BRASELTON, Ga. - Fierce rivals for the American Le Mans Series championship in 2003, drivers JJ Lehto and Marco Werner will become teammates and co-drivers for the 2004 season with ADT Champion Racing. Team owner Dave Maraj has announced that ...
BRASELTON, Ga. - Fierce rivals for the American Le Mans Series championship in 2003, drivers JJ Lehto and Marco Werner will become teammates and co-drivers for the 2004 season with ADT Champion Racing.
Team owner Dave Maraj has announced that Werner, who won the 2003 driving championship in the top Prototype class of the ALMS, will join his Pompano Beach, Fla., based team for a run at the 2004 title with Lehto. Werner drove for Infineon Team Joest in 2003 and shared the driving title with fellow German Frank Biela.
Finland's Lehto drove for the Champion team in 2003 and finished a close second in the series standings behind the Werner-Biela duo. Biela will be spending most of the 2004 season racing in Europe.
"It's nice to be back with Champion and it feels nice to race in America," said Lehto. "I've raced in America for so many years that it feels like home.
"I knew very early last season that I wanted to continue with Champion," he said. "It will be a nice setup. Marco is a very good driver and he did a good job last year. He won the championship, and I haven't won it yet, so maybe now it will be my turn. We always try to be better than anyone we race against, whoever that is."
The Champion team will be supported by Audi Sport North America as it seeks its first championship in the American Le Mans Series. The team will race an Audi R8 Prototype in the LMP1 class, sponsored by ADT, the largest single provider of total security solutions to residential, business and federal customers.
The 2003 season was a breakout year for the team, which Maraj formed in 1994. Lehto and Johnny Herbert co-drove to the team's first ALMS win in an event held in June at Road Atlanta, then the team went on to win three more times, including the last two races of the season. In addition to its four-win season in the ALMS, the Champion team also won the LMP 900 class and finished third overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Lehto, 37, a former driver in Formula One competition as well as in CART Champ Cars, has been racing in the American Le Mans Series since the formation of the series and was part of the overall winning team in the inaugural series event in 1999. He has 14 wins in the series, 10 of which were overall wins, and stands in a tie for fourth on the series' all-time wins list. He drove for the factory BMW team from 1999-2001, then spent the 2002 season with the factory Cadillac team before joining Champion for 2003.
Werner, also 37, had a successful history of racing in F3000, touring cars and GT cars but very little Prototype experience before joining the Joest team for the 2003 season. He won in his first ALMS start, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and he and Biela then went on to score a total of five LMP 900 wins. In addition to his championship, Werner was also presented the first Rookie of the Year Award in series history.
Partnering with Lehto and Werner in the Sebring event and the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be 2001 ALMS champion Emanule Pirro of Italy, who also drove for Champion in long-distance events last season.
"On behalf of Audi Sport North America, we are once again proud to be aligned with such a capable and competent organization as Champion Racing," said Len Hunt, Vice-President of Audi of America. "Champion Racing has proven to be one of the best teams in sports car racing and we look forward to providing them with support for another successful year."
The 2004 American Le Mans Series season begins with the 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway Mar. 17-20. The race will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Mar. 20, and will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.
Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442 (toll-free 800-626-RACE).