Sebring, Florida - Following the fiercely fought double victory at the season-opener of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Dallas/Fort Worth, Team Audi Sport North America now concentrates on defending last year's win at the ALMS season ...
Sebring, Florida - Following the fiercely fought double victory at the season-opener of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Dallas/Fort Worth, Team Audi Sport North America now concentrates on defending last year's win at the ALMS season highlight; the 12 Hours of Sebring. On March 17th, the Audi squad will conduct a dress rehearsal in Florida for the Le Mans 24 Hour race.
Head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich and his team will attempt to prepare for the enormous Le Mans challenge the best way possible. For Audi, this means that the checkered flag at Sebring on Saturday evening brings only a preliminary halt to the test. "After the finish, we want to drive another 12 hours with one of the two Infineon Audi R8s on the Sebring circuit on Monday," explains Dr. Ullrich. Engine, gearbox and all other components of the racing sportscars will then complete a 24-hour endurance test, with half the distance under racing conditions.
Following the motto "never change a winning team", Frank Biela will share one car with Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro. This trio won in Sebring and Le Mans last year. Sharing the cockpit of the second Infineon Audi R8 are Laurent Aiello, Michele Alboreto and Rinaldo Capello.
Sebring is the oldest long-distance race in the USA and is run this year for the 49th time. Over 100,000 spectators are expected this year, and the enthusiasm is huge. Many of them set up camp in front of the closed gates weeks before the event in the hope of getting the best possible viewpoint, with their makeshift shelters beside the racetrack sometimes quite adventurous. The first of two qualifying sessions takes place on Wednesday after two test days on Monday and Tuesday. To date, more than 40 cars are entered for the race.
Tom Kristensen is going for three Sebring wins in a row. The Dane won in 2000 with the Audi team and in 1999 with BMW. Tom will be looking to tie Olivier Gendebien who won the race in 1959, 1960 and 1961. "I am trying to put the three wins in a row out of my mind, records are something you look back on," said Kristensen. "The team is focusing on a very difficult 12 hour race in front of us. If you think anything else it will come back to bite you."
The 3.7-mile circuit, with the pits recently receiving extensive modifications, places extreme demands on man and machine. The track surface of the former military air base is very uneven and provides drivers and engineers with a difficult challenge in finding the best possible set-up. The hard work in Sebring, however, seems to pay off: In the past two years, the winner of the Sebring event has gone on to win the Le Mans race three months later.
<pre> Current Driver Points Standings: 1. Rinaldo Capello (Infineon Audi R8), 27 2. Tom Kristensen (Infineon Audi R8), 26 3. Emanuele Pirro (Infineon Audi R8), 23 4. Frank Biela (Infineon Audi R8), 22 5. David Brabham (Panoz), 20 6. Jan Magnussen (Panoz), 19 7. Andy Wallace (Champion Audi R8), 18 8. Dorsey Schroeder (Champion Audi R8), 17 9. Klaus Graf (Panoz), 16 10. Gualter Salles (Panoz), 15
Manufacturers: 1. Audi, 25 2. Panoz, 21
Audi Driver Line-up for Sebring: Infineon Audi R8 #1, Rinaldo Capello, Michele Alboreto, Laurent Aiello Infineon Audi R8 #2, Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, Tom Kristensen
Audi Season To Date: Texas Qualify first and twenty-second Finish first and second