Road America: Champion Racing race report

Herbert & Lehto earn Team ADT Champion Racing second ALMS win after comfortable Road America triumph. Team ADT Champion Racing bounced back in to American Le Mans Series title contention when Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto swept their Audi R8 to ...

Herbert & Lehto earn Team ADT Champion Racing second ALMS win after comfortable Road America triumph.

Team ADT Champion Racing bounced back in to American Le Mans Series title contention when Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto swept their Audi R8 to a dominant victory at Road America today (24 Aug).

Seven days after being forced off the track when dicing for the lead in the closing stages at Mosport, "lady luck" for once smiled on the Florida-based outfit when its rivals encountered problems at Elkhart Lake enabling Dave Maraj's squad to chalk up a second ALMS win.

Herbert, who had qualified the ADT Champion Audi R8 third fastest the previous day, started the 165-minute race behind the pole-sitting Frank Biela/Marco Werner (Joest Audi) and James Weaver/Butch Leitzinger (Lola MG) in the 36-car field.

Leitzinger led Werner, with Herbert third and Olivier Beretta/David Saelens (Panoz) a close fourth from the green light. But after 13mins, Leitzinger tagged a backmarker under braking and although he remained in the lead, the lost momentum allowed Werner to snatch the lead.

Herbert grabbed second place from Leitzinger on the next lap while moments later Leitzinger's race came to an end when his Lola and Saelens's Panoz touched under braking for Turn 5 - an identical clash to Leitzinger's earlier contact at the same turn.

With 30mins run, Werner led Herbert by less than a second with Saelens third - a further 8-secs adrift - and Gunnar Jeannette/Ben Leuenberger (Panoz) fourth almost a minute back. Five minutes later, third-placed Saelens went off in to the gravel trap and although he got back in to the race, he was given a one-minute penalty for the earlier contact with Leitzinger and dropped to seventh.

Werner headed for the pits for a scheduled pit-stop with a 2.643-secs lead over Herbert, who also pitted on the same 28th lap after 55mins, but it was Johnny, after a fuel-only stop, who left the pits first when the Joest Audi failed to fire-up due to a malfunctioning starter motor.

Herbert therefore completed the first hour with a near 2-lap lead over Chris Dyson/Andy Wallace (Lola MG) - who had started from the back of the grid - and then used a full course caution period on 68mins to hand over to Lehto. The ADT Champion Audi was given a full service with fuel and tires as Biela resumed, seven laps down in 30th overall and sixth in LMP900 class.

With an hour to run, Lehto was pacing himself well at the front of the field and held a near one-lap lead over the Beretta/Saelens (Panoz) with the Dyson/Wallace (Lola MG) third five-seconds back.

Lehto made a stop for fuel with 27mins to go, comfortably ahead of the Dyson/Wallace (Lola MG) and duly cruised unthreatened to the checker as Biela recovered to seventh overall (third in class). The Herbert/Lehto Audi completed 79-laps, over 316-miles, in the sixth round of the series.

Johnny Herbert
"I was happy with the start and I just tried to keep up with Marco [Werner] without using too much fuel which I managed to do easily in the early stages. We knew that it would be a tight race on fuel so we ran on a 'lean' fuel setting from the start in case there were no cautions. We [Marco Werner] came in to the pits together but they had starter problems which handed the race to us. Our car was superb and never missed a beat.

JJ Lehto
"When I took over from Johnny it was difficult to keep my concentration as there was nothing to race. I just tried to keep out of trouble and cruise home to the finish. It's not my greatest win because of that fact but it was nevertheless vital. We really needed a maximum points score today to keep our championship hopes alive with just three races remaining. The car and the team are getting better with each race - that's the way it must be in this series."

-cr-

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