It was less than entertaining to watch the Corvettes race themselves in the GT1 class year, void of any competition from the Aston Martin teams that left the series to race exclusively in Europe. It was a shame, since the GT1 class has always been one of the best to watch. Despite Corvette's dominance over the past several years, they've always had great competition from the Vipers, Saleens, Maseratis, Ferraris, and Aston Martins. In 2006, the last time they faced competition from another team, Corvette Racing just barely captured the manufacturer's championship in the last race of the season at Laguna Seca.
This week, just in time for the initial testing sessions for the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the ALMS announced the return of the Aston Martin DBR9 to the GT1 class thanks to Florida-based Bell Motorsports. Team principal Jim Bell has been involved with ALMS since it inception, and even raced against the Corvettes in 2005 with the ACEMCO Saleen S7R. Other details about the team will be announced at a later date, including the driver lineup, but we should know the full details by the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
Jim Bell, one of the elite names in the history of sports car racing, announced today a shared venture with prominent businessman Michael Fux to launch a GT1 program with an Aston Martin DBR9 in the American Le Mans Series. The move will see Miami-based Bell Motorsports going head-to-head against stalwart Corvette Racing, which has won seven consecutive class championships.
The debut of the Bell Motorsports DBR9 at the Series' fourth annual Winter Test in Sebring revitalizes a rivalry that saw Corvette edge Aston Martin for the GT1 championship in 2006 in the last race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9 will make its competition debut March 15 at the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. Aston Martin has won six times in the American Le Mans Series with a debut win for the DBR9 at Sebring in 2005.
"To be able to announce Aston Martin's return to GT1 in the American Le Mans Series is special enough," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, "but for that effort to involve Jim Bell and new partner Michael Fux truly makes this news particularly satisfying. Jim has been involved with the American Le Mans Series since the inaugural Petit Le Mans and has a proven record of success in many forms of motorsport. The combination of Jim's experience and the potent Aston Martin DBR9 will no doubt keep Corvette Racing on its toes all season."
Bell, a 30-year veteran in sports car racing, has been involved with the American Le Mans Series since its inaugural event ... and even prior to that at Petit Le Mans in 1998. He has provided engineering oversight for a number of prominent GT and prototype teams in the Series. Most recently, Bell served as lead engineer and crew chief in support of Tim Pappas' Team Transport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the 2007 American Le Mans Series.
He also was the lead engineer for Jeff Giangrande's ACEMCO Motorsports team with both the Saleen S7R and Ferrari 360 Modena. The ACEMCO Saleen was the biggest threat to Corvette during the 2005 American Le Mans Series and also competed against efforts from Maserati, Dodge and Aston Martin. Bell's history in sports car racing dates back to 1977 and includes numerous wins in IMSA competition working with such drivers as Terry Borcheller, Emerson and Christian Fittipaldi, Klaus Ludwig, Bobby Rahal, Lyn St. James and Danny Sullivan. He was chief engineer for Bill and Don Whittington and Klaus Ludwig during the 1979 season and assisted in the trio's overall win in the Kremer Porsche 935 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Aston Martin always has made a premium race car and automobile," said Bell, team principal, "and there is no better place to showcase a premium brand than in the American Le Mans Series. Having been involved with the Series since its inception, I know it will be an extraordinary challenge but it's one we all relish and look forward to. We enjoyed competing in the American Le Mans Series with the ACEMCO Saleen S7R against Corvette Racing in 2005 and at Le Mans in 2006. I think we have developed a mutual, competitive respect for one another, and having the chance to rekindle that in 2008 makes me proud and eager with anticipation."
Michael Fux is a semi-retired businessman whose career expands more than 40 years in the founding, developing and launching of successful companies in the home furnishing industry. He is currently the CEO of Lifestyle Innovations, a distributor and marketer of oso*fresh food storage containers, which he founded in 2005. The company's mission is to create innovative products that have a long term benefit for both the user and the environment. Lifestyle Innovations' efforts are in conjunction with the retail trades ever-growing need to offer more environmentally friendly products.
oso*fresh containers are infused with micro-silver particles that prevent bacteria from growing. Food stored in oso*fresh containers will last a lot longer. oso*fresh is available at major retailers throughout the US.
Prior to this position, Mr. Fux served as President and CEO of Sleep Innovations, Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of memory foam mattresses, mattress toppers and pillows, a firm which he founded in 1996. Mr. Fux sold the company in 2005. Mr. Fux retains a seat on the Board of Directors.
He also is an avid car collector and race enthusiast who counts several high-performance exotic automobiles in his collection including a Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo and Ferrari FXX. Fux has had his eye on becoming involved in motorsports for some time and, like Bell, believes the American Le Mans Series is the ideal platform.
"I am delighted to collaborate with Jim Bell on this effort," Fux said. "I could not think a better person with whom to partner. Jim's experience and success is legendary within sports car racing, and Aston Martin certainly has had more than its fair share of racing success around the globe. We're eager to get started, and the Sebring Winter Test is just the first step."
"Michael's enthusiasm for this project just reinforces the dedication we have in putting a highly competitive race team and car on the track," Bell added. "We hope we can make things interesting this year for the Corvettes and especially fans. They have clamored for competition, and we intend to give it our best shot."
Among the drivers participating in the Sebring test for Bell Motorsports include Antonio Garcia, who drove an Aston Martin in GT1 at Sebring last year for Team Modena, open-wheel standout Jaime Camara and Chapman Ducote. Full-season drivers and other program specifics and partners will be announced at a later date.
Updated news, timing information, photos, audio and video from the Winter Test will be available at americanlemans.com throughout the week.
The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, Fox Latin America, 7TV in Russia and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.