Miami: Champion Racing preview

Team ADT Champion Racing aims to score a "home run" in Miami on Saturday (27 Sep) with Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto desperately needing to chalk up their third American Le Mans Series victory of the season for the Florida-based squad. Champion ...

Team ADT Champion Racing aims to score a "home run" in Miami on Saturday (27 Sep) with Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto desperately needing to chalk up their third American Le Mans Series victory of the season for the Florida-based squad.

Champion Racing and Lehto lie second and third in the Driver's and Manufacturers' standings respectively with just one race remaining after Saturday's 165-minute Miami race in the nine-event North American sportscar endurance series.

With a deficit of 18-points in both championships and with 20 and 26-points on offer to the Miami and the final 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans Road Atlanta race winners, Herbert, Lehto and Team ADT Champion Racing face a difficult but not impossible task to snatch title honors.

For Team ADT Champion Racing, the Miami race is very much a "home" event, the Pompano Beach outfit based less than 40-miles north up the I-95 from the Downtown 1.211-mile, 13-turn Miami street circuit that has been slightly revised since last year.

With average lap speeds of between 75-80mph expected, the fastest cars like the ADT Champion Audi R8 will clock up around 200-miles around the very narrow and incredibly tight, temporary street circuit.

Sports car racing returned to the streets of Downtown Miami with the running of the Grand Prix of the Americas last year in which Herbert and Stefan Johansson finished a disappointing fifth after having to serve a stop-go penalty for a pit infringement.

Once the home of some of the world's most successful street racing events, Miami had not hosted racing since 1995. The 2002 event marked the first time that ALMS and the CART FedEx Championship Series had raced together on the same weekend and that scenario is repeated for this year's "Blast by the Bay."

Johnny Herbert (39). Born: Brentwood, Essex, UK. Lives: Monte Carlo:
ALMS stats: 23 starts, 3 wins, 14 top-3s, 18 top-5s, 20 top-10s.

"I stayed out longer than the 'factory' Audis before pitting for fuel in last year's Miami race hoping for a yellow caution period which thankfully came after I'd managed to build up a lead advantage. I pitted and handed over to Stefan [Johansson] in the lead after 80 minutes but an air hose became tangled around our Audi's rear wing as he left our pit resulting in a stop-go penalty. I've driven on a number of temporary street circuits in my career but Miami is extremely narrow featuring very few overtaking opportunities making it tough to stay out of trouble when frequently lapping backmarkers."

JJ Lehto (37). Born: Espoo, Finland. Lives: Monte Carlo:
ALMS stats: 37 starts, 12 wins (7 overall), 28 top-3s, 32 top-5s, 34 top-10s.

"Last year's Miami race was my best ALMS event of the year finishing second, just 14-seconds behind the winning 'factory' Audi of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro. To be in with any hope of keeping our championship hopes alive Johnny and I must win and hope that our title rivals, the similar Joest-run Audi R8 of Frank [Biela] and Marco [Werner] have a bad race and fail to collect many LMP900 points. To keep the championship open until Road Atlanta next month we must finish no lower than third in class should Joest win - fourth place and it's game over for us - it's as simple as that."

Brad Kettler. Champion Racing, Technical Director:

"Our championship battle looks more difficult than ever. Since the last race at Laguna Seca, our Audi R8 has undergone an extensive rebuild. The biggest problem with regards the Miami race last year was the track surface in that it became extremely slippery. This year the track is different, which makes it new for everyone again. I think tire choice will be especially critical. We will start Friday's practice sessions with what should be very close to an ideal set-up. Teams that can quickly find the optimum race set-up should prevail although on such a tight circuit, luck will play an important role. After our Laguna woes, there is a very determined mood at Champion Racing especially as it's our 'local' race."

-cr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto