Lola Cars International won its class at the Sebring 12-hours in Florida at the weekend. It was the British manufacturer's third successive win at the event after Claudia Huertgen, Mel Hawkins and Steve Knight won in 2001 in the KnightHawk Racing...
Lola Cars International won its class at the Sebring 12-hours in Florida at the weekend. It was the British manufacturer's third successive win at the event after Claudia Huertgen, Mel Hawkins and Steve Knight won in 2001 in the KnightHawk Racing Lola B2K/40 Nissan, and Jon Field, Duncan Dayton and Michael Durand triumphed last year in their Lola-MG.
Chad Block, Chris Dyson and Didier de Radigues took the victory this year after overcoming an early problem with their suspension, and a small fire, that cost them 50 laps. The three drove a sensible race, the first of the 2003 American Le Mans Series, to move back up the order, and took advantage as others fell by the wayside to take a well-earned win.
Jon Field, who won the race last year and who took the drivers' championship last season in his Intersport Racing Lola, was second in the car he shared for the second successive year with Duncan Dayton and Michael Durand after losing time with a broken upright.
"It was a tough week," said Chris Dyson of the event which saw Friday night's practice session cancelled due to heavy rain but enjoyed heat and extreme humidity for the rest of the weekend. "Every little snag hit us. We lost one and a half hours at the beginning of the race, and then the car was flawless. If you're going to win, win big. This is one of the best races for a first win in the ALMS and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Rob Dyson car owner and entrant, commented: "We don't come just to participate, we want to run up front. It's athrill to win. Chris is my team-mate and also my son, which has been a tradition at the races. Chris and Chad have a maturity on the race track, I'm proud of them both. It's a great honour to see Chris do as well as he does."
The second Dyson Racing Lola MG had made ALMS history when Andy Wallace was fastest in a pre-race practice session. James Weaver qualified the car fifth overall, a little over a second off the pole time, but his, Wallace and Butch Leitzinger's race was cut short after just 39 laps with two power steering failures.
Ben Devlin, who was second in last year's LMP675 drivers' championship, suffered a fuel leak on the grid in his Lola B2K/40 Millington and then retired on lap 50 with an electrical failure. Rick Sutherland, driving the Intersport Lola B2K/10 in the LMP900 class, suffered a broken top rear suspension link and fixed it out on track, but was later excluded for receiving outside assistance.
The new Team Taurus Lola B2K/10 of Justin Keen, Phil Andrews and Larry Oberto, finished 16th overall after losing time when Keen crashed into a wall, puncturing a rear tyre and damaging the nose of the Lola.
The race was won by Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Philipp Peter in the Joest-prepared Audi R8. The car closed on the leading Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Stefan Johansson when Kevin McGarrity crashed his Ferrari heavily in the tenth hour, bringing out a full-course caution shortly after the Champion car had pitted under green flag racing.
The Joest car eventually took the lead when Pirro pitted early with lower leg cramps, and took victory by a scant 13.493 seconds, the closest competitive race finish since Tom Kristensen held off Butch Leitzinger to take the win by 9.207 seconds in 1999. Bentley finished third and fourth on their ALMS debuts, Panoz was fifth and the Audi Sport UK Audi was sixth.