U.S. with a factory car. Maserati has participated in the entire 2005 ALMS race calendar with one Maserati MC12 supported by Risi Competizioni of Houston. Fabrizio De Simone has co-driven with Bertolini for most of the season, earning their second podium at Road America in August. The pair will be joined by Pirelli test driver, Fabio Babini, who has finished on the FIA GT podium six times this season including two wins and is currently tied for third in the Drivers Championship behind Bertolini. I am really excited about Petit Le Mans because at least we have raced here before and Pirelli gave us a new tire at Mosport which turned out to be very, very good, stated Bertolini. In fact, Bertolini set the fastest lap of the race at Mosport and finished on the same lap as the Corvettes. Unlike FIA GT where we are very familiar with the circuits, the ALMS is a real challenge for us as each race is a new learning experience for the team, he continued. Hopefully, the second time around will be better for us. In its first full year in the ALMS, the Pirelli-shod Panoz Motor Sports EsperanteGTLM team was looking forward to the season with greater expectations. These expectations met with dramatic success at Road Atlanta as Bill Auberlen from Redondo Beach, Calif., first achieved a record-setting pole in qualifying followed by his teammate, Scot Robin Liddell, who held off a major challenge by the AJR Porsche to claim the teams first victory in the #50 Panoz It was Auberlens second class win and Liddells seventh, but first in GT2. Liddell also set a new lap record during the race. At Petit Le Mans, Auberlen and Liddell will be joined by Canadian Scott Maxwell while the second Panoz entry, #51, will be driven by regulars Bryan Sellers of Sacramento, Calif., and Marino Franchitti of Scotland assisted by Gunnar Jeannette of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Rounding out the Pirelli-equipped teams for Road Atlanta will be series regulars: #71 Carsport America Viper of team owner Tom Weickardt and young Italian Michele Rugalo in GT1 and the #78 and #79 J3 Racing Porsches. In P2, the #30 Kruse Motorsport and #41 Binnie Motorsports prototypes will be joining the Pirelli camp for Petit Le Mans. The annual 10,000 mile/10 hour (whichever comes first) Petit Le Mans will get the green flag at 11:20 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, October 1, and will be televised live by Speed Channel. The ALMS Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com. In addition, all ALMS races will again be televised live in Europe in a television arrangement between the series and MotorsTV, a European television channel dedicated to the world of motorsports. For the third year in a row, all ALMS races will also be covered by the American Forces Network. More information about Pirellis motorsport activities, including the Pirelli Girls, can be found at www.us.pirelli.com.