The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Don Panoz. The series has a licensing agreement with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which is the sanctioning body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a result, the ALMS rules are aligned with those used at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Within each race, four classes are competing for the overall victory, as well as the category win.

  • Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) – This is the fastest group. These are purpose-built race cars powered by a 6.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engine, which produces 750-800-horsepower. The vehicles could weigh no less than 900-kilograms (1,980-pounds) and car reach speeds over 200-mph. Teams enter cars manufactured by Riley & Scott, Lola, Dallara, Audi and Panoz.
  • Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – The Le Mans Prototype 2 category was introduced in 2001 as LMP675. This group was renamed in 2004 when the minimum weight requirement was increased from 675-kilograms to 700-kilograms (1,653-pounds). The rules for the vehicles are written so that the two LMP classes (LMP1 and LMP2) could contend for the overall win.
  • Grand Touring Sport (GTS) – This class includes production-based cars such as the Dodge Viper GTS-R, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, Saleen S7-R and Ferrari 550 Maranello. The vehicles are permitted to use 8.0-liter normally aspirated or 4.0-liter turbocharged engines, which produce 550-600-horsepowers. These cars are almost as quick as the Prototype achieving speeds of 180-195-mph.
  • Grand Touring (GT) – The GT cars are restricted to a 1,100-kilogram weight rule. This category also included production-based vehicles. Competitors raced cars such as the BMW M3, Porsche GT3RSR and Ferrari 360 Modena. Unlike the GTS entries, teams in this category can not use carbon fiber brakes.

The ALMS schedule included nine North American events in 2004. The opening round is the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. The series takes an extended break to accommodate teams participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After Le Mans, teams travel to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for round two. Mid-Ohio is followed by Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park. In July, the series makes a west coast swing with race weekends at Infineon Raceway and Portland International Raceway. Next, teams travel north of the border for their only Canadian stop at Mosport International Raceway. Then it is back to the United States and a stop for competitors at Road America in Wisconsin. The penultimate round is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. This is an important weekend as it serves as a qualifying event for the 2005 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Class winners receive an automatic invitation to compete in the French classic. The 2004 season ends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a four-hour race into the darkness.

Sebring would be the opening round of the 2004 American Le Mans Series. For the fifty-second time, drivers would compete for twelve-hours on the seventeen-turn 3.74-mile road course.

The field enters the final turn for the start of the 52nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Pacing the field is the No. 38 ADT/Champion Racing Audi R8 driven by the pole winner, J.J. Lehto. Sharing the front row with Lehto is Allan McNish in another Audi entered by Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx. This year’s event had a high rate of attrition, with only twenty-five of the forty-four teams running at the finish.
Allan McNish was responsible for qualifying the Audi Sport UK Audi R8 and topped the timesheet during most of the session. With just minutes remaining, J.J. Lehto bettered his time – McNish and his teammates, Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffer, would start second. The team battled the Champion Audi and their teammates early in the contest. When those teams encountered problems, it was ‘clear sailing’ for the trio.
Although the Miracle Motorsports Lola B2K/40 lacked speed, it more than made up for it in reliability or was less unreliable. Piloting the Lola were Ian James, Mike Borkowski and John Macaluso. They started sixteenth overall and third in LMP2 after the class pole-sitter failed the technical inspection. The team competed with a well-used AER engine and developed a transmission problem during the event but still captured the victory.
Ron Fellows handled the qualifying duties for the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette and was second fastest in GTS. Fellows and his co-drivers, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis, inherited the class pole when end plates on the second Corvette entry failed the technical inspection. It was a relatively easy run to the GTS checker when their teammates retired. Their margin of victory was twenty-two laps over the Barron Connor Ferrari.
It was expected that the Alex Job Racing Porsches would start one-two in the GT class. But the pole wasn’t certain until the BAM entry was disqualified for a bodywork issue. The No. 23 Porsche GT3 RSR of Sascha Maassen and Timo Bernhard was elevated to the top spot. During the 12-hour contest, they battled for the lead with their teammates but in the end, Alex Job and Maassen scored their fourth consecutive class victory.
J.J. Lehto driving the No. 38 Audi R8 waited until the final moments of qualifying to grab the overall pole-position. Sharing the Audi with Lehto were Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner. Early in the race, the team battled for the lead but during hour three, Werner had contact with a slower car. The damage took time to repair, however, the second Audi Sport UK entry encountered issues allowing the Champion Audi to finish second.
Driving the second Audi Sport UK entry was Johnny Herbert, Jamie Davies and Guy Smith. Herbert was third quickest for much of the qualifying session but lost the position to James Weaver in the Dyson Lola. The trio battled with the leaders until the seventh hour. Herbert was behind the wheel when the Audi began smoking. A transmission oil leak resulted in an extended stop. Repairs were made and the team finished third overall.
Barron Connor Racing entered two Ferrari 575 GTC. In light of the Madrid bombing – American Customs delayed the release of their shipping container, which included the team’s tools and spare parts. The Ferrari’s could not match the pace of the Corvettes but inherited a position on the starting grid when the No. 4 Corvette was disqualified. Danny Sullivan, Thomas Biagi and John Bosch finished a distant second in GTS.
Rand Racing was one of many teams fielding two cars. Sharing the No. 7 LMP2 Lola B2K/40 were Mike Fitzgerald, James Gue and team principal, Bill Rand. This was the slower of the two cars, starting eighteen overall and fourth in their category. Like most of the teams in LMP2, the No. 7 Rand entry had their turn leading the class. Unfortunately, they were delayed by a misdiagnosed electrical issue and finished second in class.
The Orbit Racing entry wasn’t the only Porsche that failed the post-qualifying technical inspection. The No. 24 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 RSR was third quickest at the end of the session but was disqualified as the front spoiler was too low. Lucas Luhr, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb were required to start from the rear of the grid. By the third hour, the trio had caught their teammates but could not maintain the lead and finished second.
The No. 30 Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40 competed in LMP2 and was driven by Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland. When the Team Bucknum Pilbeam failed the post-qualifying technical inspection, they were elevated to second in class. The team was in the lead by the third hour but at the halfway point, issues dropped them out of contention. They fought back to finish third in their category.
One of the many beneficiaries of the BAM and Alex Job Racing qualifying disqualifications was the No. 31 Porsche GT3 RSR entered by White Lightning Racing. Sharing the Porsche were David Murry and Craig Stanton, who started twenty-fourth overall and fourth in the GT group. The pair benefitted from the high rate of attrition in the GT class and although they were challenged by the Flying Lizard entry, they finished third.
Until late in qualifying, it appeared that Audi would occupy the top three spots on the starting grid. With time running out, James Weaver driving the Dyson Racing Lola EX257 turned a lap, which gave him the third-fastest time. Problems for the Dyson entry began in the third hour when the Lola caught fire during a pit-stop. This issue was followed by an alternator problem and another fire but they managed a sixth-place finish.
The ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7.R encountered problems early in the qualifying session. Drivers, Terry Borcheller, David Brabham and Johnny Mowlem, started forty-first in the forty-four car field. Borcheller drove the first stint and was third in class by the third hour. But by the midway point of the contest, the team started to encounter issues and did well to collect a third in class – albeit seventy-two laps behind the winner.
One of the more interesting entries in LMP1 was the Lotus Elise entered by Team Elite. Scheduled to drive the Lotus were Jay Cochran, Damien Faulkner and Ed Zabinski. The car was doomed from the start. The team lost an engine on the dyno a week before the event. The replacement did not have as much horsepower and required some modifications to make it fit. The team started thirtieth and retired after just seven laps.
Another entry garnering a lot of attention was the No. 49 Morgan Aero 8. The Morgan was entered by the Morgan Works Racing Team and raced by Neil Cunningham, Keith Ahlers and Adam Sharpe. The car’s times improved with each session but it was no match for the quicker Porsches. They started thirty-third overall - eleventh in the GT category. A steady performance was rewarded with a twentieth overall.

1P1Biela / Kaffer / McNishAudi R8350-
2P1Lehto / Werner / PirroAudi R8345-
3P1Davies / Herbert / SmithAudi R8338-
4GTSFellows / O'Connell / PapisChevrolet Corvette C5.R329-
5P1Short / Barff / BarbosaDallara/Judd326-
6P1Weaver / Leitzinger / WallaceLola EX257323-
7P1Lewis / Drissi / RiceRiley & Scott Mk III C321-
8GTBernhard / Bergmeister / MaassenPorsche GT3RSR317-
9P1Bouchut / Blanchemain / BervillePanoz GTP/Elan317-
10GTDumas / Lieb / LuhrPorsche GT3RS317-
11GTMurry / Stanton/ PetersenPorsche GT3RS311-
12GTvan Overbeek / Law / FogartyPorsche GT3RSR311-
13GTHindery / Baron / RockenfellerPorsche GT3RS309-
14GTJackson / Sugden / CunninghamPorsche GT3RSR307-
15GTSBosch / Sullivan / BiagiFerrari 575 GTC307-
16GTKelleners / Lazzaro / BobbiFerrari 360 Modena GTC304-
17P1Field / Dayton / ConnorLola EX257302-
18GTWagner / Long / CollinsPorsche GT3RSR302-
19GTDonaldson / Fisken / MasaratiPorsche GT3RS299-
20GTAhlers / Cunningham / SharpeMorgan Aero 8281-
21GTPorter / Jonsson / KapudijaPorsche GT3RS275-
22P1Duno / Wilson / AndrewsLola B2K/10270Drive Line
23P2Macaluso / James / BorkowskiLola B2K/40264-
24GTStockton / Stretton / EvansTVR 400R262-
25GTSBorcheller/ Mowlem / BrabhamSaleen S7R257-
26P2Fitzgerald / Gue / RandLola B2K/40248-
27P2Field / Binnie / SutherlandLola B2K/40232-
28GTWilson / Mountain / BrooksPorsche GT3RSR215Accident
29GTCaffi / Warnock / KrohnPorsche GT3RS214Clutch
30P2McMurry / Willman / BucknumPilbeam MP91181Flat Tire
31GTLiddell / Boss / Plumb Porsche GT3RS167Transmission
32GTSWeickardt / Belloc / Allen Dodge Viper GTS-R121Accident
33GTBerridge / Caine / CarolineTVR 400R120Electrical
34P2Workman / Sak / BradleyLola B2K/40108Transmission
35P1Dyson / Lammers / de RadiguesLola EX257106Drive Train
36GTSHezemans / Deletraz / BardeFerrari 575 GTC101Suspension
37GTPechnik / Neiman / Cunningham Porsche GT3RS100Transmission
38GTEhret / Bunting / Matthews Porsche GT3RSR94Engine
39GTSGavin / Beretta / MagnussenChevrolet Corvette C5.R83Clutch
40P1Durand / Block / ForgeoisRiley & Scott Mk III C62Accident
41GTBurgess / Collin / WillinghamPorsche GT3R47Engine
42P2Franchitti / Hill / LallyLola B2K/4012Suspension
43P1Cochran / Faulkner / ZabinskLotus Elise7Transmission
44P2van der Steur / van der SteurLola B2K/402CV Joint

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