The ambitious Level 5 Motorsports has done exactly what Atherton and the ALMS wanted when it allowed in the ORECA-built Formula Le Mans cars to create the one-make LMPC class at the start of last year. Level 5 won the drivers' title with team owner Scott Tucker and moved up a class for this season.
It fields a pair of HPD-engined Lola chassis, one open-top car and one coupe. It also has a second coupe, which will stay in Europe for the team's attack on the ILMC and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Tucker is expected to drive both, sharing one with Christophe Bouchut and one with former LMP2 frontrunner Luis Diaz.
Can old beat new in Ferrari fight?
Risi Competizione's Ferrari 430 GT was the fastest thing in class last year. So the bad news for the opposition is that it now has what should be an even quicker GT contender in the 458 Italia. How good the 458 is remains unclear. Risi drivers Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander had to make do with car-builder Michelotto's test hack at the Sebring test and progress was slowed by two gearbox failures.
Risi team manager Dave Sims is of the opinion that the 458 is definitely quicker than its predecessor. “It's got more power and the fuel consumption is better because it is a direct-injection engine.”
The gearbox issues at the test and the decision of the AF Corse team, an entrant in the ILMC, to run the old 430 suggests that there are reliability concerns with the 458. Risi is worried by a lack of mileage with its car, which wasn't due to run between a brief shakedown in Italy and a Sebring test the weekend before the race.
Risi has also lost the services of Gianmaria Bruni, arguably the best of Ferrari's roster of drivers. The Italian is focusing on his ILMC campaign with AF.
Will BMW depart in a blaze of glory?
Is this BMW's last chance to add the GT drivers' title to its 2010 manufacturers' and teams' crowns? The program is only confirmed for 2011 and it can be expected that BMW will spend next year preparing for the Grand-Am sanctioned U.S. series for DTM machinery in 2013.
Bobby Rahal's squad, now known as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, has a revised version of the factory developed V8-engined M3 at its disposal. On the plus side, there's a new aero package; on the minus side, the 2011 car is forced by the rules to adopt the same rear suspension setup as the Schnitzer team used in Europe in 2010.
The priority for BMW is to make the M3 a consistent front-runner on all circuits and at all times. The combination of the M3 and its Dunlop tires all too often lost out on restarts last season.
Can the cats lick the cream?
The factory-backed RSR Jaguar team is back for its second full season with a heavily revised second-gen version of the XKR GT, a largely new driver lineup and an intent to make up for a torrid debut year in the American Le Mans Series.
After winter testing with an interim car, team owner Paul Gentilozzi says: “The results are encouraging. Every indication is that we are going to take a big step forward.”
Two former Champ Car stars Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Junqueira will drive the lead Jag. Neither has much sports car experience, but Gentilozzi insists, “A driver's ability is more important than the category they came from.”
This time there will be a second car. Versatile Belgian Marc Goossens, part of the RSR setup last year, will share with PJ Jones, winner of the Daytona 24 Hours nearly 20 years ago.
Gentilozzi knows that RSR has to deliver in 2011, which is why it has decided to skip the Le Mans 24 Hours, scene of arguably its biggest PR disaster of last season.
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the April 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.