Debut Audi Takes Sebring Win

German manufacturer Audi dominated proceedings at the opening race of the 2000 Le Mans Series - taking a clean sweep of the first two positions in the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. A new Audi R8 driven by pole winner Frank Biela, Tom...

German manufacturer Audi dominated proceedings at the opening race of the 2000 Le Mans Series - taking a clean sweep of the first two positions in the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida.

A new Audi R8 driven by pole winner Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro sped to victory by 39.111 seconds over a team car wheeled by Michele Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish.

The winning Audi completed 360 laps over the 12-hour grind, 47 laps more than the winning BMW in 1999.

For Kristensen, who was on the winning BMW team last year, it was two Sebring wins in a row. Team-mate and former Adelaide Grand Prix driver Emanuele Pirro was thrilled to take the victory.

"The last few laps, I was worried, but I never gave up. I found myself in the lead you start to hear noises in the car," Pirro said.

"We were never sure till the end, which made the whole thing sweeter."

While the BMW of JJ Letho and Jorg Muller took the final podium position, the Panoz of Australian star David Brabham struck trouble with three hours to go.

"I was running quite hard to try and make up some of our lost time and my right foot was completely numb by the time I'd finished," Brabham said.

"I felt like I was cramping up but other than that the car was pretty good. It's a shame because we'd been right up there at the beginning of the race, sometimes in the lead but always in the top three."

Brabham's car had earlier struck a suspension problem which cost the Panoz team five laps.

It was Audi's first victory in America's oldest road race. In the GTS class, Dodge Vipers took the top three spots when mechanical woes struck arch-rival Corvette, the win coming in a Viper driven by Le Mans Series GTS champion Olivier Beretta with Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy.

The GT win went to Dirk Muller and Lucas Luhr of Monaco in a Porsche GT3 R, five laps ahead of their nearest challenger.

Adelaide will host the final round of the 2000 Le Mans Series on New Year's Eve this year.

Paul Ryan, ryan@panoz.com.au

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Dirk Müller , Allan McNish , Frank Biela , Karl Wendlinger , Jorg Muller , Lucas Luhr , Ryan Paul , Michele Alboreto , Olivier Beretta , Dominique Dupuy , Emanuele Pirro