Kristensen climbs through the field to win at Trois-Rivieres

Kristensen climbs through the field to win at Trois-Rivieres

Audi teammates Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello won today's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres the hard way -- by overtaking everyone in the 26-car field. Tom Kristensen. Photo by Eric Gilbert. With Friday's qualifying fiasco having ...

Audi teammates Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello won today's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres the hard way -- by overtaking everyone in the 26-car field.

Tom Kristensen.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
With Friday's qualifying fiasco having relegated the No. 2 Audi to the back of the starting grid, Kristensen and Biela had their work cut out for them. However, help was quick to come.

Steve Knight (KnightHawk Racing), moving quickly at the start, bumped his LMP675 Lola-MG into the Champion Racing Audi, sending Johnny Herbert into a spin, and into the back of the field. So after one lap of racing, the Audis were not 1-2-3, but 1-24-25.

However, Kristensen and Herbert made quick work of the field. Kristensen was fourth before six laps had been completed, and by the halfway point of the two-and-a-half-hour race, Herbert had claimed to second position behind the Frank Biela and Emmanuele Pirro, who had started from the pole position.

With the three Audis back in front with about an hour remaining in the race, the decisive factor turned out to be the final full-course caution. Pirro, holding down the top position, had just made his final, rapid pit stop when the caution flags came out for Kevin Allen, who had inserted his GTS Dodge Viper into a tire wall.

Quick thinking at the start of the full-course yellow enabled Capello to pit, refuel, take on a full set of new rubber, and still rejoin the race ahead of the No. 1 Audi. Better yet, the extra time had enabled Capello to switch to fresh tires, and those enabled him to pull away steadily once the caution flags were put away.

"We lost the race at Washington (two weeks ago) because we didn't change tires under the yellow flag, so it was a lesson learned," Capello recalled. "Here, the new tires were definitely the key."

At the end, Capello still held a solid lead, registering a winning margin of some 18 seconds over Biela at the checkered flag.

If Capello and Kristensen won the pit stop roulette, Champion Audi was the clear loser. Team confusion over when the pits would open resulted in Herbert declining to pit twice even though the pits were already open. To add insult to injury, as soon as Stefan Johansson took over from Herbert, he was called by the marshals for passing a lapped car before the green flag. Two laps down from the No. 2 Audi was as good as they would be able to do today.

Team Panoz was not able to mount a solid challenge to the Audis today, in spite of having won the previous race in Washington just two weeks ago. The relatively uneven street circuit seemed ill-suited to the front engine Panoz LMP-1, and the #51 Panoz of Bill Auberlen and Bryan Herta complained of poor handling. Worse yet was the luck for Jan Magnussen, whose #50 car suffered from electrical gremlins, losing some 12 laps in the pits.

"It was tough when I first got in the car because I still had Jan's tires on when we went behind the wall to fix the electrical problem," said David Brabham, who took over from Magnussen after the electrical repairs. "Once I had some new Michelins on, the car was really good and I was able to push pretty hard. It is just unfortunate to have the electrical gremlin strike coming into pit lane."

The Corvettes were once again dominant at Trois-Rivieres. However, the Canadian veteran Ron Fellows was unable to convert his sixth pole of the season into a fifth victory. Fellows had taken advantage of his familiarity with the tight street circuit and pulled out a clear lead, but this was for naught, as his teammate, Johnny O'Connell, smacked the #3 Corvette into the tire barriers, dropping the car well back of the #4 sister car, driven by Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins.

The GT race was no cakewalk, though, as Sascha Maassen and Timo Bernhard squeaked out a close class win in the #22 Alex Job Porsche 99 GT3 RS over the #23 sister car of Lucas Luhr and Jorg Bergmeister. The two cars swapped positions throughout the race, until Maassen capitalized on Bernhard running wide three laps from the finish.

"For the last hour, both Timo and I were running very hard -- almost too hard for teammates who had a four lap lead over third place," Maassen recounted. "But when Timo made a mistake, I had a chance to win the race, and I took it."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Bryan Herta , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Andy Pilgrim , Bill Auberlen , Sascha Maassen , Kelly Collins , Lucas Luhr , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Steve Knight , Kevin Allen , Eric Gilbert , Alex Job