Infineon Team Joest wins 2003 American Le Mans Series An exciting chapter has been added to Team Joest's success story: Finishing third in the "Petit Le Mans" race at Road Atlanta, Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Infineon Team Joest have won the...
Infineon Team Joest wins 2003 American Le Mans Series
An exciting chapter has been added to Team Joest's success story:
Finishing third in the "Petit Le Mans" race at Road Atlanta, Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Infineon Team Joest have won the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Reinhold Joest's team clinched the prestigious title already a fourth consecutive time.
The finale at Road Atlanta was a real thriller for the Joest squad. During the second hour of the 1000-mile race, Frank Biela, running second, slid off the track when he was forced off while lapping a slower car. Biela touched a wall but was able to bring the Audi R8 back into the pits on three wheels. There, the Joest crew once more showed pure teamwork: in less than eleven minutes, the team changed the front suspension, the whole front section, the rear end and the damaged parts of the bodywork.
Ten laps down, but followed by "standing ovations" from the spectators, the Joest Audi rejoined the race. Biela/Werner recorded fast lap times, working their way from the tail of the field to third position, before they dropped beack again because the battery of their R8 had to be changed.
A real drama developed at the start of the eighth hour:
On lap 276, which needed to be completed by Marco Werner to clinch the title by reaching 70 percent of the 1000-mile distance, the Joest driver spun off the track and got stuck in a gravel-trap when a lapping manoeuvre went wrong. After minutes of fears to lose a title which already seemed won, the R8 was towed out of the gravel, allowing Marco Werner to continue the race and complete the missing lap.
Dropped from third to fourth position because of this incident, Biela/Werner were able to move up to third again at dusk finishing on the podium.
Winning again the Drivers' and Teams' titles was the icing of the cake for Infineon Team Joest's season. In nine races, the German team took five wins in the LMP 900 class with their Audi R8, scored six pole positions and four fastest race laps.
Quotes after the race at Road Atlanta
"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."
"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 marvellous season. Coming as a newcomer and leaving as a champion is simply fantastic. Thanks to Team Joest, Audi, Infineon and everybody who helped."
Ralf Juttner (Technical Director):
"After Frank's accident the race seemed to be over for us. Despite so many things going wrong, we still achieved a good result. Without the little hickups like a wrong alert of a puncture we'd even had the chance to finish second. It was tight but we didn't quite make it. Despite that we are content as we have won the championship. Obviously we would have loved to also win the final race, but the way things went this was not possbile. Congratulations to Champion: They drove a great race and were a strong competitor during the whole year. They've won the final race, we are the champions - so each of us has something to celebrate."
Reinhold Joest (Team Director):
"I've never experienced a race like this. After Frank's off things started to go wrong. That's why we are even more happy having reached our target - and this was definitely to win the championship for the fourth time in a row. That we were able to win the title makes me happy for the whole team, but also our partner Audi and Head of Audi Sport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. I hope that we will be able to celebrate even more successes together with Audi. Winning the ALMS four times in a row has a special place in Team Joest's history. This success makes us proud and is great for the whole team. After Frank's incident the team once again showed how good it is: The repairs took just ten minutes and 23 seconds. This was a great achievement!"