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Motorsport: Audi claim sports car GrandSlam

Posted on Sunday, October 02, 2005 @ 20:23:22 BST by audioc

Audi factory drivers Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro scored a comfortable "Petit Le Mans" victory to earn the German-Italian driver combination the American Le Mans Series LM P1 title. Audi won the annual 1,000-mile race at Road Atlanta (USA) for a sixth consecutive year. The Audi R8 remains unbeaten in "Petit Le Mans" since its debut in 2000. Audi again claimed the sports car "Grand Slam" by winning the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and "Petit Le Mans".Team ADT Champion Racing's #1 JJ Lehto/Marco Werner Audi lined-up second on the 30-car grid with the "sister" #2 R8 of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro third, but drama occurred moments after the start of the race. James Weaver (Lola), starting from alongside Pirro on the second row, the pole-starting Zytek of Hayanri Shimoda and Lehto entered the first corner three abreast. Shimoda made contact with Lehto's Audi incurring extensive front bodywork and right-hand suspension damage when both cars went off the circuit. Following a 40-minute pit-stop for repairs, Lehto resumed in 29th overall - 30 laps down. Ad mid-distance, Lehto/Werner were up to 13th overall when they touched a slower car with 5 1/2 hours run causing a pit-stop for rear suspension repairs. They eventually came home seventh, third in the LM P1 class.

Ran in daytime temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit and in front of a record 77,000 crowd, the Biela/Pirro Audi dominated the race and took the chequered flag victorious after 9hrs 16mins. Biela and Pirro thus prematurely added this year's ALMS title to the ones achieved in 2003 and 2001 respectively with their fourth ALMS victory of the season. The Manufacturers' and Teams' titles will be decided at the final race at Laguna Seca (California) on 15 October.

JJ Lehto was not pleased. "Schimoda (Zytek) was very slow into the first corner and was braking far too early. So I took the outside line, James Weaver (Dyson) took the inside, and then Shimoda moved over on me. I was outside and I was already ahead of them but I was the one who got collected."

For this incident the crew for the No. 1 Audi replaced both front corners, the nose box and the clutch master. There was no structural damage to the car as only bolt on parts were replaced. Troubles would not end there for the No. 1 team.

After fighting feverishly to make up lost time (30 laps/45 minutes) and climbing back into third position in the P1 class, Lehto was touched a second time by Tomas Enge in an Aston Martin as the two cars headed into the Esses on lap 240. Lehto had to return to the pits and have the tow linkage in the left rear replaced. Fortunately, the repair time was minimal and Lehto was back on the track in a flash.

At the end of the 9:16 hour race, Lehto and Werner had to settle for 3rd in the LMP1 class and 7th overall.

Team ADT Champion Racing now has the privilege of claiming wins at the three most prestigious sports car races in the world: the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.

And finally, the Audi R8 once again continues it's winning tradition at Petit Le Mans by earning its sixth consecutive victory. The Audi R8 has never been beaten at Petit Le Mans since it made its first appearance in 2000.

Biela, Pirro clinch LMP1 championship, win Petit Le Mans

Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela won the battle and the war Saturday. The Champion Racing duo won Petit Le Mans and captured their first LMP1 drivers championship together in the American Le Mans Series with a convincing victory at Road Atlanta.

Each have each won previous ALMS titles: Biela in 2003 with Marco Werner, and Pirro in 2001. The No. 2 Champion Racing Audi R8 won for the fourth time this season and has finished in the top three of each ALMS round this year, a model of title-winning consistency.

"All we had to do was keep it on the track," a joyous Pirro said after climbing out of the winning car. "I want to thank our mechanics for a great job. Winning this championship is an absolute dream."

The No. 2 Audi was a 12-lap winner over Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in the No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola. They finished second, followed by the No. 1 Champion Audi of Lehto and Werner. The car was involved in a first-lap accident that collected Lehto and the pole-sitting No. 15 Zytek of Hayanari Shimoda and Tom Chilton.

James Weaver, in the No. 16 Dyson Lola, also was involved in the incident and lost significant time, as well. That left Pirro and Biela up front by themselves.

"For us, its not so easy with such a big lead," Biela said. "Sometimes it's a little bit easier when there's a lot of competition. You're not concentrating on not making mistakes, but having to overtake and keep them behind you. Our guys did a brilliant job. Finally we won it. When we came to Audi this season, all we wanted to do was win. We didn't think we could win here (then), but we did it."

Quotes after Petit Le Mans

Frank Biela (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #2): "The track was very dirty and slippery making it tough. By mid-distance we already had a very comfortable lead but it was vital to concentrate 100% - it could have been easy to make a stupid mistake. I'm very happy, I honestly did not expect to clinch the title here with one race remaining. Team ADT Champion Racing thoroughly deserves the success it has achieved this year."

Emanuele Pirro (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #2): "The race may have appeared boring but after the first corner accident, Frank and I needed to make sure we won today. Apart from a small brake problem at one stage, our car was perfect throughout the race. Meanwhile our pit crew, who at the start of the season had not much R8 experience, have been fantastic all season. Now Frank and I can enjoy ourselves at Laguna."

JJ Lehto (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #1): "Shimoda was slow into the first corner and braked early. I took the outside line with James (Weaver) on the inside but Shimoda moved over on me. I would do the same manoeuvre again - I have taken the outside line there many times. Despite this and the later setback, we continued to push throughout as our aim must now be to finish runners-up in the championship."

Marco Werner (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #1): "JJ's first lap accident was obviously a great shame because it cost us any chance we had of victory. But the team did a great job in repairing our Audi on both occasions and it ran fast and reliably after each problem. Although we have said goodbye to the ALMS title JJ and I have had a very successful year."

Dave Maraj (Team owner Team ADT Champion Racing): "To win the three major sportscar endurance races, the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1,000-mile 'Petit' all in one season is a magnificent achievement for everyone involved in my team."

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Congratulations to Frank (Biela) and Emanuele (Pirro) on winning the ALMS title prematurely! Both showed a strong performance this season and have deserved the title. JJ (Lehto) and Marco (Werner) had some bad luck this year. But they have won Sebring and Le Mans. Even after six years, the Audi R8 is still the prototype to beat - we are proud of that."

Result

DRIVERS CLASS TEAM DIFF.
1) E.Pirro/F.Biela/ LMP1 ADT Champion Racing 394 laps
2) C.Dyson/G.Smith LMP1 Dyson Racing 382 laps
3) O.Beretta/O.Gavin/J.Magnussen GT1 Corvette Racing 379 laps
4) D.Brabham/D.Turner/J.Kane GT1 Aston Martin Racing 378 laps
7) J.Lehto/M.Werner LMP1 ADT Champion Racing 372 laps


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