One of the more diverse fields ever seen for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is forming ahead of the opening round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series, with no fewer than 13 manufacturers on the initial entry list.
Although much of the racing world appears to be feeling the pinch in financially-straitened times, there will be no shortage of world-class entries at Sebring, with multiple potential class winners throughout. There is also a diverse mix of technically innovative new cars and teams, along with those that already have proven themselves in ALMS competition.
"The content of this entry list has all the ingredients to produce one of the best endurance sportscar races ever," enthused series president and CEO Scott Atherton, "Fans from all over the world will be glued to this one because of its epic field."
A great deal of attention will focus on the front of the grid, with three mainstream premium brand manufacturers competing with LMP1 prototypes for the overall victory. Both Audi and Acura will debut brand-new machines, Acura with its ARX-02a that was presented last month at the annual winter test, and Audi with its much-anticipated diesel-powered R15 TDI.
Patrón Highcroft Racing and de Ferran Motorsports are Acura's P1 teams for 2009 with Audi Sport Team Joest and Audi Sport North America each fielding an all new R15 TDI for the race as the brand seeks to return to the winner's circle with its ninth overall Sebring win since 2000. Add to that the two diesel-powered Peugeot 908 HDi prototypes with which the French marque is aiming to build on last year's singleton entry, and the plot thickens.
"We could always wish we had a little more preparation time, but I am looking forward to meeting Audi and Peugeot over here," said de Ferran Motorsports owner-driver Gil de Ferran, "They are formidable competitors, but we have a great team and look forward to the challenge."
Intersport Racing, one of the ALMS' leading independent professional teams, has also entered with its AER-powered Lola B06/10. The Ohio-based squad was the LMP2 class winner and finished as the overall runner-up at the 12 Hours in 2006, but will face opposition from the similar Lola-AER of Autocon Motorsports, which is hoping a strong performance at Sebring will provide the catalyst needed for a good result at Le Mans following its debut there last season.
The LMP2 field sees another major auto manufacturer battle shaping up between Acura and Mazda. Dyson Racing will debut its two new Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes, but know that last year's race will be a tough one to follow, after finishing second and third in the LMP2 class - and second and fourth overall - whilst running with Porsche power.
Lowe's Fernandez Racing will fly the flag for Acura in P2 with its proven ARX-01b. The team finished second overall and in class at Sebring last season before being excluded following post-race technical inspections.