Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland team has pulled off possibly the coup of the pre-Le Mans season by confirming Formula One refugees Ralph Firman and Justin Wilson in its line-up for the 24 Hours.

Lammers has revealed a very strong group of drivers for the June marathon but, having already contracted American Chris Dyson and Japanese driver Katsumoto Kaneishi to partner himself in the lead Dome, then pulled off the audacious scoop by signing the two British F1 unfortunates to share the second car with Tom Coronel. As rookies at the 24 Hours, both Wilson and Firman will be in action during the mandatory test at La Sarthe tomorrow [Sunday].

Racing for Holland was already being tipped as one of the favourites for overall victory at Le Mans, and the stronger line-up has got team boss Lammers even more excited.

"I am exceedingly happy that we have managed to obtain such excellent drivers," the Dutch veteran admitted, "We only heard last Tuesday that our second car would be permitted an entry into the test as well as the race, along with the first car. Luckily, the car was ready in anticipation of this announcement. We had a very successful test at Paul Ricard as part of our Dunlop tyre testing programme and, last Wednesday, completed the shakedown at Zandvoort."

From a technical standpoint everything may have been in order, but Lammers then only had 48 hours in which to find three drivers for the second car. He proved both extremely successful and adept in his hunt, coming up with the crack squad of Coronel, Firman and Wilson in short order.

Coronel will be making his fourth start at Le Mans, while Wilson, who drove in F1 with Minardi and Jaguar last season before switching to Champ Cars for 2004, already has sportscar experience. Like Coronel, Firman has also had major successes in Japan before driving for Jordan in last year's F1 campaign. This year, Firman is driving in the Nissan World Series, and is due to be at Zolder for round two at the same time as he in set to test Lammers' prototype at La Sarthe.

"To be honest, I would have been better off financially if I had chosen other drivers, but I would rather not hire a plastic surgeon from Hollywood who steals the show with money, drives as a backmarker and scars our image permanently," Lammers said of his driver choice, "I want top drivers. I have them now.

"Chris Dyson will be driving his first Le Mans race and will be completing as many laps as possible during the test this coming weekend. I drove with him during the 12 Hours of Sebring and he was impressive. Together, we will maintain the Holland-America connection in the team. Katsumoto Kaneishi is very fast, but is also new to Le Mans. Our partner, Dome, is very happy that we have both an American and a Japanese driver in the team. Dome is not only Japanese company with interest in the American market, but their support is of vital importance to Racing for Holland.

"Tom Coronel has proven himself on numerous occasions. In Sebring, Justin Wilson drove in a less competitive car but showed some special talents, just like he did last year in his Formula One debut. He is a great addition to the team and has tremendous character. Many years ago, I drove in the Group C Canon Porsche with his manager, Jonathan Palmer. Tom Coronel provided the introduction to Ralph Firman, and we were also able to conclude a contract with him in short order. As a result, I have three top drivers in the second car. It's crazy!"

Now that the worst pressure is off, Lammers has some time to attend to some other important business.

"I have been so busy with maintaining the team and searching for the right recipe to continue, that communication with sponsors, media and my fans has suffered," he confessed, "I want to change that. I realise that I am not only a team owner and driver, but also an entertainer. I have the duty and responsibility to perform for and to present to the fans things that they will enjoy. I certainly hope to have achieved by choosing for these drivers."


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