Road Atlanta: Champion Racing preview

Birthday boys Herbert and Pobst hoping for added reason to celebrate Having achieved two second place finishes and four thirds in the six races contested so far this year, Champion Racing heads for Atlanta next weekend (27-29 Jun) with high...

Birthday boys Herbert and Pobst hoping for added reason to celebrate

Having achieved two second place finishes and four thirds in the six races contested so far this year, Champion Racing heads for Atlanta next weekend (27-29 Jun) with high hopes of stepping on the podium's top step.

The Florida-based team competes in the American Le Mans Series and Speed GT World Challenge at Road Atlanta on the back of achieving a fantastic third place in the 24 Hour of Le Mans endurance sportscar race (14-15 Jun).

The Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Stefan Johansson earned the privateer outfit from Pompano Beach a magnificent result in France having finished second in the 12 Hours of Sebring (15 Mar) - the opening round of the ALMS.

"Flying Finn" Lehto teams-up with Johnny Herbert for the very first time in Champion's 2002-spec Audi R8 for Atlanta to form a truly stellar driver combo for the remainder of the ALMS season. The British driver, who celebrates his 39th birthday on Wednesday (25 Jun), finished second and third for Bentley at Le Mans and Sebring respectively.

Team ADT Champion Racing has finished third (Herbert/Andy Wallace) and second (Herbert/Johansson) in the Petit Le Mans race at Atlanta for the past two years and is aiming for its maiden ALMS victory with its V8 bi-turbo powered Audi R8.

Meanwhile Randy Pobst is looking to extend his lead in the Speed GT World Challenge having been buoyed by recent tests at the Virginia International Raceway in which Champion Racing further improved its new Audi RS 6 Competition.

Pobst, driving for the Audi Sport North America-based Champion team for the first time this season, has already netted a second and three thirds in the opening four races although team-mate Michael Galati is desperately hoping for a change in fortune.

While new recruit Pobst, 46 on Thursday (26 Jun), has enjoyed a great start to his championship campaign in the all-wheel-drive Audi RS 6 sedan, the defending GT champion has suffered appalling luck and has only a 10th best place finish to show for his efforts in the opening four races. His abysmal luck continued last week when he damaged his Audi RS 6 in testing which necessitates a switch back to the Audi S4 Competition.

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

"Champion Racing should have won last year's Petit Le Mans at Atlanta. Stefan and I led most of the race but ultimately finished second after a number of yellow flag periods fell unkindly for us. This will be my third race at Atlanta in a Champion Audi, having finished third on my Atlanta debut in 2001."

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

"I came close to winning at Atlanta in 1999 but my co-driver [Jorg Muller] spun out in the closing stages. I love Road Atlanta. It is a demanding track and always a tough race. It is hilly, fast and flowing. The traffic can be a real problem and if you're not careful can lose you a lot of time."

Michael Galati (43). Born: Alcaralifusi, Messina, Sicily. Lives: N. Olmsted, Ohio:

"The team are unable to get my RS 6 repaired in time so I'll be driving my old S4 at Atlanta. It's a great shame because we'd made a lot of progress with the RS 6. But I won two Driver GT titles with the S4 during the last three years - which included a win and a second at Road Atlanta - and it will be interesting to see how the S4 goes on this year's tires."

Randy Pobst (46). Born: Dayton, Ohio. Lives: Gainesville, Georgia:

"I'm looking forward to racing at my 'local' track. I'll actually be going home each night and so believe I'll be in the best possible physical and mental state possible. It's great to be leading the championship and having made further improvements to the Audi in recent tests, I'm optimistic of scoring a fifth straight podium finish." k

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Randy Pobst , Michael Galati , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto