Audi Portland preview

Audi looks to make Portland 15 in a Row Auburn Hills, Mich., -- With a 1-2 finish at Sears Point, Audi has won 14 races in a row in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). But the round in California last weekend gave the Audi works drivers Frank ...

Audi looks to make Portland 15 in a Row

Auburn Hills, Mich., -- With a 1-2 finish at Sears Point, Audi has won 14 races in a row in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). But the round in California last weekend gave the Audi works drivers Frank Biela, Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro just a small sample of what awaits them at the next race at Portland International Raceway on August 5. The driver squads of both Infineon Audi R8 racers also face strong outside opposition.

"I'm convinced we'll experience another fight within the team in Portland," explains Head of Audi Sport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "I think Frank and Emanuele bring a great deal of extra motivation from the Sears Point race. But we have to watch out for both Panoz cars and the Champion outfit."

Panoz contested the Sears Point race with their proven cars from last year and had no trouble keeping pace with the front pack. The privately entered Audi R8 of the Champion team could drive to victory at any time. After competing at Le Mans, Johnny Herbert made his ALMS debut at Sears Point and will contest the rest of the season alongside his partner Andy Wallace. "I'm very much looking forward to racing the Audi - it's about time someone beat the works cars and it would be good to start in Portland," declares Herbert, who brings experience from 162 Formula 1 races to the ALMS.

The Audi Sport North America team is determined to keep their 14 wins in a row in tact. The Le Mans winners Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro are keen to clinch their first winner's trophy of the 2001 ALMS season in Portland. "We know we've got the speed to win - now we just have to do it," said the longest standing member of the Audi squad. "After our narrow miss at Sears Point our motto is: the time is now!" says Pirro.

Still, victory for Biela and Pirro means overcoming the Italian/Danish duo in the sister car. "Portland is another new track for me. But at Sears Point I proved that I'm able to learn quickly," said Tom Kristensen. "This time it's my turn to qualify, so I hope to set pole so that Dindo and I have the best possible starting position."

All Audi pilots agree that the 1.94-mile, 12-turn circuit is comparatively easy. "Apart from the ovals, Portland is the least challenging track of the season for a driver," explains points leader Rinaldo Capello, who last year posted pole and went on to win the race. "But as always there is not a lot of time in free practice to familiarize ourselves with the circuit, so we must be focused."

For this reason, Reinhold Joest is applying the experience gained from last year. "We collected a lot of data from our last race in Portland - like for instance the gear ratios. It's not possible to transfer all this information one-to-one to the new Infineon Audi R8, however the test day helps tremendously and that's half the battle," says the director of the Audi Sport North America team.

"Still, it won't be an easy race," believes Frank Biela. "The good thing is, in contrast to Sears Point, we have a long straight to catch our breath, but we also have to drive more laps than at Sears Point. There's only one place to overtake at the end of the finish straight, therefore it's important to find a good compromise in setting up the car. We need enough downforce in the tight corners yet plenty of speed on the straight to make the most of this one overtaking chance."

The Portland race will be televised on August 6 at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Speedvision. <pre> Audi Line-up: #1 Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen #2 Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro #38 Andy Wallace, Johnny Herbert - Champion Audi

ALMS Driver's Points Standings: 1. Rinaldo Capello (3) 86 2. Tom Kristensen (2) 80 3. Emanuele Pirro 72 4. Frank Biela 71 5. Andy Wallace 59 6. Dorsey Schroeder 41 7. David Brabham 39 8. Jan Magnussen 38 9. Jon Field 34 10. Michele Alboreto (1) 31 Laurent Aiello (1) 31

ALMS Prototype 900 Manufacturers Standings: 1. Audi (3) 80 2. Panoz 55 3. Lola 34 4. Riley & Scott 19 5. Courage 18 6. Cadillac 15

Audi season to date: Texas Qualify first and twenty-second, Capello on pole Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen win Sebring Qualify first and second, Pirro on pole Finish first and second, Capello/Aiello/Alboreto win Donington Qualify first and second, Kristensen on pole Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen win Jarama Qualify first and second, Kristensen on pole Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen Le Mans Qualify first and second, Capello on pole Finish first and second, Biela/Kristensen/Pirro Sears Point Qualify first and second, Capello on pole Finish first and second, Capello/Kristensen

-Audi Sport NA-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , David Brabham , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Laurent Aiello , Jon Field , Michele Alboreto , Dorsey Schroeder , Reinhold Joest , Emanuele Pirro