The French. Great food, better wine, and a love affair with the car that rivals America's. As the 24 Hours of Le Mans draws near, the ties to the country that taught us how to cut potatoes grow even stronger. These are the cars of the American Le Mans Series that will be running in the famed race, up close and in action on the track during their recent race at Laguna Seca during the third round of the season.

From the LMP classes with their open cockpits to the GT cars based closely on production models, they all fight for a chance to attend the 24-hour race that gives the series its name. The invitation-only event draws its competitors from the ranks of the ALMS, Le Mans Series, FIA GT Championship and the Petit Le Mans. Earning a spot requires consistent performance at the top of the sport.

The teams entering the race from the U.S. this year include the prototype-class Michael Lewis/Autocon LMP1 Lola team driven by Michael Lewis, Bryan Willman, and Tony Burgess, and the Highcroft Racing LMP2 HPD ARX.01 piloted by David Brabham, Marino Franchitti, and Marco Werner. In the GT2 classes, the U.S. is represented by the Corvette Racing teams driven by Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell and Antonio Garcia in one car and Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Emmanuel Collard in the other.

The Flying Lizard Motorsport GT2 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR team is also on the entry list, driven by Seth Neiman, Darren Law and Joerg Bergmesiter, as is the Jaguar RSR GT2 XKRS team driven by Paul Gentilozzi, Ryan Dalziel, and Marc Goossens, and the two Risi Competizione GT2 Ferrari F430 cars driven by Jaime Melo, Gianmaria Bruni, and Pierre Kaffer in one car and Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, and Eric van de Poele in the second.

Enjoy the gallery of the action at Monterey and the video below (click through for the HD version), and get ready for the big event this weekend. Free practice sessions start this Wednesday, with qualifying on Thursday, and the driver's parade on Friday. The green flag flies at 3:00 p.m. CEST on Saturday, June 12.

[Photos and video by Joe Nuxoll, High Gear Media]