The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón has announced that it will be racing at Virginia International Raceway for the first time this season. The series will race at the permanent road course in Danville, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 15 in a four-hour enduro. The ALMS cars will race on the track's 4.1-mile, 31-turn Grand Course, in an event that will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“For years we have received numerous inquiries from fans and competitors on when we would race at VIR, I'm proud to say that time is now,” said Scott Atherton, ALMS president and CEO. “Virginia International Raceway is an excellent addition to what no doubt will be a fantastic 2012 season for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. Given VIR's history and acclaim as a world-class road racing facility, this is a natural fit. We look forward to working closely with the VIR team to introduce their fans and lots of new ones to the fastest, toughest and most entertaining competition VIR has witnessed.”
Originally built in 1957, VIR played host to its first race in August of that year – an SCCA event that attracted the likes of Carroll Shelby, Bob Holbert, Carl Haas and more. VIR also played host to the first IMSA GT race in 1971 – Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg drove a Porsche 914-6 to a victory over Dave Heinz's Corvette. Gregg and Haywood also won in the 1972 IMSA GT race at VIR.
Competitors over the years have heaped praise on the circuit. Paul Newman once opined that “If there's a heaven on earth, it's VIR.” Car & Driver named it one of the six best road courses in the U.S. and called a lap around the Grand Course the closest thing in America to a lap of the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
“The list of drivers and manufacturers who have achieved success at VIR is a storied one,” Atherton added. “We are thrilled at the prospect of ushering in a new era of competition at VIR as the first series to run its Grand Course. The sights and sounds of our prototype and GT cars racing at high speeds around such a demanding and picturesque layout will create a spectacle no one should miss.”
The track closed in 1974 but reopened in 2000 after New York real estate developer and vintage racer Harvey Siegel acquired the property in 1998. In addition to a repaving and widening of the circuit, VIR added resort facilities that include three hotels and multiple dining options. The track plays host to numerous events during the course of a season including sports cars, motorcycles and karting.
"Virginia International Raceway and our partners in the surrounding communities are thrilled to witness the incomparable show that will be delivered by the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and IMSA's top-flight development championships,” said Connie Nyholm, managing partner of VIR. "To be able to give our fans and sponsors the leaders in cutting-edge racing technology and the Global Leader in Green Racing, competing at speeds never seen at our historic track is an opportunity not to be missed.”
Along with the ALMS, the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama, Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda, USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda and the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX5 Cup will compete on the weekend.
The 2012 American Le Mans Series season gets under way with the 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 17. It also will mark the first race of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship.