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Laguna Seca: Champion Racing preview

Champion Racing's Randy Pobst looks to return to the winner's podium in the eighth round of the Speed GT World Challenge at Laguna Seca, CA (7 September) and along with defending champion Michael Galati, reaffirm Audi's challenge for Manufacturer...

Champion Racing's Randy Pobst looks to return to the winner's podium in the eighth round of the Speed GT World Challenge at Laguna Seca, CA (7 September) and along with defending champion Michael Galati, reaffirm Audi's challenge for Manufacturer series honors.

A run of five podium finishes in the new Audi RS 6 Competition earned Pobst the series lead but a puncture two laps from the checker at Sears Point, CA (27 Jul) combined with a steering problem in the last race at Road America (3 Aug), sees Randy start the 50-minute Laguna race lying third in the standings and in need of a healthy points score on the championship's return to California.

Conversely, the last two races have brought Galati his best results of the year after enduring a character-building start to the season. Sixth and second place finishes at Sears and RA respectively have lifted the reigning champion inside the top-10 for the first time this year after the double GT champion bore the brunt of the Audi Sport North America supported team's woes in the early races.

Since the last race at Road America, the organizing SCCA Pro Racing has revised the "base" weights for some cars. An additional 150lbs has been added to the BMW M3 which now tips the scales at a still "lightweight" 2800lbs. While the Porsche 911 Cup, having won two of the last three races, has now had its early season 100lb weight reduction reversed and weighs 2800lbs.

For comparison, the Audi RS 6 Competition's base weight is a thundering 3200lbs - a staggering 400lbs more than its main rivals. Although the big, four-door German sedan features a powerful 500-hp, V8 bi-turbo motor going through an all-wheel-drive transmission system, the weight not only obviously affects its straight-line speed performance but also makes the Audi particularly hard on its brakes and small tires in race conditions.

The 2.238-mile, 11-turn Monterey track in California has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Audi in the Speed series. Galati, who steered an Audi S4 Competition to the Driver's "crown" for the past two years and the Manufacturers' title in 2001, claimed a front row start in 2000 and a fourth place best race finish last year - a race won by Pobst.

Michael Galati (43). Born: Alcaralifusi, Messina, Sicily. Lives: N. Olmsted, Ohio:

Speed World Challenge stats: 76 starts, 16 wins, 38 top-3s, 53 top-5s, 65 top-10s.

"I like Laguna a lot. It is a very technical track but for our RS 6 it is likely to be quite tough due the car's weight. This fact makes the many elevation changes at Laguna difficult for us while the nature of the circuit will also be hard on our brakes. Our RS 6 Competitions should benefit from further shock [absorber] and aero development."

Randy Pobst (46). Born: Dayton, Ohio. Lives: Gainesville, Georgia:

Speed World Challenge stats: 21 starts, 6 wins, 16 top-3s, 17 top-5s, 17 top-10s.

"I won last year's corresponding Laguna race and would like to repeat that success.

After a very consistent start to the season, my luck has run out in the last two races. But I still stand third in the points and Audi remains second in the Manufacturer's championship. I go to Laguna Seca on full throttle and needing to get back on to the rostrum!"

Louis Milone , Champion Racing's RS 6 Team Leader:

"The SCCA has made adjustments that go some way in equalizing the competition and that should help our chances in the final three races. The whole premise of the Speed World Challenge series is for close competition among race-prepared 'street' cars and the Road America result proved that our rivals were too light on a 'power' track that supposedly would favor our Audi RS 6 Competition."

-cr-

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Series PWC
Drivers Randy Pobst , Michael Galati