What a way to kick off the 2011 ALMS season

With a rich offering of dynamic grids over the years, this season’s running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida may top them all. An impressive list of full-season entrants in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón will combine with the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup field for a 59-car grid, setting the stage for one of the most anticipated editions of America’s greatest sports car race.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest – sanctioning body for the Le Mans 24 Hours – announced Wednesday the teams that will participate in the seven-round ILMC. Concurrently, ALMS sanctioning body IMSA released its list of full-season entrants for 2011. Together, it gives Sebring one of the largest and most diverse gatherings of sports cars it has seen in what will be its 59th running. It ties the largest Sebring field in the ALMS era, matching the 2002 grid.

“The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida has never been more in the spotlight than it will be in 2011,” said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. “The collection of world-class talent – drivers, teams and manufacturers – that will test themselves in one of the world’s most grueling endurance challenges ranks alongside only Le Mans in both quality and quantity. The start of the 2011 American Le Mans Series season – and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup – will be one for the ages and certainly one worth the devotion and following this great race has enjoyed for nearly 60 years.”

Each of last year’s Sebring class winners are back for 2011 – Peugeot Sport in LMP1, Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing (up to P1 from LMP2), Level 5 Motorsports (LMPC to LMP2), Risi Competizione (GT) and Alex Job Racing (GTC). In addition, defending ALMS champions Highcroft Racing (P1), BMW Team RLL (GT) and Black Swan Racing (GTC), are on the initial Sebring entry.

A bevy of manufacturers will compete in the March 19 race. The battle at the head of the grid will be fascinating once again. In LMP1 alone, Peugeot will defend against the likes of Audi and representatives from Aston Martin, Honda Performance Development, Toyota, Mazda and Pescarolo.

The entry in GT is even more expansive with marques such as Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Panoz and Porsche. In addition, the LMP and GT Challenge classes that debuted in 2010 will compete alongside ILMC entries at both Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

“The American Le Mans Series was founded by Don Panoz as a year-round showcase of everything that makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans the greatest motor race in the world,” Atherton said. “Having Sebring serve as the first round of this important new championship is another validation of the world-class stature of our platform and Sebring’s status in global endurance racing.”

The 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida is set for 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday March 19. The race will be shown live and in its entirety on and starting at 10 a.m. ET. ABC will provide coverage from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20. Visit the American Le Mans Series’ schedule page for information on tickets and area accommodations.

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