March Madness... NOT About A Ball And A Hoop

Click to view full gallery by Rick Dole, Regis Lefebure and John ThawleyIf it’s March, we must be getting close to the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 58th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. At 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday, March 17th, spectators can enter the historic raceway in preparation for the 12-hour classic that starts at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 20th. The opening race of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón features the largest Sebring entry in four years.

Often called the “Woodstock of Auto Racing,” Sebring attracts tens of thousands of race fans from all over the world for America’s oldest sports car endurance race. Spectators began camping near the entrance of the raceway two weekends ago, and by the time gates open on March 17th, more than 4,000 fans are expected to be in line. And why not? This is the 58th running of North America’s greatest endurance sports car race. FIFTY EIGHT YEARS… that’s pretty damn spectacular.

It seems only fitting that the American Le Mans Series kick off each season with this long standing tradition at one of North America’s most storied racing facilities. I mean, seriously, the place is Shrine. And, come hell or high water, when you race at Sebring you are GUARANTEED a spectacular race.

Late last summer, in what is considered the worst economic climate in decades, the ALMS had the foresight and courage to take a bold step in controlling their own destiny. Taking the cue from the successful 2009 GT3 Challenge class, the Series announced the creation of the LMP Challenge class; a new prototype division incorporating a single chassis manufacturer, engine manufacturer and tire supplier. The support from the racing community has been nothing short of fantastic.

As of March 8, the entry list for the 2010 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring boasts 7 LMP1 cars, 3 LMP2 cars, 14 GT2 cars, 6 LMPC cars and 7 GTC cars. That’s a grand total of 37 cars. Add to that Tequila Patrón as presenting sponsor, and I think you’re looking at a standout year for the ALMS

More importantly, the “Challenge” cars represent growth for the future. For the Series, it means growth in content, growth in quality teams and growth in producing quality drivers. Furthermore, if one would care to make an attempt at reading the tea leaves, the Series will also find itself in a position to, through careful calculated technical adjustments, advance the “Challenge” classes, forming a fully restored and healthy four-class structure.

By all means, 2010 will not be without challenges. Hopefully it does represent a new beginning of sorts. But to this writer, the Series efforts are to be applauded and supported both by competitors and fans alike. The folks in Braselton deserve praise for stepping up to the challenge and moving the Series forward.

Image Gallery from Rick Dole, Regis Lefebure and John Thawley: 2010 Winter Test

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