Laguna Seca: Champion Racing race report

Team ADT Champion Racing Finishes 1-2 at Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Ca. (October 16, 2004) - A perfect finish to a nearly perfect year. Team ADT Champion Racing celebrated their seventh win of the nine race American Le Mans Series season tonight as...

Team ADT Champion Racing Finishes 1-2 at Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Ca. (October 16, 2004) - A perfect finish to a nearly perfect year. Team ADT Champion Racing celebrated their seventh win of the nine race American Le Mans Series season tonight as the two-car Audi R8 team finished an astounding 1-2 at the completion of the four hour endurance race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A bizarre twist of events during the last forty minutes reversed the original 1-2 order of the race and gave the win to Johnny Herbert and Pierre Kaffer, drivers of the No. 2 Audi R8 over the "sister car" driven by JJ Lehto and Marco Werner who led most of the race.

A caution late in the race brought out by rain and a car going off into the gravel, caused much confusion between the officials and the competitors. Werner who was driving the No. 38 Audi R8 was in the pits when the yellow flagged dropped which immediately closed the pits. Werner's crew continued the pit-stop service on the car while the rest of the field lapped him. Since Kaffer was still on the track when the caution occurred, Kaffer passed Werner on the track thus earning the lead. Werner and Lehto would finish second, 56 seconds behind the No. 2 car, something no one could predict given the initial start of the race.

At the start of the race when the green flag dropped, Lehto led the Audi duo into Turn 2 behind the pole sitter and while he managed to come out clean, Herbert was not so lucky as the No. 20 Dyson car tagged Herbert in the left rear causing his LMP1 Prototype to spin off course. Herbert was forced to join the pack in last place.

While Herbert was climbing his way through the field, Lehto was dicing it up with Nicolas Minassian in the Reynard Zytek car. Lehto passed Minassian just eleven laps into the race only to have Minassian pass him in the next corner. It would be a short twenty-six minutes later when Lehto would ultimately overtake Minassian. Lehto along with teammate Marco Werner would continue their charge until the last forty minutes when confusion occurred and Werner found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Herbert and Kaffer who started last found themselves in first place after four hours racing in heat, sun and then heavy rain. It was a "bizarre" day.

Driver quotes:

JJ Lehto (Finland): "The finish couldn't be better for the team but unfortunately for me and Marco, it's disappointing. It just was one of those technicalities at the end, you know, what happened with the pace car. It was very difficult to accept. We had a great race otherwise. I really enjoyed the start of the race with Nic Minassian. He made it very exciting for me. I can't wait to see the tape on this race!"

Marco Werner (Germany): "I really don't know what happened. I was always in the lead and behind the pace car in the end too. I don't know how Pierre overtook me. But still, it's a double win for the team. We'll just forget the first and the last race of this season. We are the Champions this year and in the end, that's what is important."

Johnny Herbert (England): "At the first corner, I got a run on JJ but he legitimately defended his position. Leitzinger went around the outside but then Dyson tapped me in to a spin. There was no damage and I resumed at the back of the field. I recovered to a rostrum position - the car and Michelin tires were perfect. The first of the two safety car periods in the closing 40 minutes brought Pierre to within eight seconds of Marco [Werner] but then 'Lady Luck' smiled on us. Pierre was going to pit on exactly the same lap as Marco but the pit lane had just closed for the second full course yellow. Marco made it in, Pierre didn't, and that's what gave us the win. That's the way it goes sometimes."

Pierre Kaffer (Germany): "That was an unbelievable race - the track was so slippery for the last 30 minutes. The Champion Audi team made a great call to give me wet tires at the perfect moment which won us the race. It's a fantastic way to end my first sportscar season. To win the opening and closing ALMS races plus my success in the LMES - amazing."

Brad Kettler (Technical Director): "I'm delighted Champion Racing had a 1-2 race result today. It was an extremely tough and interesting race. It finished under a little bit of controversy. There was a little mishap with the way the pace car was dispatched into the field. It gave the No. 2 car the advantage over the No. 38 car. It was a hard fought race as both cars were very, very quick. Nobody could have foreseen the strange misfortune that occurred at the end of the race but ultimately, it was another 1-2 finish for Audi and that's what is important."

-cr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Nicolas Minassian , Marco Werner , Pierre Kaffer , JJ Lehto