Audi wins 1000 kilometre race at Spa
At its first competitive outing in the FIA Sportscar Championship, the Audi R8 has etched its name into winners list of yet another motorsport classic: Seiji Ara and Tom Kristensen won the 1000 kilometre race at Spa-Francorchamps, which was being held for the first time since 1988, with the Audi R8 of Japanese Team Goh. After 144 laps, Ara/Kristensen had a four-lap advantage over the Courage-Peugeot of the Frenchmen Stéphane Sarrazin and Franck Lagorce.
On a partially wet track, Kristensen put the R8, running under the "Audi Team Goh For Belgium" banner, commandingly on pole position. During the opening hour of the endurance classic, run under changeable weather and in part extremely difficult track conditions, the five-time Le Mans winner delivered an exiting duel with the DBA-Zytek of Andy Wallace. The lead changed hands regularly, before Kristensen and Ara gradually left the rest of the field behind them and eventually won convincingly.
With the victory in Spa, Kristensen achieved a perfect comeback at the wheel of the same Audi R8, with which the Dane had won the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) last year. For the Japanese driver Seiji Ara it was his first triumph with the Audi R8, as it was for the team headed by Kazumichi Goh.
"My first victory at Spa means a lot to me," said Kristensen. "The 1000 kilometre race has a great tradition, and hopefully a great future. Spa is a fabulous race track, which was fantastic to drive with the Audi R8." The Spa 1000 kilometres should be part of the new Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) next year.
Audi driver Ekblom still leads championship
Audi driver Fredrik Ekblom successfully defended his overall championship lead at the penultimate race weekend of the Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC). However, his advantage has been reduced to 30 points. In the first of two races, Ekblom finished third in his Team KMS Motorsport Audi A4. Shortly before the start of the second race the Swede elected to use rain tyres. "That was definitely the wrong choice," admitted Ekblom, after he crossed the finish line on the drying track a lap down in eleventh position. Team colleague and KMS Team Director Tommy Kristoffersson chose slicks and finished the race as best Audi driver in fifth place.
Next round of the Audi customer team duel
The duel between the two Audi customer teams of Infineon Team Joest and Champion Racing is keeping American Le Mans Series (ALMS) fans on the edge of their seats. Frank Biela and Marco Werner with the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 hold an eleven-point lead over JJ Lehto in the Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 after six of nine races. After Lehto celebrated his second victory of the season together with teammate Johnny Herbert at Road America, the two former Formula 1 drivers hope to continue their fight back at Laguna Seca (California) on 7 September. "If we want to clinch the title we have to win each of the remaining three races," said JJ Lehto. Johnny Herbert believes that Champion Racing is more than capable of doing this: "The team has learnt a great deal and made huge progress during the last few races. Also the pit stops, during which we weren't so good in the past, work perfectly now."
Infineon Team Joest will obviously do everything in their power to ward off the attack. "I hope that the experience we have gathered over the previous years in Laguna will pay," said team Technical Director Ralf Jüttner. "Because of the large difference in temperatures between the morning and afternoon, it is very easy to go the wrong way on set-up."
The Joest team has won three times in succession with the Audi R8 at Laguna Seca; Frank Biela mounted the top step of the podium in the previous two years there. However, JJ Lehto also has good memories of the Californian circuit, notoriously renowned for the section of track known as the "Cork Screw": The Finn celebrated one of his eight overall ALMS victories at Laguna Seca in 1999.
The lighter MG Lolas in the LMP675 class and the two Panoz LMP900 cars could again tip the scales in the duel between both the Audi customer teams. "They were very competitive during the last couple of races, but were unlucky," mentioned championship leader Frank Biela. "Laguna Seca will be tough."
Audi juniors with extra special preparation
Team Abt Sportsline blasts onto the finishing straight of the 2003 DTM season with a enormous burst of motivation: Following Laurent Aiello's victory at the Nürburgring, the team supporting the defending champion want to go one better at the Austrian A1-Ring. "Obviously, a huge burden fell from our shoulders after this victory. But now we are only looking to the future: Even though I am 17 points behind in the championship, I will defend my title until the last lap of the last race," explained the 34-year old Frenchman, who lies in fourth place in the championship after seven races.
Martin Tomczyk and Peter Terting, the two S line Audi Junior Team youngsters, travel with a mixture of excitement and respect to Austria. "The A1-Ring, with its long straights, on which you need good top speed, isn't exactly a sightseeing route for the TT-R", knows Tomczyk. "But I am optimistic that we can make up time in the other sections." The junior increased his fitness programme before the Austrian away match: He cycled from Kufstein to his home in Rosenheim together with team colleague Karl Wendlinger.
Peter Terting spent a lot of time with his team during the racing break. "I was with the team as my TT-R was completely stripped and rebuilt. It's incredible with how much perfection and attention to detail the guys work. For me, it was a help to better understand the technology," he reported. The A1-Ring suits Terting: "I really like the circuit with its fast flowing sections." The 19-year old from Bavaria arrives in Austria as last year's winner: In 2002 he won the ADAC VW Lupo Cup race at the A1-Ring.
Final leg in the SPEED GT World Challenge
The final leg of the North American SPEED GT World Challenge begins at Laguna Seca (California) for the Champion Audi Team. Audi driver Randy Pobst lies in third position of the drivers' championship with his Audi RS 6 Competition heading into the final three races. In the Manufacturers' Championship, defending champions Audi are currently second. The minimum weight of the championship leading cars of BMW and Porsche was increased before the forthcoming race at Laguna Seca. The Audi RS 6 Competition however, still has to weigh in with almost 200 kilograms more than its rivals.
Audi Motorsport in numbers
Spa-Francorchamps (B), 31 August, Round 6 of the FIA Sports Car Championship
1 Ara/Kristensen (Audi R8) 144 laps
2 Sarrazin/Lagorce (Courage-Peugeot) - 4 laps
3 Gabbiani/Ortiz (Dome-Judd) - 6 laps
4 Keen/Oberto/Lavaggi (Lola-Judd) - 6 laps
5 Peroni/Savoldi/Filippo (Lucchini) - 15 laps
Knutstorp (S), 31. August, Round 13 of the Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC)
1 Tommy Rustad (Opel) 15 laps
2 Jan Nilsson (Volvo) + 4.306s
3 Fredrik Ekblom (Audi A4) + 4.883s
4 Tommy Kristoffersson (Audi A4) + 7.921s
5 Tomas Engström (Honda) + 17.673s
Knutstorp (S), 31 August, Round 14 of the Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC)
1 Jan Nilsson (Volvo) 25 laps
2 Tommy Rustad (Opel) + 0.958s
3 Johan Stureson (Seat) + 15.235s
4 Richard Göransson (BMW) + 16.447s
5 Tommy Kristoffersson (Audi) + 19.100s
Positions after 14 of 16 rounds: 1 Ekblom, 200 points; 2 Nilsson, 170; 3 Rustad, 161; 4 Johansson, 135; 5 Göransson, 128.
Next race: Mantorp Park (S), 28 September (Final)
Coming up this week
Seventh round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Laguna Seca (Sunday) ... Eighth round of the DTM (German Touring Car Masters) at the A1-Ring (Sunday) ... Eighth round of the SPEED GT World Challenge at Laguna Seca (Sunday) ...