Champion Racing gets its first overall win at Road Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga. (June 29, 2003) Maraj and his Champion Audi R8 racing team celebrated their first ever first place victory today at Road Atlanta. From start to finish, the ...
Champion Racing gets its first overall win at Road Atlanta
BRASELTON, Ga. (June 29, 2003) Maraj and his Champion Audi R8 racing team celebrated their first ever first place victory today at Road Atlanta. From start to finish, the #38 Audi R8 of Champion Racing led the way. JJ Lehto put in a phenomenal first stint and then handed over the steamy R8 to his teammate Johnny Herbert. It was a routine day for the team from Pompano Beach, Florida as they didn't make one mistake. Clean on the track and clean in the pits.
The grid for race day was an unusual one set by the bizarre qualifying session the day prior. The LMP 675 car of Dyson Racing had the pole with Infineon Team Joest second and Team ADT Champion Racing third. That scenario would quickly change in turn one of lap one as JJ Lehto passed Marco Werner on the inside and quickly set his sights on James Weaver from Dyson Racing. It took Lehto only five laps before he passed Weaver and maintained the lead to compete the 128 laps within the 2:45 minute race. Pit stops were routine requiring nothing more than fuel, tires, and one driver change.
The Audi R8 team of Infineon Team Joest also put in a stellar performance. Marco Werner, a rookie to the 2.54 mile road course of Road Atlanta, started the race in the #1 car. After falling to third position in the first lap, Werner would maintain this position until he pitted on lap #44 to perform a driver's change with his teammate Frank Biela. Biela drove hard and strong but could never quite close the gap with the R8 of Champion Racing. The Audi's would finish the day proudly with first and second place on the podium.
Quotes after the race:
Michael Lembke (V.P. of Marketing, Audi of America):
How do you win?
"You take perfect technology and you pair it with two wonderful and very professional teams and this is the result that you get, a 1st and 2nd place on the podium. It was hard work for both Audi teams but Champion deserved the win today."
Bymaster (Motorsports Manager, Audi of America):
"Congratulations to Champion. It was a great victory and it was a long time in coming. Nobody deserves it more than Champion Racing. They ran a perfect race today. No mistakes. JJ put it in a great first stint and Johnny followed it well. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Champion Racing on the podium. Congratulations to Dave Maraj and his team from Audi of America."
INFINEON TEAM JOEST Frank Biela:
"Our car was good and Team Joest worked perfectly as usual. However, we were really unlucky in traffic. Twice I got stuck behind a MG Lola and once behind a Panoz. Because of that I again lost every little tenth of a second I had gained. Of course we would have preferred to win the race, but we can also be content with second place."
"At the start, JJ Lehto surprised me on the left side where I didn't expect him. I had no problem to follow him during the first laps, but it became difficult for me in traffic. If you don't know the track, you have a hard time at Road Atlanta. I did not want to make any mistakes and not risk a collision. Maybe I was a little bit too careful. It did not work out today. But standing again on the podium is a nice feeling."
Ralf (Technical Director):
"Champion was simply better today and has deserved this victory. Congratulations! This won't be the last time that it is so tight. The early stages of the race were decisive. JJ was extremely strong in traffic. We had chosen a different strategy from Champion. If there had been a caution period our strategy might have been the better choice. But there was no caution. We can also be happy with a second place, but the next time we want to fight back!"
TEAM ADT CHAMPION RACING
"We had planned that JJ would do the first two stints and for me then to bring it home to the finish and everything worked out perfectly. Dave Maraj's team deserves this maiden ALMS victory and to beat a Joest Audi must be especially sweet for him. After JJ's stints I had a relatively easy job. The car for me was perfect, never missing a beat since Friday's tests. I'll be looking forward to the rest of the season."
"Qualifying was cancelled yesterday so I thought I'll do it today in the first corner to get past Marco Werner. Then traffic caused James Weaver to lose momentum exiting the last turn onto the start finish straight which allowed me to take the lead. The Audi was perfect for my entire stint. I had no problems whatsoever apart from the traffic. It's good to be winning again and I'm sure there are more to come this season."
Dave Maraj (Team ADT Champion Racing Team Owner):
"We came close on many occasions including this year's ALMS race at Sebring when we led most of the 12 hours but had to be content with second. With our Le Mans result two weeks ago and now our maiden ALMS victory, I am so proud of my team."
The third round of the American Le Mans Series, the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Napa Valley Marriot Hotel and Spa, will take place July 25-27 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Live race coverage will be provided by NBC Sports and by Radio Le Mans. Free access to Radio Le Mans is available at www.americanlemans.com.