Portland: Race report

LEHTO, WERNER SET AMERICAN LE MANS RECORD WITH HARD-FOUGHT PORTLAND WIN PORTLAND, OR - JJ Lehto and Marco Werner set an American Le Mans Series record Sunday with their fourth consecutive overall race win as they took a hard-fought victory in...

LEHTO, WERNER SET AMERICAN LE MANS RECORD WITH HARD-FOUGHT PORTLAND WIN

PORTLAND, OR - JJ Lehto and Marco Werner set an American Le Mans Series record Sunday with their fourth consecutive overall race win as they took a hard-fought victory in the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway.

Their ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 spun twice after contact with other cars and was penalized once for contact during the two-hour, 45-minute sports car race event on the 1.944-mile track, all during Lehto's stint behind the wheel. However, the two Lola cars from Dyson Racing that had battled the Audi through the entire race each experienced problems in the last hour of the event and fell from contention. There were eight lead changes among the three cars and the Champion team earned Michelin Tires its 50th overall race win in ALMS history.

"I am never going to forget this race," said Lehto. "It was just one of those races. Lots of hits and spins, this is like nothing I've ever experienced before. It was a lot of hard work. I think it's the first time in my whole racing experience that so much has happened in one race."

"(Watching) was very difficult," said Werner, who drove the last 50 minutes. "I nearly had a heart attack. My heart rate was probably higher than (Lehto's). It was very fun watching, it was the best race I've ever seen."

James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger finished second, 1:08.446 behind, in one of the Dyson Lola EX257-AER/MG machines.

For much of the first hour of the race, Lehto battled back-and-forth with Chris Dyson, driving the Lola that co-driver Andy Wallace had qualified on the pole. Dyson led 54 laps, many of them with Lehto behind him trying to pass. The car ultimately finished 12 laps down after losing time in the pits with a mechanical problem.

"It was such great fun," said Dyson. "It was a good clean fight. JJ had the edge. But remember, catching up and getting passed are two different things. I hope everyone enjoyed watching."

"It was pretty hairy, and some serious competition," said Leitzinger. "I had at least three contacts with other cars. I think it was just everyone racing hard. There were no cheap shots. I just talked to JJ and we were laughing about it. I think we realized it was just racing."

Lehto and Werner became the first drivers in ALMS history to score four consecutive overall wins. The race marked the return of professional sports car racing to PIR for the first time since 2001.

FELLOWS, O'CONNELL WIN AGAIN IN GTS

Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell took their fourth GTS class win in five ALMS races this season in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, finishing third overall. Their car assumed the class lead when their Corvette team car driven by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a flat tire while leading.

The Gavin/Beretta car battled back to finish second, two laps back, while the Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem finished third in class.

"You can go back to all the year that Ron and I have been racing together and we both know how to push hard with no mistakes," said O'Connell. "It's rare that we lose time from our mistakes. Neither of us were pleased with the handling today, but we drove it as hard as we possibly could, and it just seemed to work out. The key to winning in tight race like this is putting yourself into the right position and we've been doing that the whole season. This is the fourth out of five races that we've pulled off by doing just that."

Fellows had to depart the track immediately after the race to travel to Watkins Glen, N.Y., to test a NASCAR Nextel Cup car on Monday. He will drive in the upcoming stock car race at the New York track for the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., team.

DUMAS, LIEB SCORE FIRST GT WIN TOGETHER

After coming close several times this season, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb won their first race as Alex Job Racing teammates by driving their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to victory in the GT class.

The two finished 21.791 seconds ahead of runners-up Johannes van Overbeek and Darren Law in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche, while the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of David Murry and Craig Stanton was third.

"This is such a great feeling, I've waited so long for my first win," said Lieb. "This is my first complete season in the American Le Mans Series. I tried so hard with Alex Job Racing last year at Sebring and with the Orbit team. But today, it's a very good feeling.

"Our car had some body contact which caused damage," he said. "The race was quite crazy and quite tight. It was a very hard race for all the cars, and not a lot of gaps. We were lucky not to get hit and stayed safe. That was a big key to our victory."

"It was a close race, with three of the top four cars in GT (together)," said Dumas, who was fastest GT qualifier for the third straight race. "I had a difficult start, I was letting one of the GTS cars pass me when Lucas (Luhr) took the first place. Before I realized what had happened, he had already passed me. I knew Marc (Lieb) was just as fast as I was, so why fight with Lucas or the Petersen (#31) car. It was a very long race, really hard on the tires. But I want to say, they (tires) are perfect. "

INTERSPORT WINS LMP2 CLASS FOR THIRD TIME

Clint Field, Jon Field and Robin Liddell won the LMP2 class in the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd, the third win of the season for the team in five ALMS races, and the second consecutive. It was also the third time that the team has won with Liddell joining Clint Field.

Mechanical problems slowed the Miracle Motorsports Lola-Nissan of John Macaluso, James Gue and Ian James and the car finished second in class, 17 laps behind. The Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91-Nissan of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and Bryan Willman was third in class.

"The level this Intersport team is running is quite high," said Liddell. "We had an issue with the battery which seems to be the only thing we have to work out. Reliability on the whole, is incredible. And that's a credit to the team and to Jon (Field, team owner). We have a great package here. We're always fast. If we keep it on the track, and away from others, we can win.

"The track is very narrow in places," he said. "That causes problems with people getting impatient. We were having a great battle at the time our battery had problems. We lost three or four laps, but as it happened, the Miracle car had problems too, and it turned out lucky to us. And that's what everyone wants to see, great battles with great cars."

MOSPORT NEXT FOR ALMS

The American Le Mans Series will make its only Canadian appearance of the 2004 season with the next event on the schedule, the Toronto Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway near Toronto Aug. 6-8.

Practice and qualifying will be held on Saturday, August 7, with the two-hour, 45-minute race to start at 12 noon (EDT) on Sunday, August 8. The race will be televised by CBS Sports in North America from 1-3 (EDT) and by MotorsTV in Europe. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage of qualifying and the race online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , David Murry , Robin Liddell , Jon Field , Ian James , Terry Borcheller , Oliver Gavin , Darren Law , James Gue , Marco Werner , Clint Field , Chris McMurry , Bryan Willman , Johnny Mowlem , Marc Lieb , Craig Stanton , Romain Dumas , Olivier Beretta , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports