The stars of the Le Mans Series will have their final chance to boost their title assault on U.S. soil for 2000 when they visit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the penultimate round of this year's championship this weekend. Audi was fortunate...
The stars of the Le Mans Series will have their final chance to boost their title assault on U.S. soil for 2000 when they visit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the penultimate round of this year's championship this weekend.
Audi was fortunate to continue their winning run at the last round of the championship when Australia's David Brabham and Panoz team-mate Jan Magnussen dominated the Laguna Seca race before suffering an engine failure.
The Panoz duo will now have one final chance in the U.S. to record their second win of the year before the title chase heads to Adelaide for the final round of the championship on New Year's Eve.
Like earlier rounds of the 2000 title at Charlotte and Texas, the Las Vegas race will be run at a super-speedway oval venue, combined with an in-field road course.
Although Brabham and Magnussen have an ace up their sleeve in the form of the new 2001 Panoz for the Adelaide race, the duo are hoping for a change of "lady luck" at Las Vegas this weekend.
"Both David and I feel that race at Laguna should have been ours," said Magnussen, 27, of Denmark.
"I'm determined to give it everything this weekend in Las Vegas. We've gotten closer and closer all year to the Audis and we were really competitive at the last race.
"We expect conditions to be hot and dusty as the track is essentially in the middle of the Nevada desert. Tyre choice will be critical but Michelin have not let us down yet so that's not such a worry as slower traffic which has caused a few problems for some of us in recent rounds."
Brabham and Magnussen were the last non-Audi drivers to win this year, taking victory in July at Nurburgring, Germany.
The duo has scored five additional podium finishes, including second place in the recent Petit Le Mans, but has also endured some bitter disappointments.
Slower traffic has proved a major factor in recent races as the faster prototype cars attempt to make their way past GTS and GT class drivers.
However, too much aggression from the outright contenders has angered the GTS and GT stars, and also resulted in a number being heavily fined by championship organisers.
Audi driver Rinaldo Capello ($6000.00 US), BMW's Jean-Marc Gounon ($5,000.00 US) and JJ Lehto ($3000.00 US) have all had to dip into their pockets after Laguna Seca along with GTS Dodge Viper driver David Donohue who was fined $1,000.00 US after scrap with a rival Corvette driver.
Capello will be out to assist team-mate Alan McNish's title assault this weekend at Las Vegas, aiming for their fourth consecutive victory.
McNish has taken the lion's share of the bonus points on offer for pole position, fastest race laps and leading events throughout the 2000 title.
He currently holds a 10 point gap over his team-mate, Capello.
"I have good memories of Las Vegas. I made my American race debut there in 1997 and won that race," McNish said.
"The circuit is an oval with an infield section. Although you don't drive on the oval's high banking, you drive on the 'apron' at the bottom. It can be quite bumpy, so it keeps the overall speed down.
"Because of the sand that often covers the track, the surface becomes slippery. There will again be almost 40 cars in the race, so overtaking slower cars will be a key factor to success."
BMW's Jorg Muller and JJ Lehto - winners at Charlotte earlier this year - will be out for a strong result to ensure the driver's title goes down to the wire in Adelaide.
The titanic GTS fight between the Dodge Viper and Chevrolet Corvette squads continues in Las Vegas. The Viper of Karl Wendlinger and Olivier Beretta broke the recent run of wins by the Corvette team at Laguna Seca, but Ron Fellows and Andy Pilgrim recorded their first victory of the year at a similar circuit at Texas earlier this season.
In the GT division Porsche driver Dirk Muller is under increasing pressure from fellow Porsche driver Randy Pobst. Muller has been out-scored by Pobst in the past five Le Mans Series races and needs a win on the board to enhance his eight point lead.
Both however, will face pressure from the BMW squad which tasted victory at Laguna Seca with Hans Stuck and Boris Said.
Race fans can tune into a live race commentary of the event at Las Vegas via Radio Le Mans at http://www.americanlemans.com/pages/00live/index.html
The race will be staged on Sunday (local time) and kicks off at 4.30am Adelaide time on Monday, October 30.
This will be the final U.S. round of the championship before teams begin preparations for the final round of the title in Adelaide from December 29-31.
PROTOTYPE POINTS AFTER ROUND TEN: Allan McNish (Audi R8) 237, Rinaldo Capello (Audi R8) 227, Jorg Muller (BMW) 221, JJ Lehto (BMW) 220, Frank Biela (Audi R8) 214, Emanuele Pirro (Audi R8) 213, Jan Magnussen (Panoz) 198, David Brabham (Panoz) 183, Hiroki Katoh (Panoz) 153, Johnny O'Connell (Panoz) 143.
Paul Ryan www.lemansadelaide.com.au