Herbert & Lehto team up in Audi with ADT Champion Racing. * Johansson re-signs with Champion for Sebring & Atlanta - plus Le Mans * Former ALMS champion Pirro joins Champion for Sebring & Le Mans Team ADT Champion Racing will make a...
Herbert & Lehto team up in Audi with ADT Champion Racing.
* Johansson re-signs with Champion for Sebring & Atlanta - plus Le Mans
* Former ALMS champion Pirro joins Champion for Sebring & Le Mans
Team ADT Champion Racing will make a concerted attack on this year's American Le Mans Series titles having signed Britain's Johnny Herbert and "Flying Finn" JJ Lehto. Herbert and Lehto form a formidable partnership driving a "customer" Audi R8 sponsored by ADT - the largest single provider of total security solutions to residential, business and federal customers.
Herbert re-joins Team ADT Champion Racing from the second round in Mexico (5 Apr) while Lehto will race in all 10 ALMS events plus the Le Mans 24 Hours race on 14-15 Jun. Lehto will be partnered by Stefan Johansson, of Sweden, and Italy's 2001 ALMS champion Emanuele Pirro in the ADT Champion Audi R8, a 2001 chassis featuring 2002 upgrades, for the season-opening Sebring 12 Hours race on 15 March and Le Mans.
Herbert (38), Lehto (37 last Friday), Johansson (46) and Pirro (41 last month) are all former successful single-seater drivers who each spent a number of years contesting the Formula One World Championship. All have claimed victory at Le Mans - indeed Pirro bids for his fourth consecutive triumph in the annual French "classic" in June.
"I'm delighted to be driving for Team ADT Champion Audi again," confirmed Herbert. "I've contested 16 ALMS races since July '01 and I thoroughly enjoy racing Stateside. I believe JJ and I will prove to be a strong combination and should earn Champion much success this season."
Jyrki Jarvilehto (JJ) Lehto added: "I couldn't have chosen a better car to drive than the Audi R8 which has dominated sportscar racing recently. As for Champion, the team is very professional and I'm truly delighted to be part of its set-up. I'm certain I'll be adding to my ALMS victory tally this season and can't wait to actually drive an Audi having spent the last couple of years chasing after them!"
"Champion has shown itself to be a very capable team," remarked Johansson. "I'll be bidding for my third Sebring triumph and having finished second at Atlanta for the past two years, I'm eager to win another of America's 'classic' sportscar races."
Pirro is also hungry for more glory: "My target is a victory at Sebring and a podium finish in Le Mans but with the proven reliability of the R8, an even better result is possible in France. I am sorry to be split from my long-time Audi Sport team-mate Frank Biela but I'm really happy and looking forward to driving with JJ and Stefan at Champion who have both been my team mates in different stages of my career."
Victory at Sebring and Le Mans is certainly possible for Champion. Audi has already achieved incredible consistency at Le Mans and in the ALMS and there is no reason that this success cannot continue."
Florida-based Champion Racing will be hoping its third time lucky. This season marks the third year the ultra-professional Dave Maraj headed Champion outfit has campaigned an Audi in the ALMS. Not only will Team ADT Champion Racing be aiming to score its maiden ALMS victory but also the ultra-talented and experienced driver line-up should ultimately be contenders for championship honours.
"Champion Racing won the IMSA Cup for Privateers last year, but I feel we have a good opportunity for the outright Driver's and Teams' championship titles in 2003," asserted Team Owner Dave Maraj. "We're all looking forward to this year, having such a good sponsor in ADT and in Johnny, JJ, Stefan and Emanuele, I believe we have four top drivers for our ALMS and Le Mans programs."
In the past two seasons, a Champion Racing Audi R8 has recorded 16 top-five finishes from 18 races and only one retirement - caused by accident damage when Herbert crashed out when challenging for the lead in the final minutes of the Mosport race in 2001. Indeed last year alone, Team ADT Champion Racing achieved five second place ALMS race finishes with its 2001-specification Audi R8 and were a constant threat to the latest "factory" R8s throughout the season.
Herbert, who finished eighth and joint fourth in the '01 & '02 ALMS final standings, has one ALMS victory to his credit - Sebring last year when driving for the "factory" Audi team. Lehto, fourth and sixth in the '99 & ' 00 ALMS, has scored six outright ALMS wins (plus four GT class triumphs). JJ is also a former Sebring winner (1999).