LE MANS, June 12, 2002 – After quite possibly the finest inaugural race season ever last year, a trio of Saleen S7Rs find themselves considerable underdogs at this weekend’s classic 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Consider this…The new Saleen S7R set 27 poles and fastest laps and won 19 out of 32 races last year, including the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring where they upset the factory Corvettes. At last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Saleen S7Rs set the fastest lap in practice, qualifying (with a record run of 3:52.849 nearly 3 seconds faster than previous) and the race and finished a respectable third in spite of an early race accident.

So why the underdog status?

Per the original ACO regulations requiring the construction of 12 cars, Saleen built 18 chassis including seven racecars prior to the American Le Mans (ALMS) season-opening race at Sebring. In a “rules clarification” the week before Sebring, the ACO advised Saleen that 12 “road” cars would be required thereby imposing a 15% restriction in air and 70 kilos of additional weight on each car. Saleen built another chassis before the
ALMS race at Sears Point only to have one of its crash test cars disqualified from the ACO head count. Saleen now clearly understands that it must build one more car before the restrictions are lifted which the company expects to occur shortly after Le Mans.

“We’re certainly disappointed with the recent rulings,” commented Steve Saleen, president of the Southern California-based manufacturer of high-performance automobiles. “With nearly 9,000 Saleen Mustangs built in the past 19 years, we truly believe that we’ve done everything that the ACO has asked including demonstrating the ability to build 12 S7 supercars per year,” Saleen added. “With our racing success of the past 18 months, it’s a shame that our Saleen S7Rs won’t be allowed to compete on a level playing field. But our focus now is on delivering more S7 road cars to our customers which will automatically eliminate the restrictions in the near future.”

Just last Thursday, June 6, Saleen presented the keys to the first S7 road car to Jerry and Kathy Ritzow of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (see keeping his promise to deliver the first supercar in the spring of 2002. The proud owners of a Lizstick Red S7 were the very first to purchase the new American supercar after its debut at the Monterey Historic Races in August of 2000. Saleen currently has orders for 50 supercars and plans to begin regular production of one S7 per week at its Irvine, Calif., headquarters this summer.

In spite of the restrictions imposed by the ACO and the “success ballast” that is part of the British GT rules, Saleen S7Rs are seeking to repeat their performance of last year when they won GT Drivers’ Championships in four different series around the globe.

Chris Bingham, the 2001 Grand-Am GTS Drivers’ Champion, continues to rule the Grand-Am Rolex Cup winning three straight races after the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. In a similar fashion, Graham Nash Motorsports (GNM) is dominating both the British GT and Spanish GT Championships with three Saleen S7Rs. Ian McKellar, the 2001 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) GTS Drivers’ Champion, and Tommy Erdos currently lead the British GT with five victories in the first six races, while Pedro Chaves and Miguel Ramos are on top in the Spanish GT.

For the second year in a row, three Saleen S7Rs are entered in this weekend’s classic twice-around-the-clock race through the French countryside. Although very similar to last year’s line up, the drivers have played some musical chairs. Although Ray Mallock sold his ELMS Championship car to Graham Nash recently, the team has an automatic Le Man entry and will borrow GNM’s car, crew and Portugese duo for the race. Chaves and
Ramos will be joined by England’s Gavin Pickering in the #68 Saleen.

Although the driver line up is very similar to last year, the two factory entries will be replaced by two Saleen S7Rs from Konrad Motorsports. Toni Seiler of Switzerland moves over from the second car to assist the team of Franz Konrad of Austria and Terry Borcheller of Phoenix, Ariz., in the #66 Saleen which placed third on the podium last year. Borcheller won the 2001 ALMS GTS Drivers’ Championship driving with Konrad. Charlie Slater of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Switzerland’s Walter Brun will be joined Saleen by Rodney Mall of Riverside, Calif. in the second Konrad car (#67).