By: GABRIELLE STEVENSON on July 18, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO-After more than three months away from the racetrack, the American Le Mans Series gets back into action with this weekend’s X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway.

Four classes of cars-the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) 900, LMP 675, Grand Touring Series (GTS) and Grand Touring (GT) — compete simultaneously in Sunday’s 2-hour, 45-minute endurance race at the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course.

This is the third event on the nine-race series schedule.

Terry Borcheller, who is the current points leader in the GTS class, is happy to be back in Sonoma. He’s been racing at Sears Point on a regular basis since 1991.

“I love this track,” the Saleen/Allen Speedlab team driver said at McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood restaurant Wednesday. “Knowing this track is a bonus because some tracks you can learn over the weekend, and some you can’t. You can’t learn Sears Point (in one weekend). There are not a lot of places to pass, and there are elevation changes.

“I love the challenges of this track. The guys who don’t like the track don’t do well here. Otherwise, most road course drivers really like Sears Point.”

Sonoma’s Kevin Buckler (Porsche, GT class) is hoping he and teammate Tyler McQuarrie will have an advantage over the other drivers. McQuarrie, 25, is a series rookie but has been working at the Russell School of Racing, which is located at Sears Point.

“Tyler knows this track better than anyone,” Buckler said. “We were talking about a corner on the track, and he said, `You know, the one with the patch of cement with the little weed in the middle?’ I had no idea where he was talking about. Tyler is a very smart driver and is doing very well.”

As with every road course race, car setup is going to be one of the top concerns during practice sessions.

“You have to deal with winding corners and a track that can be violently bumpy,” Buckler said. “You have to have a happy medium in the setup. The tires are going to be a big issue too. Especially with the Porsche teams because you have corner after corner and the tires have a tendency to go away (lose tread and grip).”

For the first time in six years, the Trans-Am Series is returning to the Sonoma road course. The Wine Country 100, featuring points leader Paul Gentilozzi and 2000 series champion Brian Simo, will be held Saturday. Qualifying is Friday at 2:20 p.m., and the 100-mile race is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Danville’s Joahnnes van Overbeek (Porsche) also is back at Sears Point and will be competing in the Speedvision World Challenge feature race Sunday.

Practice and qualifying for several race classes start at 8 a.m. Friday. The American Le Mans race is noon Sunday.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at the track, online at www.searspoint.com or www.tickets.com or by calling 800-870-RACE. The cost is $5 for Friday, $25 for Saturday and $40 for Sunday, with parking included with each ticket. There also is a three-day pass for $50.