Team Elite – Lotus Elise GT1 For ALMS
This is the culmination of at least a year’s hard work by
the characters behind the return of the 1997 Lotus Elise GT1 to
modern endurance racing.
initial ‘push’ to make this happen came from Austria,
in the hands of Klaus Altschach, but with the car on display at
Sebring last year (right), it was apparent that if the Elise was
to make a comeback, it would happen in North America.
And seven years on,
it is going to happen. The Elise is homologated to run as a GTP
car in the LMP1 Class, and the team even has Johnny Herbert on board,
to help with testing and development in the run-up to Sebring. Herbert
is likely to be driving another marque in the 12 Hours – but
with Team Elite planning a full ALMS schedule, and no drivers announced
yet, perhaps Herbert will end up racing the Lotus?
Team Elite, a division
of Elite Motorsports Management, plans to use 2004 as a test and
development season in preparation for a full two-car assault on
the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005.
“We are very excited
about the opportunity to campaign the Elise in the ALMS,”
said Keith Smout, Team Elite principal. Smout was Commercial Director
for both the BAR and Jaguar Formula One teams, before returning
to Canada in 2002.
Gary Ankenmann, Director
of Team Elite, will run the team’s operations on a day-to-day
basis from Toronto, but the racing team will be based in the Florida
shop of JB Racing, Inc., under Technical Director Jim Higgs.
Keith Welsh is thought
to be the Team Manager, and is known to be talking to other highly
talented drivers, with a view to driving for Team Elite in the ALMS.
Team partners include
Park ‘N Fly Canada, Kwikpower International and Jacques Villeneuve
– Sonax Car Care Products. Negotiations with tire companies
and other sponsors continue, and in addition to a full season of
the ALMS, the team may also enter some races in the new Le Mans
Endurance Series in Europe.
is effectively the third ‘life’ for this design, which
showed some form in the 1997 FIA GT Championship (and at Le Mans),
and was then briefly run – in modified spec., powered by a
Viper engine – as the Bitter GT1, by Toine Hezemans, in 1998.
The Elise raced against another 1997 car that could yet run in the
2004 ALMS ….. the Panoz GTR-1, which resurfaced last November
as the Panoz GTP. The image shows the Thai sponsored car of Ratanakul
Prutirat, which didn't start at Lagnua Seca in October 1997.
The best result
for an Elise in the FIA GT Championship in 1997 was fifth place,
for Mauro Martini and Andrea Boldrini, in a Franco Meiners run turbocharged
car. Some time between then and now, Meiners expressed the hope
of racing a car in the British GT Championship, but finally the
Lotus Elise GT1 will return. It will be powered by a six litre normally