Mosport: Champion Racing race report

The Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto claimed 20th overall (fourth in LMP900) in the latest round of the American Le Mans Series today (Sun 17 Aug). "Lady Luck" deserted the Florida-based team when a 17-minute ...

The Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto claimed 20th overall (fourth in LMP900) in the latest round of the American Le Mans Series today (Sun 17 Aug).

"Lady Luck" deserted the Florida-based team when a 17-minute pit-stop for suspension repairs in the closing stages shattered Champion Racing's dreams of a second ALMS victory after disputing the lead in the fifth round.

Lehto qualified for the 165-minute race on LMP900 class "pole", third place overall on the 33-car grid at Mosport but started the race second when the Andy Wallace/Chris Dyson (Lola MG) began from the pit-lane after an accident in the warm-up.

JJ dived down the inside of the pole-starting James Weaver/Butch Leitzinger (Lola MG) at Turn 1 at the start, both cars surviving contact. Lehto trailed leader Weaver by five seconds with 22-minutes run with Biela in the Joest Audi, a further five seconds adrift before the first full course yellow appeared.

Biela stopped early, dropping to fifth, while Lehto slipped to sixth when he stopped just before the race went "green" again after 14-minutes - both Audi R8s having taken on fuel and new tires.

Within two minutes, there was a second full course yellow, leader Weaver stopping on this occasion for fuel, tires and handing over to Leitzinger.

With 63-minutes on the clock, Biela led with Olivier Beretta/David Saelens (Panoz) second, Lehto third and Leitzinger fourth, as the race re-started.

Lehto was "delayed" by the second-placed Panoz, the Audi losing out to the brute force of the Panoz on the straights. But on 71-minutes, Lehto dived through in to second, quickly closed on Biela, and brilliantly swept the ADT Champion Audi in to the lead on the next lap as Leitzinger pitted with a battery problem.

At mid-distance (82-minutes), the flying Lehto led Biela by 3.2-secs, the Joest Audi showing signs of minor rear bodywork damage after the Gunnar Jeannette/Scott Maxwell (Panoz) tagged it during the second "yellow" necessitating an unscheduled stop for the second-placed Panoz.

With an hour to run, JJ had extended his advantage to 11.5-secs over Biela, with Saelens (Panoz) third a further 4.6-secs adrift. Lehto's reactions were tested to the full when a back-marker "locked up" in front of him slowing for a corner, JJ having to drive on to the grass with all four wheels before re-joining the track without damage and still leading.

Moments later (97-minutes) the race featured its third full course yellow and while Biela shadowed Lehto as they both entered the pit lane, Werner's Joest Audi was the first to leave, both R8s having taken on fuel and new tires with Herbert now in the Champion car.

Werner led Herbert by 4.9-secs with 45-minutes remaining, with only the Beretta/Saelens (Panoz) on the same lap a further 32-secs back. Johnny quickly moved menacingly on to Werner's tail but time after time, slower back-marker "traffic" influenced the dice for allowed Werner to stay at the front.

But disaster struck on lap 100, 19-minutes from the checker, when Herbert - less than one second behind leader Werner, was forced wide over a high kerb to avoid a backmarker. Herbert brought the Audi in to pits with front, right suspension damage.

The team made repairs, getting Herbert back in the race with minutes to spare to take the checker, 20th overall and 13-laps behind the winning Werner/Biela Audi after Johnny had to serve a stop-go penalty on the last lap.

Johnny Herbert (39). Born: Brentwood, Essex, UK. Lives: Monte Carlo:

"I'm very, very disappointed -- I'm extremely annoyed with the driving standards of some of these drivers. I was forced on to the kerb and that was that. Finished! I'm choked"

JJ Lehto (37). Born: Espoo, Finland. Lives: Monte Carlo:

"The car was very good when I was at the wheel - absolutely perfect apart from a little oversteer."

-cr-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , James Weaver , Scott Maxwell , Olivier Beretta , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto