Former Champ Car and Trans-Am frontrunner Rocketsports is to branch out into the American Le Mans Series this season, after unveiling a Jaguar-based GT2 effort in Long Beach.
A new team, Rocketsports Racing Inc has been formed by Paul Gentilozzi's long-standing operation to build and race Jaguar's XKR model in a partial season in 2009, before launching a full championship effort in 2010.
“It has been difficult to be out of competitive racing for nearly a year,” Gentilozzi admitted, “We are most fortunate to be able to return to what we know, winning sportscar championships and, in particular, winning them in Jaguars.
"We haven't spent our time idly, as we've focused on engineering and construction of the Jaguar XKR. The luxury of time that we traditionally don't have in this process has been a great asset. We feel like our work with both the ALMS and the ACO will give us a car that is, number one, competitive on the track; number two, representative of Jaguar's racing history and, number three, economically viable for customers in the GT2 series around the world.”
RSR will enter the ALMS with Jaguar as a technical and marketing partner, the marque having provided vital engineering, information and support to assist the team in the homologation and construction process of the XKR. Construction of the car is nearing completion at the RSR facility in East Lansing, while a parallel engine development process is also underway for the new AJ-133 direct injected five-litre normally aspirated engine. The company's plan is to begin testing and development in June and enter the ALMS series mid-summer. RSR will be building at least three XKRs this year and will have cars available for customer use in 2010.
“The addition of Rocketsports Racing and Jaguar XKR speaks volumes about the status of the American Le Mans Series,” said series president and CEO Scott Atherton, who has had to fend off questions abour dwindling entry numbers so far this season.
“Not only does the Series add another prestigious automobile brand to its already world class line-up of manufacturers, but the fact that this addition occurs during such a challenging time in our industry makes the announcement truly significant. Paul Gentilozzi is one of the most experienced and qualified people in motorsports and his decision to bring Rocketsports and the Jaguar brand into the American Le Mans Series at this time is the best endorsement we could ask for.
"Looking back over the decades, I believe Jaguar's finest hours in motorsports have occurred in sportscar racing. The timing of its return couldn't be better. Jaguar can introduce, develop and showcase their technologies and immediately link the DNA of their racecar to the XKR in the showroom in a way that no other form of motorsport can match. We are very proud to be welcoming Paul Gentilozzi, Rocketsports and the Jaguar brand as the newest stakeholders of the American Le Mans Series, and we look forward to seeing them on the track in the very near future”.
While RSR and Jaguar may be new to the ALMS, both have a rich heritage in the motorsports industry and a strong relationship together. Jaguar was re-introduced to the Trans-Am Series by Gentilozzi, with 31 Rocketsports wins coming in 66 starts, alongside an additional customer car victories. This led to five manufacturers' and five drivers' titles between 2000–06 with Gentilozzi, Scott Pruett and Klaus Graff triumphing. Rocketsports also earned a GTS class pole and victory in the 2002 Daytona 24 Hours.