Monterey, Calif. - Audi clinched the manufacturer's title of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) two races before the end of the season with a spectacular 1-2 victory at Laguna Seca. Starting from 1st and 3rd on the grid, the two Audi R8s...
Monterey, Calif. - Audi clinched the manufacturer's title of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) two races before the end of the season with a spectacular 1-2 victory at Laguna Seca. Starting from 1st and 3rd on the grid, the two Audi R8s dropped to 4th and 5th at the start when pole sitter Rinaldo Capello had troubles shifting from second to third gear and Frank Biela in the companion car got trapped behind him.
Despite strong competition from Panoz and BMW, the Audi drivers were able to fight back and take the lead of the exciting race by the half way mark. Victory finally went to the Audi R8 of Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish, despite Capello having two incidents with other cars and McNish spinning into a concrete wall on lap 45 after being hit by the BMW of Jean-Marc Gounon. Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro crossed the finish line just 0.352 seconds behind the winning Audi R8 giving the Team Audi Sport North America its fifth 1-2 victory in ten races. Rinaldo Capello (#77): "The big problem today was the start. I could not change from second to third. When I finally managed to get third gear, the others had already passed me. Gounon closed the door at the first corner, we touched and that damaged the nose of my car. Despite the aerodynamic damaged, the car was still fast. When I later had contact with a GT car, a wheel broke and the tire punctured. The Michelin people told me, that I could go to Rome and thank the Pope that I was able to come back to the pits."
Allan McNish (#77): "I was catching the leader quite quickly, but I came to lap Jean-Marc Gounon. We crashed, I hit the wall and the car after that was not as good as before. I dropped down to fourth, but came back to second. Prior to the last stop I was pushing very hard and was able to come out ahead of Emanuele Pirro in the other Audi. After that it was relatively simple compared to the first two hours which were definitely not normal."
Frank Biela (#78): "After two hard practice days we can be very content with the second place. We had troubles during qualifying, because we did not find the right setup. Today, however, the car was very good and we were able to keep pace with our team mates."
Emanuele Pirro (#78): "It has been a real positive race. Our weekend has been very difficult with the setup. We changed the car completely over night, so we started the race with a lot of question marks. When I got the car, it was going well. I was really motivated and I did a good race. We made a 1-2, which is good for Audi."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich , Head of Audi Sport: "This was a real 'up-and-down race' today. After the first lap we were a little bit disappointed, because we knew, how difficult it is to overtake on this track. That's why the following laps were a big fight to gain one place after the other. Despite three incidents, the car of Dindo and Allan was able to come back to the front, and the race was decided during the final pit stops. Both cars spent similar times in the pits, but on the in and out laps the conditions must have been different. Allan took the lead from Emanuele and stayed in front until the checkered flag. In the closing stages of the race we had to be careful because a caution period allowed the BMW to close the gap, but our R8s continued to do consistent fast lap times which allowed them to keep their advantage until the finish."
Reinhold Joest , Team Director Audi Sport North America: "This is a dream result for us. After the start it did not seem that we would be able to go to the front. Dindo was lucky that he caught his puncture in the moment when his tire change was scheduled. Today we had some luck. Which was not the case with Panoz: It is a shame, because they were really fast here. Our R8s were fantastic, both reliable and fast. And our drivers became better with every lap."
<pre> Results from Laguna Seca: 1. McNish/Capello Audi 119 laps, fast race lap 1:16.3 2. Biela/Pirro Audi 119 3. Lehto/Muller BMW 119 4. Gounon/Auberlan BMW 116 5. Smith/Johansson Lola 116 6. Field/Sutherland Lola 112 7. Angelelli/Taylor Cadillac 111 8. Beretta/Wendlinger Viper (GTS) 109 9. Fellows/Pilgrim Corvette (GTS) 109 10. Archer/Donohue Viper (GTS) 109