Laguna Seca race report

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 9, 2001) -- Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro won the American Le Mans Series Monterey Sports Car Championship event Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, putting Italian driver Pirro into position to win the series ...

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 9, 2001) -- Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro won the American Le Mans Series Monterey Sports Car Championship event Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, putting Italian driver Pirro into position to win the series championship.

Pirro's win, combined with a non-finish by Audi teammates Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, put Pirro into the series point lead with only the Oct. 6 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta remaining on the schedule.

"You can never give up in racing or in life," said Pirro, who teamed with Biela and Kristensen to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June for the second straight year. "It's hard to believe that we have a chance to win the championship."

The Panoz LMP-1 of Jan Magnussen led most of the first hour of the race, but was eliminated after tangling with the Audi of Johnny Herbert and crashing into the wall at the entrance to the pits. The Herbert car was penalized later in the race after officials had reviewed video of the incident.

Biela, who started the eventual winning car, swapped the lead with Magnussen in the early going before turning the car over to Pirro under a full-course yellow at the 1:20 mark of the two-hour, 45-minute race. Pirro restarted the race in second place behind Herbert and then took the lead when Herbert's car served its 20-second penalty for contact with Magnussen. He led the rest of the race.

Andy Wallace, who took over for Herbert after the penalty, managed to close on Pirro, but Pirro held on for a 1.6-second margin of victory.

Didier de Radigues, who has already clinched the LMP 675 class championship for 2001, won his fifth straight race despite having to spend time behind the wall for suspension repairs after taking over for starting driver Milka Duno. Duno was credited with winning the class for the third time this season.

Terry Borcheller and Franz Konrad drove a Saleen S7R to a one-lap win in the GTS class, snapping a four-race winning streak by Corvette drivers Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows, who finished second. The Saleen led the entire race except for during pit stop exchanges and was never really challenged.

"This feels great," said Borcheller. "The season has been a real struggle. It seems that a lot of little details have been hurting us and causing us to lose races. This victory is a big boost for the team and for Saleen."

JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller won the GT class in a BMW M3 GTR, their fourth win in the last five races. Muller passed fellow BMW driver Dirk Muller in the closing moments of the race to take the class win and pad his series point lead, though the title remains in doubt heading to the last race.

-alms

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Milka Duno , Johnny Herbert , Didier de Radigues , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Franz Konrad , Frank Biela , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Jorg Muller , Terry Borcheller , JJ Lehto