MONTEREY, Calif -- September 22, 2002 -- Once again the first part of the program at Laguna Seca suffered a short delay caused by early-morning fog on the top part of the circuit. But the cars were soon on track, even though there were times when...
MONTEREY, Calif -- September 22, 2002 -- Once again the first part of the program at Laguna Seca suffered a short delay caused by early-morning fog on the top part of the circuit. But the cars were soon on track, even though there were times when it seemed that the fog might cause a more serious interruption to the schedule. Fortunately, however, the cars were able to complete their 30-minute warmup without further delays, although the fog was beginning to obscure visibility, especially in turn 5.
By midday, of course, there were no signs of the early-morning conditions, and the race got under way under clear blue skys with no chance of rain or other adverse weather.
As expected the two Audis capitalised on their front-row start and pulled out to a considerable lead, with only the Cadillacs being able to keep in touch with the Audis. That is how things continued for the first hour of competition, at which time cars began to make the first round of pit stops. As Tom Kristensen was on his in lap in the #2 Audi there was an incident on track that left Ron Fellows in the #3 Corvette stranded in the gravel at Turn 4 after a collision with the Cadillac of Max Angelelli. The Cadillac was able to continue, but the Corvette was stranded, necessitating a full-course yellow to retrieve the car from a dangerous position. The timing of the yellow was costly for the #2 Audi and for the #16 Dyson, as both cars had stopped under green flag conditions just before the yellow flag came out.
No sooner had the green flag been shown than the yellow flags were out once more. Yet again the car causing the yellow was the #3 Corvette (now being driven by Johnny O'Connell) which has pulled off-track in the corkscrew and is engulfed in flames. Fast work by Johnny O'Connell and the corner safety crew manage to extinguish the inferno, but not before a thick pall of smoke has nearly obscured turn 8a and caught the attention of everybody at the track.
After all that excitement things quietened down again, and the laps count down without significant incident until the second round of pitstops without about half an hour left on the clock. J.J. Lehto gets a little too enthusiastic leaving the pits on cold tyres and runs wide on the pit exit across the dirt and onto the track in the hairpin. He manages to avoid contact with any other cars, but Bryan Herta in the #51 Panoz slips past into third place. This gain is short-lived, however, as Herta spins off in turn 9 before completing a lap and crossing the timing line. Herta is able to continue, but soon heads to the pits for new tires. Meanwhile the lead in the P675 class, which has been hotly contested all day, is picked up by the #11 car when the #16 Dyson entry makes its final pitstop.
In the GT class the leading #22 Porsche suddenly pulls off just before turn 4 - the shifter has broken off! After a minute or two the car is able to get back under way, but not before surrendering the class lead to the car driven by Sascha Maassen. And in the GTS class the Ferrari of Tomas Enge eventually manages to find a way past the #4 Corvette entering the corkscrew and begins to pull away. The Corvette is unable to mount a serious challenge, and in fact stops on course on the white flag lap, apparently out of fuel.
At the end of the day the overall victory goes, once more, to Frank Biela in the #1 Audi. Second place is taken by The Champion Audi of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson, and third place goes to the Cadillac driven by J.J. Lehto and Max Angelelli.
The P675 victory is claimed by the KnightHawk Lola MG, denying James Weaver a class victory to go with his pole. The GTS Corvettes, too, are still unable to claim a win at Laguna Seca, as the Ferrari of Enge & Kox manages to relegate them to the lower steps on the podium - a task which has proved exceedingly difficult in 2002. In the final (GT) class victory goes to the 911 of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maasen, 20 seconds ahead of the sole Ferrari in a field of Porsches.