Herbert claims Monza 1000 km for Audi

Herbert claims Monza 1000 km for Audi
Johnny Herbert followed up his pole position with a victory at the Monza 1000 km race, the inaugural event in the Le Mans Endurace Series (LMES), in an Audi R8. Johnny Herbert. Photo by Regis Lefebure. Herbert and teammate Jamie...

Johnny Herbert followed up his pole position with a victory at the Monza 1000 km race, the inaugural event in the Le Mans Endurace Series (LMES), in an Audi R8.

Johnny Herbert.
Photo by Regis Lefebure.
Herbert and teammate Jamie Davies in the #88 car, led most of the race, with the #8 Audi Sport UK sister car of Alan McNish and Pierre Kaffer battling hard for the lead for much of the race.

"A perfect weekend," summed up the satisfied Davies. "For me to start from pole-position in my second race for Audi and for Johnny and I to score this victory is a dream result."

The former F1 star took the lead for good shortly after the midway point of the race, with a breathtaking pass, running on the grass on the approach to the Parabolica curve to pass Kaffer.

"Going on to the grass to overtake Pierre was worth the risk," Herbert explained. "The close finish ultimately proved that I needed to push and build up a small cushion. "

#88 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8: Jamie Davies, Johnny Herbert.
Photo by Regis Lefebure.
McNish might have had a chance for a victory yet, but the skies opened about 30 minutes before the end of the race. The crew of the #8 had just made their last scheduled stop before the weather set in, while the #88 was able to switch to wet-weather tires on the last scheduled stop.

In the closing laps, McNish pushed hard, while Herbert played it safe, in the end crossing the line with a margin of just 0.6 seconds.

Team Goh Audi (Seiji Ara, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen) took third, a lap down, with Pescarolo's Courage-Judd C60, piloted by Emmunuel Collard and Soheil Ayari, was fourth, a further three laps behind.

#5 Audi Sport Japan Team Goh Audi R8: Tom Kristensen, Seiji Ara, Rinaldo Capello.
Photo by Regis Lefebure.
"We did the 1000 kilometres without any problems," Kristensen reflected after the race. "Concerning Le Mans, this is the most important thing. We are definitely missing some speed so there is still a lot of work to do. At the end of the race we gambled a little bit when we put on rain tires very early. But unfortunately the heavy rain came a little to late."

The Zytek Engineering works-entered Zytek O4S, with Andy Wallace, David Brabham and Stefan Johansson had impressed in the practice and qualifying sessions, but the team did not have the reliability to stay on the pace on race day. Andy Wallace fought for the lead in the early stages of the race, but a bracket holding the master brake cylinder broke, causing loss of brake fluid and effectively disabling the front brakes.

Eventually the team finished sixth, eight laps down to the winners, and three laps behind the fifth-place Dallara-Judd of Rollcentre Racing. A promising start, and the team could be a force to be reckoned with at the Le Mans 24H.

Larbre Competition's #61 Ferrari 550 Maranello (Christophe Bouchut, Pedro Lamy and Steve Zacchia) took the GTS class honors, 22 laps off the overall winners' pace.

Stefano Ortelli and Romain Dumas, in the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3 RSR, were impressively fast in winning the GT class, and eventually finished only three laps behind the GTS class winners in spite of having lost a lawhen the car's alternator failed.

In the LMP2 category, just making it to the finish was a challenge, and Marc Rostan and Pierre Bruneau took the class honors in their Pilbeam JPX, 42 laps behind Herbert and Davies, and 20 laps behind the GT class winners. Still, for a team who had to change an engine overnight just to start the race, it was a dream result.

The series now pauses for the Le Mans 24H classic, and returnto action with another 1000 km race at Nurburgring on 02 July.

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