Sears Point: Lehto, Werner seek revenge

Lehto, Werner Seek Revenge For Audi Loss in American Le Mans Series Event at Infineon Raceway Braselton, GA - They are the hottest team in the American Le Mans Series, with two consecutive overall race wins as well as a strong lead in the series...

Lehto, Werner Seek Revenge For Audi Loss in American Le Mans Series Event at Infineon Raceway

Braselton, GA - They are the hottest team in the American Le Mans Series, with two consecutive overall race wins as well as a strong lead in the series driver point standings.

But JJ Lehto and Marco Werner want more, and that includes avenging a stunning loss in last year's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at California's Infineon Raceway. They will have their chance for revenge when the professional sports car racing teams of the ALMS converge on Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., July 16-18.

Last year, Finland's Lehto and Germany's Werner were driving for different teams in the ALMS, but both were behind the wheel of an Audi R8 Prototype, one of the most successful sports cars ever built. Their separate cars spent the entire event at Sonoma chasing and then ultimately being beaten by James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger in the Dyson Racing Lola-MG. The win ranks as one of the greatest upsets in sports car racing history and was the first time that a car from the second Prototype class had taken an overall race win in the ALMS.

This year, Lehto and Werner are teammates with ADT Champion Racing, again driving an Audi R8. They finished second in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and then scored back-to-back wins in the two most recent ALMS events at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Lime Rock Park. They are now racing head-to-head for overall race wins with the Dyson team as off-season rule changes moved the Lola into the top LMP1 class, and the Infineon event marks the only time in the ALMS that a car other than an Audi R8 has taken the overall race win since Panoz won at Washington, D.C., in July of 2002.

Infineon Raceway's 2.53-mile, twisting circuit suits the smaller Lola very well, but Werner's Audi was in strong contention for the race win until Weaver passed him late in the race. This year Lehto feels things will be different.

"I think we learned something from last year," said Lehto, who is in his second season with the Florida-based Champion team. "We had the wrong Michelin tires on the car. I'm sure we can be stronger this year."

Lehto has enjoyed past success in the California wine country, winning overall at Infineon in a BMW Prototype in 1999, the first year of the ALMS, and then driving a BMW M3 GTR to the GT class win in 2001. "Infineon, that's a nice place," he said. "I have always liked the track a lot.

"It's very challenging, very difficult to get the car set up right," he said. "A lot of long, fast corners, and aerodynamically, we really need to get the car right. Also there's a couple of places which are bumpy so it's a nice game, nice track, I've always enjoyed the drive there a lot.

"For sure I've enjoyed the overtaking there," he said. "There's some very, very nice places where you can overtake outside or inside and just play the game with the others. But the difficult thing is that there's nothing (pavement) after the white lines, it's only dirt, and the curbs are very small so you have to be tight there."

Though they will be in different classes during the race, Lehto welcomes the addition of NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will be driving a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R in the GTS class in the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma.

"It will be fun to race against Dale Earnhardt, Jr.," Lehto said. "I'm sure he will be surprised about the level of drivers in the ALMS. That will be the biggest surprise, I think."

NOTES

Audi has an ALMS record 17 consecutive LMP1 class race wins headed into the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. Only one of those wins, last year's Infineon Raceway event, was not an overall race win .. Lehto's win at Lime Rock marked his fourth overall win in the last five ALMS races dating back to the Miami event near the end of the 2003 season. Lehto and Johnny Herbert won for Champion Racing at Miami and in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the last two events of the 2003 season .. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will be the first fulltime NASCAR Nextel Cup driver ever to compete in an American Le Mans Series race when he races at Infineon. Several ALMS drivers have competed in selected Cup races over the years, including Ron Fellows, Anthony Lazzaro Butch Leitzinger and David Murry. Boris Said, who has extensive ALMS experience and will co-drive with Earnhardt at Sonoma, also has competed in NASCAR events ..

TV-RADIO, TICKET INFO

The Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma will get the green flag at 11:00 a.m. (PDT) on Sunday, July 18, and will be televised live in North America by CBS Sports and in Europe on MotorsTV. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

Practice and qualifying for the event will be held on Saturday, July 17, along with a Fan Forum and an autograph session featuring all ALMS drivers. Ticket information is available online at www.americanlemans.com or by calling (800) 870-RACE.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Johnny Herbert , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Boris Said , Ron Fellows , David Murry , Anthony Lazzaro , Marco Werner , JJ Lehto