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Saturday, March 20, 2010

12 Hours of Sebring Underway

The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, one of American sports car racing's most prestigious events, is underway today at the Sebring International Raceway, a frequent test site for IZOD IndyCar Series teams. This event is frequently recognized as the flagship race for the American Le Mans Series, one of America's top sports car racing classes and a pioneer in green racing technologies.

As such, combined with the lack of an IndyCar race this weekend, it's no surprise to see a handful of the best open-wheel drivers America has had to offer contesting this race. From current competitors to former champions, and even a few ex-CART drivers, open-wheel competitors add a lot of color to this year's race.

The biggest battle will take place between Peugeot and Aston Martin in the LMP1 class, and each team features a driver that once dominated CART or Champ Car. Peugeot's No. 08 will feature four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, while Aston Martin has hired Adrian Fernandez (also a former IndyCar owner-driver) to campaign its car.

Last year's championship-winning team, Highcroft Racing, will slide down to LMP2 this year. French driver Simon Pagenaud competed in the final season of Champ Car for Walker Racing. One of his co-drivers will be Marino Franchitti, brother of defending IndyCar Series champion Dario. Former Highcroft driver and 1996 IndyCar champion Scott Sharp has left the team to campaign his own Ferraris in GT2.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and J.R. Hildebrand will drive in the LMPC class, a new spec LMP class featuring Chevrolet motors. Hunter-Reay will drive for Level 5 Motorsports, while 2009 Indy Lights champion Hildebrand will drive for current Lights competitors Genoa Racing.

Competitors with lesser-known open-wheel careers include Bourdais teammate Nicolas Minassian (LMP1), Guy Smith (LMP2), Jan Magnussen (GT2), and Ryan Dalziel (GT2). All of these drivers competed in CART and/or Champ Car with limited success, but have found security and won races in sports cars. Most recently, Dalziel won this year's 24 Hours of Daytona. He will drive for former Champ Car team Rocketsports.

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