Donington Park, Saturday 14th April 2001: Rinaldo Capello took the chequered flag to score a historic win for Audi in the first European Le Mans Series race at Donington Park, and his third win in 2001. Despite a stop go penalty early in the...
Donington Park, Saturday 14th April 2001: Rinaldo Capello took the chequered flag to score a historic win for Audi in the first European Le Mans Series race at Donington Park, and his third win in 2001. Despite a stop go penalty early in the race, the Audi pairing of Capello and Tom Kristensen proved unstoppable as they finished the race as the only car on the lead lap.
The cold and damp weather failed to discourage a large crowd, who came to the picturesque circuit at Donington Park to see a wonderful display of sportscar racing. At the start it was Kristensen who led the field as they rounded turn one, but Stefan Johansson in the Gulf sponsored Audi moved ahead of the works Audi of Frank Biela as the field dropped down the Craner Curves on the opening lap. A clash with a backmarker caused a stop go penalty to be imposed on the leading Audi, allowing teammate Biela to take the lead after the German had regained 2nd from Johansson ten minutes earlier.
After the three leading Audi's changed drivers, Guy Smith in the Gulf car pulled off what was probably the move of the race as he dived on the inside of Emanuele Pirro at the tight Melbourne Hairpin to regain second place.
The team held this position until a late stop for fuel cost them the position as Pirro was able to continue to the end of the race without stopping.
The Chrysler Oreca, which has impressed all weekend, ran well until a collision with a backmarker caused the exhaust to break and a throttle return spring broke. The car spent over 45 minutes in the garage, but eventually rejoined to finish the race 38 laps down. Panoz had a weekend to forget as both cars suffered mechanical problems and both cars ended up taking excursions into the gravel. However, both cars finished the race, scoring valuable points in the process.
The BMW M3 GTR of JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller was forced to start at the back of the grid after engine gremlins forced the team to miss Fridays qualifying. Lehto was flying and by the second lap had moved up an impressive eight places. Both the BMW's were on the pace until technical difficulties forced both cars into retirement. The Alex Job Racing Porsches put on an impressive display, Maassen moving ahead of Ekblom BMW to take the class lead before the BMW started to suffer from its technical woes. With demise of the BMW, Alex Job Racing took a 1-2 with Lucas Luhr taking the chequered flag ahead of teammate Christian Menzel. Britain's PK Sport Porsche 911 GT3 driven by Mike Youles and Robin Liddell took the final class podium on home soil.
There were only a pair of cars in the LMP675 and GTS classes but the race couldn't in any way be described as a formality. In the 675 class the Rowan Racing Pilbeam and Dick Barbour Reynard ran closely until the Reynard started to suffer mechanical problems, which in the end resulted in retirement due to a broken clutch. The Pilbeam finished the race in 7th overall, 10 laps behind the winning Audi.
The two GTS Saleen S7Rs provided some exciting action until the Konrad Motorsport car made several trips to the pits with problems. The RML car took advantage to pull out a massive lead, taking the chequered flag three laps ahead of its rival.
Rinaldo Capello led another Audi 1-2-3 finish. "I got a good start but had to be careful with the cold tyres on this very smooth Donington track," Kristensen said. "The car was great and I managed to pull out a led as we came upon the backmarkers. The driver I hit came and saw me afterwards and we talked about it. I accept the penalty, I'm just not happy about it. I was able to regain the lead within a few laps." Larent Redon brought the Pescarolo Sport Courage C60 home in 4th, five laps ahead of 5th placed Peter Boss in the Westward Racing Panoz LMP01, who also had the distinction of being the first Panoz across the line.
The second round of the European Le Mans Series will take place on May 20th at Jarama in Spain. <pre> RACE RESULT:
1 - LMP900 - Capello/Kristensen - Audi R8 - 2:45.45.263 2 - LMP900 - Biela/Pirro - Audi R8 - 1 lap 3 - LMP900 - Johansson/Smith - Audi R8 - 1 lap 4 - LMP900 - Boullion/Redon - Courage C60 - 4 laps 5 - LMP900 - Cochran/Boss - Panoz LMP01 - 9 laps 6 - LMP900 - Graf/Salles - Panoz LMP07 - 9 laps 7 - LMP675 - O'Connell/Carway - Pilbeam MP484 - 10 laps 8 - LMP900 - Brabham/Magnussen - Panoz LMP07 - 11 laps 9 - GTS - Lambert/McKellar Jnr - Saleen S7R - 13 laps 10 - GT - Luhr/Maassen - Porsche 911 GT3 - 13 laps 11 - GT - Pobst/Menzel - Porsche 911 GT3 - 13 laps 12 - GTS - Konrad/Gavin - Saleen S7R - 16 laps 13 - GT - Youles/Liddell - Porsche 911 GT3 - 17 laps 14 - GT - Burgess/Mowlem - Porsche 911 GT3 - 18 laps 15 - GT - Wankum/Foster - Porsche 911 GT3 - 19 laps 16 - GT - Orti/Villarroel - Porsche 911 GT3 - 19 laps 17 - GT - Rosa/Drudi - Porsche 911 GT3 - 20 laps 18 - GT - Forgeois/Sourd/Caternet - Porsche 911 GT3 - 23 laps 19 - LMP900 - Dalmas/Beretta - Chrysler Oreca - 38 laps
1 - LMP900 - Capello/Kristensen - 1:22.043 5 - LMP675 - Van De Poele/De Radigues - 1:27.549 26 - GTS - Konrad/Gavin - 1:29.237 43 - GT - Ekblom/Muller - 1:34.362