Mid-Ohio: Audi preview

Victorious Audi racers back in the United States. Auburn Hills, Mich.-- Following the "hat-trick" victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Audi team has no time to take a breath. Immediately after the historic triumph in the world's toughest motor...

Victorious Audi racers back in the United States.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-- Following the "hat-trick" victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Audi team has no time to take a breath. Immediately after the historic triumph in the world's toughest motor race, attention now turns to defending the championship in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), starting with Mid-Ohio this weekend.

Because the same Infineon Audi R8 sportscars that claimed the first two places at Le Mans are also being used in the United States, a race against the clock started for the Joest Audi team. Both R8s were entirely stripped down and rebuilt and following a brief roll-out, flown to North America.

There, the Audi drivers are facing the task of completing an ALMS three-peat, following the third consecutive victory at Le Mans. In 2000 and 2001, Audi won the ALMS title.

For the Mid-Ohio race, the Audi crew is especially motivated. Last year, the Infineon Audi R8 was the car to beat at the undulating track in the heart of Ohio. Nevertheless, Panoz was in front during the race, because one of the Audi racers had to come in for an unscheduled pit stop and the other works R8 was given a stop-and-go penalty. After having just missed out on victory to the Panoz in the second round of the 2002 season in Sears Point, there is just one goal for Audi in Mid-Ohio - victory.

Champion Racing. the Audi customer team, currently leading the overall standings of the ALMS with Johnny Herbert, has been stocking up on the drivers' side. Herbert's new partner behind the wheel of the ADT Champion Audi R8 is Stefan Johansson from Sweden, who already competed for Champion Racing in the Sebring 12 Hour race where he finished second.

One week later, the Audi drivers will be discovering new territories in Road America. On the demanding track near Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, an ALMS round is taking place for the first time, covering a distance of 500 miles, which makes it a real endurance race.

Quotes before the races in Mid-Ohio and Road America:

Frank Biela (Infineon Audi R8 #1): "After Le Mans, Mid-Ohio is just the opposite. The track is twisty, relatively slow, but very demanding and hard for the drivers. If it is warm, it will be a tough race. Last year, the R8 was good at Mid-Ohio. This year, we have even more downforce, which should be an advantage at such a twisty track. I can't say much about Road America, I have never been there and I don't know the track. I hear it is interesting and I am happy with every new circuit."

Emanuele Pirro (Infineon Audi R8 #1): "Mid-Ohio and Road America are the nicest tracks on the ALMS calendar, together with Laguna Seca. Frank and I are relatively far behind in the points' standings after the first two rounds. But last year, we saw, that one should never give up and that things can still change in the end. But when I am honest, I am supporting 'Dindo' in the fight for the title, he wanted victory at Le Mans so badly and had deserved it, too. Maybe it works out with the ALMS title."

Rinaldo Capello (Infineon Audi R8 #2): "Obviously, I was somewhat disappointed after the race in Le Mans, but now, I am totally concentrating on the ALMS and I am looking forward to the next races at Mid-Ohio and Road America that are two very interesting tracks. In Mid-Ohio, Tom and I still have unfinished business after our bad luck from last year. I only know Road America from TV, but I really like what I have seen there."

Tom Kristensen (Infineon Audi R8 #2): "Mid-Ohio is a relatively slow, twisty track, but it has many interesting corners. I really like Mid-Ohio. Last year, I was on pole there. I am especially looking forward to Road America. I don't know the track yet, but Jacques Villeneuve has told me that it is the best track in the United States. And my birthday is on raceday, July 7."

Johnny Herbert (ADT Champion Audi R8 #38): "I have to score points on a regular basis in order to defend my championship lead. The works Audis and the Panoz will not be making life easy for me in the next rounds. Without doubt, Champion Racing will be providing me with a competitive car and the ALMS title is my clear goal. Last year, I was only fifth at Mid-Ohio, this time, it has to be a podium finish."

Stefan Johansson (ADT Champion Audi R8 #38): "It is great news for me to drive for Champion Racing together with Johnny because it is a step back for me into the Audi family. I always enjoyed working with Audi. The R8 is the best racecar I ever driven. It was very disappointing for me that I could not continue the Audi program this year with my own team after the European Le Mans Series was canceled and we did not get an invitation for Le Mans. So I am very pleased to be back."

Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director Audi Sport North America: "In Mid-Ohio, we still have unfinished business. Last year, we were very strong there and we should have won the race, but we didn't... The track at Mid-Ohio is great, a classic sports car track, that also pulls a good crowd. Road America is even more impressive - just a great track with very fast corners that require skill from the drivers. Joest Racing has fond memories of Road America, we celebrated a double victory there back in 1992. None of the current Audi drivers know Road America. But our drivers have proven more than once that they can learn new tracks quickly."

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "From now on, Johnny Herbert will be some kind of half-adversary, he might be driving an Audi, but against our works-team. The title race in the American Le Mans Series will be really exciting, also because of his new teammate Stefan Johansson. But we shouldn't under estimate Panoz either, after their bad luck at Le Mans, they will be totally motivated. Of course, the same applies to 'Dindo' because it didn't work out for him at Le Mans again, his goal now has to be the ALMS title. That ensures plenty of excitement."

The Mid-Ohio race will be televised live on the Speed Channel starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Audi Sport North America is the motorsports arm of Audi of America, Inc.

-audi-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Jacques Villeneuve , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Frank Biela , Ralf Juttner , Emanuele Pirro