Audi Laguna Seca preview

Audi enters final stages in ALMS season Auburn Hills, Mich. - Suspense is guaranteed in the final stages of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Prior to the last two rounds of the season in Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta, the four front-running ...

Audi enters final stages in ALMS season

Auburn Hills, Mich. - Suspense is guaranteed in the final stages of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Prior to the last two rounds of the season in Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta, the four front-running Audi works drivers Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela are separated by just a few points in the overall championship. However, after securing victory in Mid-Ohio, Panoz drivers Jan Magnussen and David Brabham still have a good chance to take the title.

Team Audi Sport North America faces a difficult task at Laguna Seca on September 9 to battle against each other and have one eye on the very competitive Panoz team. Not only Panoz, but the Johansson Gulf Audi will return to ALMS competition at Laguna as well.

Moreover, the 2.24 mile circuit near Monterey is regarded as unpredictable, with fine sand blowing over the track from the nearby ocean. "If you leave the racing line it gets extremely slippery," remembers Head of Audi Sport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich from last year. "Apart from that, in the early morning hours it can be very cold before turning really hot around midday." Changing temperatures and grip conditions make finding a suitable set up difficult.

For this reason, Team Audi Sport North America are pleased to have experience from last year, when, after a sensational fight, Audi secured not only a double win but also took the ALMS manufacturer's title before the season had even finished. "In the meantime we've become familiar with the Laguna Seca track and have managed to gain a great deal of experience with the Audi R8 last year," explains team director Reinhold Joest. "We know exactly where we stand, and for this reason I'm convinced that we can reach our goal and win the race."

The Audi works drivers are particularly looking forward to the race in California. "Laguna is situated in one of the most beautiful regions of the USA," enthuses Tom Kristensen, who travels through California with his family since the previous ALMS round in Mid-Ohio. "Again the track is new for me, but I've heard a lot about it - mostly of course about the famous Cork Screw."

The "Cork Screw" curve combination, which drops away sharply after a crest, is regarded as one of the most fascinating passages in the world. "It'll be fantastic to drive the R8 through this section," believes Andy Wallace, who competes for the Audi customer team Champion Racing and is a dedicated fan of this race track. "I like this circuit a lot. The right set up will be decisive there."

"Laguna Seca is without doubt one of the most beautiful race tracks on the ALMS calendar," agrees Rinaldo Capello. "But it is also one of the most difficult circuits," adds Frank Biela. "At first glance it seems quite easy, because you have already memorised it after a couple of laps. But it is not easy to find the perfect line. There are a couple of corners that are much quicker than you think at first."

The main objective for Biela and his partner Emanuele Pirro is to make up as much ground as possible to their team mates Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen. "The championship now enters a critical phase," says Pirro. "A lot depends on this race. I'm motivated and I'm looking forward to another tough fight."

Eager to join the fight again are Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace with their Champion Audi R8. "Lately we have been able to show that we are capable of winning," believes Herbert. "Now we just need that little bit of elusive luck."

Stefan Johansson and his team return to the ALMS for the Laguna Seca round. Driving a 2000-spec Audi R8, Johansson already clinched the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) title and now focuses on the last two rounds of the ALMS together with his team mate Patrick Lemarie.

Audi driver line-up for Laguna Seca:
Infineon Audi R8 #1 Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen
Infineon Audi R8 #2 Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro
Champion Audi R8 #38 Andy Wallace/Johnny Herbert
Johansson Gulf Audi R8 #18 Stefan Johansson/Patrick Lemarie

Driver's Points:
1. Emanuele Pirro Audi 138
2. Rinaldo Capello Audi 136
3. Frank Biela Audi 135
4. Tom Kristensen Audi 121
5. Jan Magnussen Panoz 113

Manufacturer's Points:
1. Audi 147
2. Panoz 126
3. Riley & Scott 53
4. Cadillac 47
5. Lola 45

Audi season to date: Texas Qualify first and twenty-second, Capello on pole
Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen win
Sebring Qualify first and second, Pirro on pole
Finish first and second, Capello/Aiello/Alboreto win
Donington Qualify first and second, Kristensen on pole
Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen win
Jarama Qualify first and second, Kristensen on pole
Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen
Le Mans Qualify first and second, Capello on pole
Finish first and second, Biela/Kristensen/Pirro
Sears Point Qualify first and second, Capello on pole
Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen
Portland Qualify second and third, Kristensen second, Pirro third
Finish second and fifth
Mosport Qualify first and second, Capello on pole
Finish first and twenty-fourth, Biela and Pirro
Mid-Ohio Qualify first and third, Kristensen on pole
Finish second and fourth

-Audi Sport North America

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Patrick Lemarié , Reinhold Joest , Emanuele Pirro