Laguna Seca: Champion Racing preview

Team ADT Champion Racing's Johnny Herbert is aiming for a "third time lucky" American Le Mans Series race at Laguna Seca on Sunday (7 Sep) after being the "bridesmaid" in the last two corresponding races at the challenging Californian ...

Team ADT Champion Racing's Johnny Herbert is aiming for a "third time lucky" American Le Mans Series race at Laguna Seca on Sunday (7 Sep) after being the "bridesmaid" in the last two corresponding races at the challenging Californian roadcourse.

Briton Herbert has finished second to the Audi of Frank Biela (and Emanuele Pirro) for the past two years - by a mere 1.602secs in 2001 with Andy Wallace and 25.7secs with Stefan Johansson last year after 165-minutes of hard racing.

Eleven points separate the championship leading Joest Audi pairing of Biela and Marco Werner from Herbert's Team ADT Champion Racing co-driver JJ Lehto and the Anglo-Finnish pairing are fully aware that a second consecutive ALMS victory is vital if they harbor thoughts on Driver or Team title success.

Lehto along with fellow ex-Formula One ace Herbert, who lies fourth in the championship, earned Dave Maraj's Florida-based Champion Racing squad a deserved second ALMS victory with a dominant performance in the last race at Road America, scoring Audi's 30th overall ALMS victory in the process.

The "Flying Finn" is no stranger to success around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn course that features the world-famous "corkscrew" section. JJ won the corresponding ALMS race outright in 1999, netted a GT class victory in 2001 and finished third overall in 2000 and '02. He has clocked up over 1,000 miles of race action at the track.

Johnny Herbert (39)
Born: Brentwood, Essex, UK
Lives: Monte Carlo
ALMS stats: 22 starts, 3 wins, 14 top-3s, 17 top-5s, 19 top-10s.

"My first-ever experience of Laguna was in 2001 when Andy [Wallace] and I finished a very close second. I was given a 20-second penalty after contact with Jan Magnussen's Panoz otherwise I'm sure I'd have won on my Laguna debut. Last year we [Stefan Johansson] finished second again so I would dearly like to think we'll go one better on this occasion especially considering how competitive we've been in recent races."

JJ Lehto (37)
Born: Espoo, Finland
Lives: Monte Carlo
ALMS stats: 36 starts, 12 wins (7 overall), 28 top-3s, 31 top-5s, 33 top-10s.

"I raced at Laguna Seca for the first time in 1997, driving a McLaren in a sportscar race and the following year in CART. But the Californian track has been very kind to me over the past four years and it's very, very important that success continues this weekend. Our Road America victory has brought us back in to the title race but it's still going to be very tough for us. If we win at Laguna and also the last two races in Miami and Road Atlanta we can snatch the Driver's and Manufacturers' series titles even if Joest finish second in all three."

Brad Kettler, Team ADT Champion Racing's Technical Director:

"I believe we have a good starting set-up for Laguna. It's always tough there with the track conditions ever changing. We have experienced good races at Laguna for the last two years. The team is well focused after a rebuild following our Road America victory. We will all be in full attack mode when we arrive in California on Wednesday."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Marco Werner , Dave Maraj , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto