BRASELTON, Ga. (June 20, 2003) -- When it was announced earlier this year that former Formula One stars Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto would be teammates on the American Le Mans Series in 2003, many motorsports observers predicted a...
BRASELTON, Ga. (June 20, 2003) -- When it was announced earlier this year that former Formula One stars Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto would be teammates on the American Le Mans Series in 2003, many motorsports observers predicted a "Super Team."
The joining of the two stellar drivers was delayed by Herbert's now-complete commitment to the Bentley program, but the two will race together for the first time in the June 27-29 Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta. They will steer the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8.
Herbert, who joined the American Le Mans Series in 2001, is a three-time winner in Formula One competition, and the English driver has also scored major sports car wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He finished second at Le Mans last weekend while in a two-race deal for Team Bentley.
Lehto, from Finland, has 10 career victories in the ALMS, including six overall race wins in 1999 and 2000 while he was driving for the BMW works team, among them a win at Sebring in 1999. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall in 1995 and, with ADT Champion Racing, finished third overall and on top of the LMP 900 class in last weekend's race. Lehto made 62 Formula One starts from 1991-94 and competed in CART in 1998.
ADT Champion Racing, based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and owned by Dave Maraj, will be seeking its first-ever race win in the American Le Mans Series in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta. Last year, Herbert and former teammate Stefan Johansson led most of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta but ultimately finished second due to some yellow-flag periods that fell at the wrong time of the race for the team.
"We had such a good race for Champion last year," said Herbert. "We probably should have won the race, but I have to say that with Stefan we had a really good time in that one."
Lehto, too, knows the feeling of coming close but not winning at Road Atlanta. In 1999, he and co-driver Jorg Muller had a comfortable lead in the closing stages of the Petit Le Mans, but Muller spun off-course with only five minutes left in the race.
"That's a big memory for me," said Lehto. "I was really upset afterwards, but, ok, things happen. But it was hard because Atlanta is always a very difficult race, and if something like that happens five minutes before the end of the race, it really just wears you out."
Both drivers look forward to their new relationship and to racing at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit.
"Road Atlanta is nice because there's up hills, down hills, fast places, it's a very floating course, nice corners, very difficult and tough," said Lehto. "The traffic is really, really hard and you have to play the game right to get by and not lose time doing it. It's for the drivers, definitely, and I think most drivers like it."
"It's got a lot of character," said Herbert, who first raced at Road Atlanta in 2001. "You've got to have tracks that have some character. My favorite track of all time is Spa in Belgium, it's one of those with a lot of character, with up and down exactly like we have at Road Atlanta. It's got that type of driver sensation that you can get at that type of track, and I like driving on those."
Road Atlanta is the only track holding two races for the American Le Mans Series in 2003, with the sixth annual Petit Le Mans to be run Oct. 16-18. The track is offering a special two-event ticket discount, as well as individual tickets to both events. Ticket information is available online at www.roadatlanta.com or by calling 1-800-849-RACE (7223).
The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta will be televised live in North America by CBS Sports. In addition, the American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have full coverage of the race, as well as practice and qualifying sessions, online at www.americanlemans.com.