Lehto, Werner Win ALMS at Lime Rock, Ferrari win for the first time in GT. LAKEVILLE, Conn. (July 5, 2004) -- Marco Werner held off a late charge by Butch Leitzinger to score his second consecutive win in the American Le Mans Series with ...
Lehto, Werner Win ALMS at Lime Rock, Ferrari win for the first time in GT.
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (July 5, 2004) -- Marco Werner held off a late charge by Butch Leitzinger to score his second consecutive win in the American Le Mans Series with co-driver JJ Lehto in Monday's New England Grand Prix sports car race at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. The race was the 50th event in the history of the ALMS, which started in 1999, and was the first-ever ALMS race at historic Lime Rock Park.
Werner, driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, beat Leitzinger's Dyson Racing Lola-MG to the finish line by 1.429 seconds after a late-race caution period set up a five-minute dash to the finish in the two-hour, 45-minute timed event. Lehto, who drove the first 45 minutes of the race, and Werner led 105 of the race's 165 laps, while Leitzinger and co-driver James Weaver led 59 circuits.
The two cars had a back-and-forth race, with each falling a lap off the lead at separate points during the event. But the key was the next-to-last of five caution periods in the race when Werner was able to make the Audi's final pit stop under yellow shortly after Leitzinger had pitted under green. Leitzinger was able to close into striking distance near the end of the race but Werner prevailed in the final shootout.
"That was a lot of pressure on me," said Werner. "I knew he (Leitzinger) was close for the last restart and he had been running fast. I lost a race to that team last year like that and didn't want it to happen again."
"We got out of sequence which was in our favor for a while, but that last yellow put us a lap down," said Leitzinger. "From then we had to crawl back. We made little dents, but it wasn't quick enough. The #38 (Audi) got caught in horrible traffic and from then I could judge his progress. But with that last yellow lasting a long time, we just didn't have enough time to get it done."
"The race stayed close all the way to the end," said Lehto. "It was up to tactics and it was a good game. It's always nice to win. This was our first time here. It was nice to take it. I was so nervous at the end I didn't know who was going to win."
FERRARI TAKES FIRST ALMS GT WIN
Ferrari scored its first-ever GT class win in the ALMS with Anthony Lazzaro and Ralf Kelleners winning by one lap in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena. The win was also the first in the ALMS for the two drivers and snapped a 21-race GT class winning streak in the ALMS for Porsche that dated back to the first event of the 2002 season.
The J3 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Tim Sugden led most of the first half of the race after many of the top cars pitted to take on rain tires when a brief shower hit the track at the start. The J3 and Risi cars remained on slick tires and that proved to be the winning decision as the rest of the contending cars were never able to make up the lap they lost changing back to slicks under green. The J3 car fell out of contention on pit stop strategy.
"This win has been a long time coming," said Lazzaro, who has co-driven with Kelleners in the GT Ferrari since the 2002 season. "We've had a lot of podium finishes but could never get to that top step.
"It was a team decision to not change to rain tires," he said. "We found some local people who were standing behind the fence near our pits and they told us the rain wasn't going to last long. We trusted that information and they were right."
Johannes van Overbeek and Darren Law finished second in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, followed by Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb in the Alex Job Racing Porsche.
GAVIN, BERETTA GET FIRST ALMS WIN TOGETHER FOR CORVETTE
Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta won the GTS class in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, beating another Corvette driven by Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell by 3.627 seconds. It was the first ALMS win this season for the two, as Fellows and O'Connell had won the first two events of the season.
Beretta had led much of the first portion of the race, but the team lost nearly a lap to the other Corvette after pitting while the other car stayed on the track. Gavin was able to make up some of the distance during his stint, and then the race's next-to-last caution brought them back together. Beretta got back in the car and passed Fellows for the win with an inside move into turn one with just over 25 minutes remaining.
"The safety car didn't work in our favor, we ended up 55 seconds down, we seemed to keep losing time to the safety car," said Gavin. "It was a great win for the #4 car. We've been given a glimmer of hope for the championship. We need to keep focusing on our job." "It's really easy for our engineers because both of us want exactly the same thing," said Beretta, who scored his 15th career ALMS win but the first since 2000. "It is like only one man driving the car. When we got one lap behind, Oliver (Gavin) and I pushed very hard. When I finally caught Ron (Fellows) I made a good move to overtake him. We put on a good show and it was a great day for the #4 car. Even though this is my fourth race with Corvette, I feel at home."
Gavin had an unusual incentive to win as his mother had to be hospitalized last week while visiting from England in an attempt to see Gavin race for the first time in four years. "My mother has arthritis and her elbows were replaced," he said. "She got an infection when she arrived in America and had to have an immediate operation. She just got out of the hospital yesterday and desperately wanted to get to the race. She organized the trip here to see me race but couldn't come. I won for her today." Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem finished third in the ACEMCO Saleen S7R.
MIRACLE TEAM TAKES SECOND LMP2 WIN OF 2004
Ian James of Orlando, Fla., and James Gue of Athens, Ga., had a trouble-free race and won the LMP2 class by eight laps in the Miracle Motorsports Lola B2K/40-Nissan. The team won for the second time this season as James raced with two other drivers to win the class in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
"The Miracle Motorsports preparation is second to none," said James. "John Macaluso (team owner) has a great work ethic and a drive to win. These Yokohama tires did great. The key is being consistent and never deviating from that. Of course the traffic was tough, and the car was not hugely quick in the straights, so all the overtaking of the GT cars was under braking in the corners." Andy Lally and Ryan Eversley finished second in the Race Car Company Lola-Millington, while the Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91-Nissan of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and Bryan Willman was third.
EARNHARDT AND INFINEON NEXT
The ALMS will have a weekend off before the July 16-18 Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will be a special guest driver, sharing a third Corvette Racing entry with road racing veteran Boris Said.
"Junior is really fast as well as Boris," said Gavin. "Those two will be no slouches. I'm really looking forward to it. It should be a fun weekend."
The Sonoma race will be the first of back-to-back events for the series, the second being the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway July 23-25.