AUDI'S WERNER, LUHR WIN A THRILLER IN LONG BEACH It's hard to remember a time when an Audi victory in the American Le Mans Series was considered a surprise. But that's just what happened on Saturday though as Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr scored...
AUDI'S WERNER, LUHR WIN A THRILLER IN LONG BEACH
It's hard to remember a time when an Audi victory in the American Le Mans Series was considered a surprise. But that's just what happened on Saturday though as Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr scored an unlikely victory in the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach as the two Audi R10 TDIs finished 1-2.
Werner crossed the finish line 1.964 seconds ahead of Emanuele Pirro in the sister Audi as the German manufacturer finished 1-2 overall in an American Le Mans Series race for the first time since St. Petersburg in 2007, also a street circuit.
"From the beginning the car was good so we didn't make many changes," Werner said. "I was never fastest, and free practice and qualifying are never the same thing. So you can guess we are quite happy with Michelin at the moment. The car setup is really helping us a lot this year, especially in the street circuits. We are in max lock trying to make the turns, especially in the hairpins. But the Michelins are keeping the car where it should be and helping us deal with all the corners."
Werner got around Penske Racing's Romain Dumas in the Porsche RS Spyder with 11 minutes remaining for the overall lead and used the torque and power of the R10 TDI to pull away after a late caution period. Pirro did the same as he teamed with Frank Biela in the runner-up car.
Werner and Luhr have now won consecutive races after scoring a victory two weeks ago at St. Petersburg. It was Luhr who drove the closing stint and passed Dumas with three minutes remaining there.
"Marco got to do the same thing I did last race at St. Pete," Luhr said. "Now I know how it feels. I couldn't watch it. The team said it would be OK, but I said I'm too old, I can't watch!"
Luhr started sixth on the grid but moved up to second overall before pitting near the 40-minute mark. He was held up in pitlane by Jon Field in the Intersport Lola and lost several seconds before Werner rejoined in ninth place. He worked his way back through the field using the power of the R10 TDI and timely yellow flags to get within range of Dumas and ultimately taking the lead.
The deciding yellow flag came out at the one-hour mark for debris at Turn 11. It only took a couple of laps after the restart for Werner to thunder by Dumas at the end of the frontstretch.
"I think I was quite OK in traffic today," Werner said. "It was the key for the victory, especially before the yellow came out. I think Romain expected me not to make the pass and with the GT car ahead. I tried; it wasn't too much risk but you have to try. We knew he'd be better on braking, but I closed the door and had a good first corner but better second and then the torque took over so I could pull away."
In LMP2, David Brabham and Scott Sharp scored the first victory for Patrón Highcroft Racing as Brabham made a diving pass on Dumas on the next-to-last lap to score the first win for the new Acura ARX-01b. Brabham crossed the finish line 1.036 seconds ahead of the Porsche as Acura won for the first time since its Series debut last year at Sebring.
Brabham and Sharp also finished third overall for the second consecutive race. Brabham also became the first driver in Series history to score victories in four classes.
"To win this race like we did is something special," Brabham said. "The first three or four laps the car was sliding around. Once the tires came in, I found the car was really hooked up in the turns. The inside move on Dumas felt really sweet. The team was on the radio telling me how much time and how many laps they thought was left. I knew I didn't have long and if I had a chance I needed to go for it."
So he did. The two cars were in close contact throughout the penultimate lap. The Patrón Highcroft pit erupted when Brabham cleared the Porsche.
"This feels incredible," said Sharp, who scored his first Series victory and drove the opening stint. "These are the types of accomplishments the team is looking for this year. Anytime you can get one-up on Roger Penske's team, you've done something. We were well back Thursday and I can't say enough about the job the team did to get the car back."
Dumas and Timo Bernhard saw their eight-race class win streak end with their second-place finish. They finished ahead of Penske teammates Patrick Long and Sascha Maassen.
Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen scored their second GT1 victory of the season with a 1.374-second victory over the sister car of Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin. Magnussen began on the class pole position, and he and O'Connell never trailed.
"The start was interesting. It was a lot cooler than qualifying," said Magnussen, who was the fastest GT1 qualifier Friday. "The setup was working perfectly. There were a few moments I got close to the wall. I got some moments with Oliver where I could attack but others where the wall was too close."
The duo also assumed the lead in the class championship, breaking a tie with their teammates. Gavin and Beretta won nine times in class last year and have won the last three GT1 championships. At least for the first three events, the playing field between the two Corvettes seem to have leveled.
"Things are really gelling well with Jan and myself," said O'Connell, who teamed with Magnussen in a factory Panoz prototype in 1999. "We weren't dominated last year, they were always close wins and we were always right there and just caught some bad luck. It was just the way racing goes; sometimes you have up years and sometimes they are down. Racing is a team sport, anytime we can beat the 4, it is a great thing."
Dirk Mueller had to do a little extra work to score Tafel Racing's second straight GT2 victory with Dominik Farnbacher. Mueller and the Tafel Ferrari F430 GT held off Flying Lizard Motorsports' Wolf Henzler and his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that he shared with Jorg Bergmeister by 0.102 seconds. It wasn't decided until the final corner as the two cars started on their final lap just before Werner took the checkered flag.
The two cars were nose-to-tail the entire final lap and were joined by the No. 46 Flying Lizard Porsche of Patrick Pilet, who finished third with Johannes van Overbeek. The finish was the second-closest finish in the history of the American Le Mans Series and tightest in GT2.
"The car was fantastic," Mueller said. "It was a gamble you know not taking tires. The safety car helped make it a close end. Then the five years of really hard driving in touring car racing really helped me. The racing line was quite wide. It was possible to do off line racing and give room for overtaking."
The difference was pit strategy. Both the Lizard cars took tires during its lone pit stop while the Tafel car elected to run the full race on one set of Michelins. Tafel saved 7.362 seconds on the pit stop.
"I drove easy to try and save the tires for Dirk," Farnbacher said. "I tried to simply stay with the pack until my drive was over."
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little Hotels on Sunday, May 18 from Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The green flag is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT with live television coverage on SPEED. Live radio coverage will be available on XM Satellite Radio Channel 144 and American Le Mans Radio at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.