Road Atlanta II: Audi race report

Audi claims first and third podium position at Petit Le Mans BRASELTON, Ga. (October 18, 2003) - JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert (Team ADT Champion Racing) scored a dominating win Saturday in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta while the other Audi...

Audi claims first and third podium position at Petit Le Mans

BRASELTON, Ga. (October 18, 2003) - JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert (Team ADT Champion Racing) scored a dominating win Saturday in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta while the other Audi team of Frank Biela and Marco Werner (Infineon Team Joest) clinched the American Le Mans Series Championship title for the 4th consecutive time.

Lehto had started third on the 36-car grid but completed the opening lap in the lead, after slipping ahead of the pole-starting Werner on the exit of Turn 1 while the front row starting James Weaver (Lola MG) was instructed to drop behind Werner having jumped the rolling start and soon afterwards retired.

The two Audis were never more than 12-seconds apart for the opening 96-minutes of hard racing but then Biela, having taken over from Werner during the third full course yellow, collided with a backmarker which sent the Joest Audi in to the outside wall.

Major repairs were made and Biela resumed in 27th place (sixth in class) over 10-minutes later which left the ADT Champion Audi two-laps clear of the 2nd place Panoz car.

At one-third distance, Herbert led the Panoz by almost three laps while the Biela/Joest Audi had clawed its way back to ninth overall (fourth in class). With 500-miles run, all in warm sunshine and under a clear, blue sky, Lehto had extended the advantage to almost five laps with the Joest Audi now sixth overall (fourth in class).

After six hours Biela/Werner had worked their way back up to third but lost time having a battery change - a problem that had affected the Champion Audi an hour earlier but which now enjoyed a four-lap lead advantage.

Joest Audi duo Biela and Werner began the race with a 14-point lead over Lehto and needed only to complete 70% of the "Petit Le Mans" to claim the Driver's and Teams' titles. Incredibly, Werner spun on the very lap equating to that distance, requiring a tow out of the gravel trap followed by a precautionary pit-stop and so won the titles in the pit-lane.

It was an extremely successful weekend for Audi as both teams celebrated a major victory today. Team ADT Champion Racing winning their fourth ALMS victory of the year (including today's win of Petit Le Mans) and Infineon Team Joest winning the American Le Mans Series Championship.

Quotes after the race:

INFINEON TEAM JOEST

Frank Biela:

"Today we have seen how difficult it is to win a race or a championship. Victories will mean even more to me in future. Things can happen and go wrong so easily. After 69.8 percent of the race we thought we had the title - just to see us standing in the gravel. I had a similar situation. I was pushed off, had to brake hard to avoid a collision. That's why I spun off. The contact with the wall was heavy. I was sure that I would not make it back to the pits. Luckily I was able to bring the car back and the boys were able to repair it. It's a shame for the team, because today more was possible. But I am so happy we won the title."

Marco Werner:

"This was an incredible race! Twice we almost threw away the championship. My situation was similar to Frank's. I ended up in the gravel because two cars in front of me slowed down so much that I lost the car under braking. I learned only later that it happened exactly in the last lap we needed for the title. Despite that we eventually finished third and clinched the title. For me it was a marvelous season. Coming as a newcomer and leaving as a champion is simply fantastic. Thanks to Team Joest, Audi, Infineon and everybody who helped."

TEAM ADT CHAMPION RACING

Johnny Herbert:

"The nose section was changed during my first stint [after 3hrs] as a precaution because the brake cooling louvers were becoming damaged due to tire pick-up. At the end of my second stint, there was a massive hole in the bodywork where the louver had totally disintegrated again and torn away much of the bodywork over the wheel. I was able to relax and take no risks whatsoever during my second stint - there was no pressure. From a personal point of view, having missed out on victory at Sebring and at Le Mans, to win "Petit" is very satisfying and I'm delighted for Dave Maraj whose team has shown this year that it can not only match but now regularly beat the hugely respected and successful Joest Audi team."

JJ Lehto:

"I dived inside Marco Werner exiting Turn 1 at the start and then James Weaver had to pull over coming down the hill so I led at the end of the first lap. We had to change a battery during my second stint when the Audi refused to fire-up [after 4hr 47min]. But I had to pit again moments later when the crew noticed the nose had worked lose which was replaced [after 5hr 10min]. I needed to win this race to stand any hope of snatching the title - we gave it our best shot and Johnny and I achieved the necessary race victory but in terms of the championship, it wasn't quite enough."

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Frank Biela , James Weaver , Marco Werner , Dave Maraj , JJ Lehto