Sebring: Audi qualifying report

SEBRING, Fla. (March 13, 2003) - The three car Audi squad secured three of the top six positions in qualifying creating a very formidable Audi grid for the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring race. The Audi R8 has proven once again that it will be a major...

SEBRING, Fla. (March 13, 2003) - The three car Audi squad secured three of the top six positions in qualifying creating a very formidable Audi grid for the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring race. The Audi R8 has proven once again that it will be a major competitor in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Frank Biela (Infineon Team Joest) qualified behind the Bentley's in third position with a time of 1:48:826. Right on his tail was Frank's former teammate Emanuele Pirro (Team ADT Champion Racing) sporting a time of 1:49.355. And rounding out the top sixth position was Johnny Kane (Audi Sport UK) with an impressive time of 1:49:581.

Rod Bymaster (Audi Sport North America Motorsports Manager) was very pleased with today's results. "Frank had 6 poles last year so I am happy to see him continue being in the top of the field. It wasn't a surprise to see Bentley on the pole however it is a 12 hour race. It is nice to see all three Audi R8's up in front and competitive. Audi has a wonderful shot at winning this event. It could be the first win for ADT Champion Racing, the first win for Audi Sport UK or the fifth for Joest. I wish all the Audi teams luck."

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Sport) stated, "Our three customer teams did a very good job. They are well placed behind the two 'works' Bentleys. The difference is smaller than expected. I believe that all three teams have a good chance to finish the race on the podium."



Frank Biela: "I am content because we are the fastest Audi. We didn't make it to the very front of the grid in qualifying but I am optimistic for the race. I made a mistake on my quick lap and lost five tenths of a second. We are very close to Bentley, have a lot of experience at Sebring and a very good setup which worked perfectly during qualifying. Now we have to make sure that Marco and Philipp are also happy with this setup. The race will be very tough."

Philipp Peter: "Until now things look good for us. The times are good, everybody in the team is happy. Also now after qualifying. Before, we did not know where we stood. I hope to get the possibility on Friday to do more laps in a row. Until now I only did 23, but in the race I have to do 60 in a row. is a real big step. And Sebring is different from Le Mans as we are using much more downforce."

Marco Werner: "I have neither problems with the car nor with the track which is new to me. The biggest factor in the race will be to come through traffic without problems. The speed difference to the cars of the smaller classes is enormous. During practice I had many hairy moments. We have to try to cruise through making no mistakes and not to run into any traps. The real race will start just in the last two hours."

Reinhold Joest (Team Director): "It pays off to be patient, especially in a long race like Sebring. This morning we made a big step forward and found a good setup. According to Frank the balance of the car is fantastic. This is a very good basis for the race. Speed is not everything. The car has to be fast but also comfortable for the driver. Our Audi R8 is like this."


Stefan Johansson: "Our car has been very good since we arrived on Friday -- I'm very happy with it. We have a decent balance and I believe we'll have a good race. I have two good teammates and the team has really gelled. I'm very hopeful of a podium."

JJ Lehto: "Practice has gone well. All three drivers like the same setup which is very important so we don't make compromises. I think I have a good chance of repeating my 1999 Sebring victory but the competition is tough. Not only from the other two Audis, but the two Bentleys and also the LMP675 Lolas are going to be strong. Stay out of trouble and be consistent, that is the key."

Emanuele Pirro: "In terms of qualifying I'm a little disappointed only to be fourth on the grid but for the race I believe we have a very good setup. I'm very optimistic we should have a good race. This will be my first race for Champion and I'm determined that it will be a good one."

Brad Kettler (Technical Director): "We would like to have been further up the grid but we are quite satisfied with where we are. This car is very good on a long run and the car has been good all week. I hope we run a very good race. We have the team to do it and the driver line up is excellent. The first 3-4 hours will be all about surviving and then it will be a dog fight until the end."


Perry McCarthy: "It's great to be back racing. The Audi R8 has been fabulously successful so it's a question of making it work for us. I'm convinced in the race we'll be competitive - it'll be a long, hard race. I finished fifth here in '99 and I believe we can be on the rostrum."

Mika Salo: "We've had a good three days and learned a lot about the Audi. All three of us had only previously driven it for around 20 miles before arriving here on Monday. This will be my first ever sportscar race. I love driving through the traffic and overtaking slower cars."

Jonny Kane: "I'm pleased with my qualifying performance considering my lack of miles in the car. The Audi is good and the team has worked hard to make it comfortable to drive over bumps. You need a car that you can drive hard but one that is consistent over a 12 hour duration and I believe that we have that."

Mike Earle (Team Director, Audi Sport UK): The Audi R8 in 2002-spec trim is quite a bit different to the R8 we ran in 2001. We've gradually got on the pace with the team and drivers all learning about the car with every lap. We have three good drivers and I believe we'll have a good race and a top result is possible."

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 15, at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Ticket information is available online at or by calling (863) 655-1442, or toll-free in Florida (800) 626-RACE. Four classes of American Le Mans Series cars will compete in the event, and some 60 cars are expected to take the green flag.

The race will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the SPEED Channel, with live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web online at

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Series ALMS
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Frank Biela , Mika Salo , Jonny Kane , Marco Werner , Perry McCarthy , Reinhold Joest , Philipp Peter , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto