By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com For the second time this season, David Brabham and Jan Magnussen used timely pit strategy and a little luck to steal a victory from the all-conquering Joest Racing Audi R8's in this Saturday's American Le Mans ...
By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com
For the second time this season, David Brabham and Jan Magnussen used timely pit strategy and a little luck to steal a victory from the all-conquering Joest Racing Audi R8's in this Saturday's American Le Mans Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Since opting to switch back to their race-proven LMP1- Roadster S after a disappointing performance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Panoz duo has re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the ALMS. Over the course of the last four races, the Panoz duo has recorded two wins, a second, and a third.
Although pole-sitter Tom Kristensen completely dominated the first hour and half of the race in the #1 Joest Racing Audi R8, things began to unravel for the #1 car when Joe Field crashed his Lola/Judd into the pit wall to bring out the second yellow flag of the race. A number of teams chose to pit out of sequence under the caution, including Magnussen, who had pitted less than 20 minutes before Field's wreck.
On the ensuing restart, the #1 car was assessed a stop-and-go penalty after Dindo Capello inadvertently passed the pace car. This penalty handed the lead to Magnussen with about 45 minutes remaining in the race.
"The pit stop really saved us," stated Brabham. "We have to do a good job to beat Audi because they're a great team."
"The balance of the car wasn't great," Magnussen added. "It was the team's strategy that won the race though because it [the car] wasn't handling particularly well today. And I started losing brake pressure at the end [of the race], and I had to pump the brakes to keep a good pedal."
"In the beginning of the race I had no grip," Brabham explained. "It wasn't until the end of the stint that I could keep up with the Audi because our car was very inconsistent. The car was really difficult today and we didn't have the best car."
The #1 car managed to salvage a second-place finish after serving the stop-an-go penalty, and the #16 Dyson Racing Riley & Scott MKIIIC of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger finished third. The team of Frank Biela and Emmanule Pirro brought their Audi R8 home in fourth after losing lap when the Joest crew had to make a late-race pit stop to change spark plugs. And the Champion Audi of Andy Wallace and Johnny Herbert rounded out the top-five.
The #51 Panoz finished sixth, while the two Cadillac's finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
In the LMP 675 class, pole sitter Didier de Radigues recovered from a first lap spin in turn 4 to record his fourth win of the season. In fact, after falling to last place on the opening lap of the race, de Radigues and his Dick Barbour Racing Reynard 01Q Judd needed just 20 minutes to retake the class lead from the #11 Roock-KnightHawk Lola B2K/Judd of Steven Knight and Claudia Hurtgen. Over the course of the next hour and a half of the event, de Radigues and his teammate Bruno Lambert drove away from the rest of the 4-car LMP 675 field. But just as victory seemed like a sure thing for the Barber Racing duo, the #5 car was assessed a one-lap penalty for pitting when the pits were closed. The #5 car, however, regained the lead less than five minutes after receiving the one-lap penalty and coasted to a hard fought victory.
"I had contact with her [Claudia] again [at the beginning of the race]," explained an exasperated de Radigues. But he managed to collect himself and chase down the class leaders before handing the driving chores over to Lambert. "I was a little concerned because the tires were getting old, but I kept pushing the entire race and we got the win," stated a relieved Lambert.
In GTS, the pole-sitting Saleen S7R of Franz Konrad and Terry Borcheller led for the first 30 minutes of the race until the #4 Corvette C5-R of Andy Pilgrim took over the point position in the GTS class after waging a spirited fight with the #26 Saleen. And to make matters worse for the #26 Saleen, contact between Konrad and Andy Wallace in the #38 Champion Audi cost the Saleen several seconds on the leading #4 Corvette.
For the next thirty minutes, the #4 Corvette, the #3 Corvette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell, and the #26 Saleen battled it out for the GTS class lead, with second and third places changing hands several times. Over the course of the next hour and half, the two factory-backed Corvettes exchanged the lead of the race several times before the #3 Corvette of Fellows and O'Connell asserted its dominance over the GTS field once and for all. Although today's win was their fifth of the season, it was not a walk-in-the-park for the Corvette duo seeing as how they had to battle back from a poor pre-race set-up choice that left them way off of the pace of their sister car at the beginning of the race.
"We made a sway bar change [before the race] and it didn't work," stated Fellows as he described how poorly the car handled at the beginning of the race. "We were slipping and sliding all over the place. But we changed the rear sway bar and made some tire pressure changes that gave Johnny [O'Connell] enough to overtake the #4 car."
It was business as usual in the GT class with the #42 of J.J. Lehto and Jorg Muller leading a one-two BMW M3 GTR sweep of the GT class as the #43 BMW of Dirk Muller and Frederik Ekblom finished second. Although, the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3-RS of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen sat on the pole and ran consistently in the top-three all day long, they were no match for the V-8 powered factory BMWs. In fact, the quick pace that Luhr and Maassen were forced to maintain in order to keep up with the BMWs caused the #23 car to retire with less than five minutes remaining in the race with a broken half shaft. The #23 car's late retirement allowed Randy Pobst and Christian Menzel in the #22 Porsche to grab the last spot on the podium.
The #42 car's resounding victory (they led from the start) was their third in the last four races. "The first turn was full of action because I decided to out-brake [the #23 car] on the outside of the first turn," stated Lehto. "But after that I was always under control."