By: N.A. on September 22, 2003
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 53, ISSUE 38

Pagani delayed
The race return of the Pagani Zonda supercar scheduled for next month’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta has been set back. The Dutch-based team put the race program on hold for the Mercedes-engined GTS contender after a disappointing Le Mans performance in June. A projected return for the American Le Mans Series finale is delayed while the team awaits new development parts. The revised car, which will run a 7.0-liter engine and an Xtrac gearbox for the first time, should test in early October and then compete in the Le Mans Endurance Series Nov. 9 race on the Le Mans-Bugatti circuit.

Junior will do the 24
NASCAR Winston Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will contest next year’s Daytona 24-hour with the Freisinger Porsche team. Eamhardt Jr., who made his debut in the sports car classic in 2001 driving a factory Chevrolet Corvette he shared with his late lather, has signed a deal to race the German team’s lead 911 GT3-RS in the Florida event next February. Freisinger team leader Stephane Ortelli will join him in the car. Team boss Manfred Freisinger said, “We have a mutual friend who contacted us about Dale. Everything has been agreed and the deal will be signed this week.” Eamhardt Jr. currently sits second in Winston Cup points in the Chevy owned by DEI Inc., the team his late father started.

Customer Lambos
Lamborghini wants to sell more than 10 of its new V12-engined Murci√©lago R-GT racers around the world next season. The Audi-controlled sports car maker is pitching the new design, unveiled at the Frankfurt show (page 17), as a turnkey customer car for privateers. The R-GT will be eligible for the FIA GT Championship, the American Le Mans Series and the Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe. Manfred Fitzgerald, Lamborghini head of marketing, explained that the program had been kick-started by requests from potential customers. “So many of our clients were asking us for a tool to use on the racetrack that we felt we had to do something,” he said. “That’s the motivation behind what I am calling our customer sports program.”

Saleen return?
U.S. supercar manufacturer Saleen will make a full-time return to the American Le Mans Series in 2004. The California company, which has been represented in only a handful of this year’s races, is selling two cars to the American Acemco Motorsports team. Jeff Giangrande, who owns the team, intends to field a Saleen in all ALMS events next season. Giangrande entered a GT class Ferrari in the ALMS this year, but said he likes GTS because that’s where the competition is. “We believe [GTS] is the best place to be competitive as a privateer,” he said. It is unclear who will run the car in 2004. The Ferrari 360 Modena that Acemco has entered in the ALMS this year has been run by Risi Competizione. No drivers have been announced, although Giangrande said that his pairing of Terry Borcheller and Shane Lewis were both on the “short list.” A deal for Borcheller would mark the 38-year-old’s return to a Saleen three years after he won the ALMS’ GTS crown in a Konrad-entered car.