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.

dailysportscar.comThe 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.

dailysportscar.comThis 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 aspirated V8.


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