Konrad Motorsports Faces Up Hill Battle At Sears Point

SONOMA, Calif., May 16, 2002 — While the Park Place Racing S7R of 2001 Grand-Am GTS Champion Chris Bingham has scored three straight victories in the Grand-Am Rolex Cup and the Saleen S7R of Graham Nash Motorsports has won three out of four races in the British and Spanish GT Championships, the Konrad Motorsports team is still looking for that elusive first win in the 2002 American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Team owner, Franz Konrad, and co-driver, Terry Borcheller, last year’s ALMS GTS Drivers’ Champion, hope this weekend’s 2 hour 45 minute Grand Prix of Sonoma, presented by Foster’s Lager will be the time and the place for their first top podium finish of the year. The challenging 12-turn 2.52-mile up-and-down-hill event on the Sears Point circuit is the second ALMS round of the season, following the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

Konrad Motorsports finished 3rd at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona (a Grand-Am Rolex Cup race) and 2nd to the factory Corvette at Sebring. This latter podium finish was in spite of penalties assessed by the ACO that resulted in a 15% reduction in airflow to the engine, along with having to add 70 kilos (150+ lb) of lead to the car because of confusion over how many S7s have been produced.

Borcheller and Konrad are out to avenge their 3rd-place finish last year at Sears behind the Corvette Racing team, which will be back to defend their title with two cars, including the Corvette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell winner of last year’s GTS class at Sears. Last year Terry Borcheller put the Saleen on the pole and set fastest race lap, but the overall GTS win eluded the Konrad team when a problem occurred with its Goodyear tires. The team has switched to Pirelli tires this year, but unfortunately will have to race with a 10% restriction and 50 kilos of weight at Sears Point.

“We were really quick at Sears last year; the very first time an S7R has raced at that rack,” commented Borcheller. “Poles and fastest race laps are certainly satisfying, but this year Franz and I would prefer to put our Saleen in victory circle more often.”

Not that the Konrad team expects an easy time of it. Besides the Corvette factory racing team, the Konrad/Borcheller duo will face stiff competition from a GTS field that also includes Dodge Viper GTS-Rs and a newcomer to the ALMS, the Ferrari 550 Maranello.

ALMS cars will test the circuit for the first time on Friday, May 17, with official practice and qualifying to be held on Saturday, May 18. The race will be televised live by the SPEED Channel beginning at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. Live coverage by the American Le Mans
Series Radio Web can be heard online at beginning at noon with a one-hour pre-race show. ALMS Radio Web also will have two hours of coverage of qualifying for the Sears Point race with several drivers as special quests. The broadcast will start at 5 p.m. on Saturday May 18. Listeners will be able to email questions for the drivers to answer. The names of the drivers and the email address will be listed on the web site.

With four Saleen customer teams entered in four series around the world last year, the Saleen S7R customer teams set 27 poles and fastest laps and won 19 out of 32 races this season — quite possibly the finest inaugural race season for any marque in history. And, hopefully, more in store for 2002.

Saleen was crowned the SCCA World Challenge Champions in 1996-1998, while an ex-Le Mans Saleen SR won the Spanish FIA GT in 1999. In 2000, Saleen swept the Grand-Am GTO Championships winning the Team, Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles. Last season’s remarkable success with the S7R makes this the sixth straight GTS Manufacturers’ Championship for Saleen Motorsports — and looking for lucky #7!