by Mark Gedhill - Motorsport.com Audi dominated the ELMS race at Donington Park. They filled the top three places on the grid, led every lap, set the fastest lap, and finished in the top three place with Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, and...
by Mark Gedhill - Motorsport.com
Audi dominated the ELMS race at Donington Park. They filled the top three places on the grid, led every lap, set the fastest lap, and finished in the top three place with Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, and Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro in the silver Audi Sport cars, and Stefan Johansson and Guy Smith in the Johansson Racing cars.
At the start Tom Kristensen kept the lead as all drivers got through the first lap safely. Stefan Johansson passed Frank Biela as the three Audi R8s crossed the line over a second ahead of the Chrysler of Oliver Beretta. This gap increased by over a second per lap during the opening stages and Kristensen set the fastest lap of the race on lap four. Further down the field David Brabham (Panoz) was fifth, followed closely by JC Bouillon (Courage) and Werner Lupberger (Ascari). Jay Cochran (Panoz) made the first mistake of the race, spinning onto the grass and in to a marker board.
By lap ten the Audi team was separated by just seven seconds and third-placed Biela was over twenty seconds ahead of Beretta's Chrysler, and already lapping the Porsche 911 GT3s. The gap between Johansson and Biela closed to 0.6 seconds, and Biela took advantage of a backmarker at the Old Hairpin and overtook Johansson as he had to back off.
Bouillon (Courage) kept up the pressure on Brabham (Panoz) and stayed under half a second behind for several laps, before closing up and passing on lap 20.
The race then settled down as the drivers waited for the pitstops. All three Audis were lapping in around 1m 24s, over two seconds faster than the chasing pack. Kristensen had a close call while lapping Martin O'Connell when then Pilbeam driver ran wide and spun off the track, before returning to the pits for a precautionary check.
Kristensen pitted on lap 33, receiving a stop-go penalty for contact with another driver. Beretta soon pitted too, followed by Bouillon, Brabham, Dalmas and Johansson. Kristensen pitted again two laps later and the car was refueled, and team-mate Biela then pitted too. Cochran's bad luck continued as he spun again but continued.
On lap 37 Lupberger (Ascari) pulled off the circuit and retired with an apparent mechanical failure. Biela pitted for a second time and the driver and tyres were changed, with Pirro taking his place. Brabham made up for earlier by passing Bouillon to move up to fourth and slowly pull away lapping just one second slower than the Audis.
Both Kristensen and Pirro noticeably upped their pace around lap 50 by setting times as fast as 1m 23s, while the next fastest was Johansson in the mid 1m 26s. This trend continued as Audi were keen to get the two silver cars in the top two places, and were hampered by the fact that Johansson had only pitted once.
Salles, O'Connell and Dalmas were closely fighting for sixth place and all running within a second of each other, until Dalmas's Chrysler disappeared from the timing sheets on his 51st lap, joining Lupberger and Earle (Porsche 911) in retirement. O'Connell then pitted ten laps later to hand over to Warren Carway, who returned to the pits very slowly two laps later. Johansson followed him in and handed over to Guy Smith.
On lap 71 Kristensen had a 1 lap and 36 second lead over Pirro, who had a 52 second lead over Smith. Magnussen (Panoz) was fourth, ahead of Bouillon and Graf (Panoz). Kristensen handed over to Capello as further down the pit lane Jorg Muller experienced a small fire from the exhaust of his BMW, but fortunately the fire was very quickly extinguished.
Pirro pitted on lap 76 for more fuel and returned just two seconds in front of Smith, but separated by several backmarkers. Smith managed to pass these without incident while improving the gap to just 1.1 seconds. The British driver looked for a gap going into the chicane but wisely kept back and was just 0.5 seconds behind at the line. He kept up the pressure for a couple more laps and then tried a sneaky move up the inside at the hairpin by doing a dummy to force Pirro wide, which succeeded and he quickly pulled out a 2.4 second lead on the next lap. Pirro was unable to keep up and slowly fell back.
Laurent Redon moved up to fourth place in his Courage and was the only driver able to lap within two seconds of the pace of the leaders. By lap 104 Capello had a 1 lap and 16 second lead over Guy Smith, who was 8.4 seconds ahead of Pirro. Smith then pulled into the pits for some more fuel and returned to the track in third position, 41 seconds behind Pirro. A few laps later the leader Capello stopped for fuel too, pulling out back on to the track with a comfortable lead to take the checkered flag.
1 Capello/Kristensen (Audi) 115 laps 2 Biela/Pirro (Audi) + 1 lap 3 Smith/Johansson (Audi) + 1 lap 4 Redon/Bouillon (Courage) + 4 laps 5 Boss/Cochran (Panoz) + 9 laps 6 Graf/Salles (Panoz) + 9 laps