Houston: Race report

AUDI'S STAR SHINES BRIGHTEST IN TEXAS Houston - It doesn't matter if it's the R8 or R10 TDI. It seems like Audi always finds a way to win in the American Le Mans Series. Friday night's Lone Star Grand Prix was another example as Alan McNish and...


Houston - It doesn't matter if it's the R8 or R10 TDI. It seems like Audi always finds a way to win in the American Le Mans Series. Friday night's Lone Star Grand Prix was another example as Alan McNish and Dindo Capello won for the second time this season.

The R8 survived the attrition that claimed its closest competitors to send Allan McNish and Dindo Capello to their second straight victory. After winning in the debut of the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI at Sebring, McNish and Capello completed 143 laps on the 1.69-mile, nine-turn street course at Reliant Park.

"I was surprised how good the car really was in the race," Capello said. "We could keep pace right behind the Porsche. We have no traction control and were very heavy out of the corners. Now we are in 2006 and this car should not have been as competitive as it was today."

Corvette Racing's No. 4 Corvette C6.R, with Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin and the wheel, finished second overall and won for the seventh straight time in GT1. The runner-up finish overall is the highest finish in the Series' history for a GT1 car.

The rough surface, common for street races, played havoc on Dyson Racing's two Lolas and Penske Racing's two Porsche RS Spyders. But the Audi remained steady throughout the two-hour, 45-minute race.

It appeared the race would come down to pit stops between the Audi and the two Porsches. It didn't come down to that, however, as the reliability of the R8 won out in the end as the Penske cars suffered drivetrain problems late. As a result, the Audi R8 now has won 48 times in the Series since debuting in 2000.

"There were two things that happened today; one, the car got better as the race went on and the grip got better, and two, the team did a great strategy," McNish said. "I didn't think it was a great idea when I got in, but as I saw it go on I realized it was spot on. We knew that we pitted in the window with full knowledge that the Porsche would have to pit and we could leap frog in the pits."

The Corvettes have been just as consistent. They haven't been beaten since Sebring last year, a span of 11 races. Gavin and Beretta topped teammates Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 entry by 15.811 seconds. The two Ollies tied Karl Wendlinger for the all-time record for consecutive wins in the Series.

"Today really shows the strength of the Corvette, even with the added weight," Gavin said. "This win is thanks to our team and Olivier. We had problems with brakes, tires and overheating. Every single time there seems to be a hurdle, our team jumps over it."

The deciding moment came with 23 minutes left as Gavin passed Johnny O'Connell as the No. 3 car was leaving pit lane. The two Corvettes finished ahead of Aston Martin Racing's two Aston Martin DBR9s, which finished fourth and fifth overall. The lead Aston Martin was the No. 007 entry of Tomas Enge and Darren Turner, which were a lap behind the Corvettes.

"We really worked on the brakes because of the extra weight," Beretta said. "It was great to win, but it's also important not to damage the car because we race at Mid-Ohio next. The target was to finish 1-2."

In LMP2, Clint Field nursed the Intersport Racing Lola over the final 20 minutes to claim his second straight win with Liz Halliday. As the Penske Porsches went by the wayside within the last 30 minutes, Field kept the car under power to win for the 14th time in his career. Halliday picked up her fifth career Series win, which ties her with Milka Duno for the most victories by a female driver in the American Le Mans Series.

"(Late in the race) I came down the straight and it made a wicked noise and I lost power but I knew what the problem was because we had the same problem earlier in the week," Field said. "Then I passed the yellow Porsche and I thought this is too good to be true. We came in and they safety tied it back together and it held."

B-K Motorsports placed second in class as Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo finished two laps behind Intersport in their No. 8 Mazda-powered Courage C65. Both Halliday and Field said the race was a good example of never giving up and fighting until the checkered flag.

"I think the team and everyone's goal was just to stay alive," Halliday said. "We chatted with some of the other teams and we all agreed not to get in a wreck. I think we all did a good job respecting each other and keeping it clean. We knew we'd have a solid third if the Penskes held together. I didn't expect things to come out like they did today. It was survival of the fittest."

The Alex Job Racing Porsche came from the back of the field to win in GT2.

Alex Job Racing won a terrific GT2 battle as Mike Rockenfeller and Klaus Graf earned a hard-fought victory in what is becoming the class to watch in the Series. Coming from the back of the field, Rockenfeller and Graf posted a one-lap win in their No. 23 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. It was the first victory in the Series for each and the 37th in the Series for Job (50th overall).

Rockenfeller had to start from the back after Graf flat-spotted the tires after a spin in qualifying. A solid, consistent run was more than enough for the two Germans to make up time.

"We knew after qualifying that we had a pretty good car," Rockenfeller said. "I could push from the beginning and I tried to stay calm. I didn't want to push. Getting points after a tough race at Sebring was good.

Rockenfeller and Graf made just one stop on the night, as did the second-place No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek, the new class points leader, and Wolf Henzler. Risi Competizione's No. 62 Ferrari F430GT was third in its hometown race.

"The Alex Job Racing Porsche was as good as you can make it," Graf said. "Our car really worked well. The Michelin tires were fantastic, and we just had to maintain our lead."


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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Milka Duno , Tomas Enge , Rinaldo Capello , Allan McNish , Karl Wendlinger , Darren Turner , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Guy Cosmo , Clint Field , Olivier Beretta , Mike Rockenfeller , Liz Halliday , Wolf Henzler , Alex Job
Teams Team Penske , Aston Martin Racing , Corvette Racing , Alex Job Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports