Laguna Seca: Audi UK's Johnny Herbert race report

Britain's Johnny Herbert steered his Audi to a memorable victory in the ninth and final round of the American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca in California on Saturday. The 40-year-old Essex-born former Grand Prix ace started the ...

Britain's Johnny Herbert steered his Audi to a memorable victory in the ninth and final round of the American Le Mans Series at Laguna Seca in California on Saturday.

The 40-year-old Essex-born former Grand Prix ace started the four-hour sportscar endurance race from third place on the 25-car grid feeling unwell with food poisoning.

Herbert's Audi was nudged into a spin at the first corner on the opening lap and resumed in last place. He had sliced his way in to fourth place at one-quarter distance and handed over to co-driver Pierre Kaffer in second place after an energy-sapping 130-minute stint.

Johnny remarked: "At the first corner, I got a run on JJ [Lehto] but he legitimately defended his position, [Butch] Leitzinger went around the outside of me but then [Chris] Dyson tapped me in to a spin. There was no damage to the Audi and I resumed at the back of the field which made life interesting."

A safety car period with 40-minutes remaining allowed Kaffer to reduce a 76-seconds deficit to the leading Champion Audi R8 of JJ Lehto/Marco Werner to just 10-seconds . A number of incidents caused by heavy rain then forced a second full course yellow with just 20-minutes to run.

" 'Lady Luck' certainly smiled on us," confirmed Johnny. "Pierre was going to pit on the same lap as Marco for wet tyres. Marco pitted just before organisers closed the pit lane forcing Pierre, 200 metres behind, to continue. The pit lane opened three minutes later, so Pierre who had inherited the lead, stopped for wet tyres and retained the lead - utterly bizarre!"

The Herbert/Werner Audi led the final nine laps and finished 56.832-secs ahead of the Lehto/Werner R8 at the chequered flag -- the James Weaver/Butch Leitzinger Lola third a lap adrift in the 169-lap, 378-mile race completed at an average speed of 94.221mph. Nineteen cars were running at the finish.

Lehto, who set the fastest race lap (1:17.134) had earlier swept into the lead ahead of the pole-starting Nick Minassian after 45mins of frantic dicing - the Frenchman's Creation DBA retiring at mid-distance with a mechanical problem.

Herbert claimed the inaugural European-based Le Mans Endurance Series title this year for Audi UK.

-audi.uk-

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