Sebring: Audi race report

Audi dominates Sebring race for the fourth consecutive time. SEBRING, Fla. (March15, 2003) -- Infineon Team Joest claimed victory at the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring for the fourth consecutive time. Joest drivers Frank Biela, Marco Werner and ...

Audi dominates Sebring race for the fourth consecutive time.

SEBRING, Fla. (March15, 2003) -- Infineon Team Joest claimed victory at the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring for the fourth consecutive time. Joest drivers Frank Biela, Marco Werner and Philipp Peter steered the Audi R8 to a 13.493-second victory over the Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8. The Champion car, driven by Emanuele Pirro, Stefan Johansson and JJ Lehto, led most of the race before the Joest team asserted itself in the last two hours. The win was Biela's second in the Sebring event and his 10th in the American Le Mans Series, while his co-drivers were winning for the first time in the series.

Veteran Sebring driver Frank Biela commented, "The turning point of the race came when Emanuele Pirro came out of the car and the full course yellow brought us to within six seconds of their lead. The car was good in 2000, we kept adding to it. Reinhold Joest gave us the car, we gave him the win."

Team ADT Champion Racing led the race for nine and half hours when Emanuele Pirro experienced great pain in his calves and had to come in for a driver change. "I had to stop early as I suddenly got a cramp in the calves of both legs -- but mainly my right. I did not have enough time in between my stints to recuperate sufficiently and would seem I possibly did not take in sufficient drink and food," said Pirro.

For Champion racing, finishing second has become familiar for the team as this is their seventh second place finish since entering the American Le Mans Series in 2001. "I felt really sorry for Dave Maraj (Team owner of Champion Racing)," stated Len Hunt, Vice President, Audi of America. "He had a really terrific performance today. There were no losers today. They were all up on the podium tonight."

Audi Sport UK had an impressive showing in their first 12 Hours of Sebring. The team consistently held fifth place until the car experienced mechanical problems on lap 264, eight and a half hours into the race. The # 9 car driven by Jonny Kane car was unable to engage in first gear and the crew had to wheel it back to the transporter to change the rear section. This cost the team a position as they dropped from fifth to sixth place.



Reinhold Joest (Team Director): "I've rarely been so happy. This was the most exciting race I've ever seen at Sebring. For me it seemed to be a two-hour race, the tension was never ending. We could not make one single mistake. This fourth Sebring victory in a row together with Audi is a big success for the Joest Team. We are proud that we have written a chapter of motorsport history for Audi in America. I want to thank the whole team who have done a great and faultless job. And I am especially happy for our new drivers who, like Frank, simply drove great."

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Sport): "A fantastic result! The two R8 cars of Champion Racing and Infineon Team Joest battled for the full twelve hours. Both had the chance to win the race. The Joest Team was a little bit luckier. Until one hour before the end, Champion Racing looked likely to take a narrow victory. They simply were a bit unlucky. I feel happy for the whole Joest crew and the three drivers. For Philipp Peter and Marco Werner it was the first Sebring race with a sports prototype. In Frank Biela they had a very experienced teammate, but the team effort was really great."

Marco Werner: "I've won in Daytona and in Monte Carlo. But this victory puts everything into the shade. Sebring is unique. I am especially proud that I've become a part of the historic fourth Sebring victory in a row for the Joest Team and was able to be in the car for such a long time. I simply tried to do a good job. The crew worked perfectly well. The strategy was as good as you expect it would be from Joest Audi. We tried triple stints and this worked out. It was not easy to drive so long with the same tires. You had to be very careful. But it worked - the rest was done in the pits. Thanks to the team!"

Frank Biela: "At the beginning of the race I was not so happy because I lost time because of the yellow flags. We were hanging behind the Champion Audi for ten hours, even if only with a very small gap. The race was very competitive and tough. It was imperative that we did not make a single mistake. When we took the lead, it remained tight and exciting to the very end. That's why the performance of Marco has to be rated even higher, bringing the car home safely. For us it was a superb day."

Philipp Peter: "With Infineon Team Joest we had the best ingredients to win. We were able to make the best out of the team's strategy. They always told me: 'Philipp, just hang on for the first ten hours, we'll race in the last two.' That's the way it really went. It's just superb that I got the chance to do another race for Joest Audi after Le Mans 2002. My race was not easy, but I made the best out of it. I had problems with the belts which did not fit properly and caused pain to my right leg during the second stint. Despite that I was able to find a good rhythm and record fast lap times."


Emanuele Pirro: "The seat was not located properly during my second stint and it caused me back pain but JJ helped me adjust it during the next stop and after that it was fine. During my last time behind the wheel, I had to stop a little early as I suddenly got severe cramps in the calves of both legs."

JJ Lehto:  "I had a lead of 34-seconds before the caution period but then
lost all of our advantage over the Joest Audi.  We continued to battle hard
and really deserved the victory but it did not come.  That's motor racing --
sometimes you're lucky, sometimes not.  I hope it's our turn at Le Mans."

Stefan Johansson: "Champion provided all three drivers with a stunning racecar today and one capable of winning. We led the majority of the race and it would have been a great reward for the guys to win their first ALMS race in Florida but we had horrible luck. I'm terribly disappointed."


Mika Salo: "This was my first ever sportscar race and I loved the experience. The start was fantastic and I just loved overtaking in the traffic. It was very exciting. I felt very comfortable with the car and we looked good for at least a top-five placing so to finish sixth is a little disappointing."

Jonny Kane: "A slight collision with a slower car damaged the nose section which had to be replaced on a scheduled stop but at the start of my second stint, I could not engage a gear and the team had to take the car to the transporter in the paddock to change the entire rear section. That lost us around 20 minutes."

Perry McCarthy: "Considering that the team was racing the 2002 R8 for the very first time and that Mika, Jonny and I arrived at Sebring with less than 20 miles experience in the car, we've done fantastically well. This was a Le Mans 'test' for Audi Sport UK, the team, and its drivers. Sebring has provided us with invaluable data and experience."

The Atlanta Grand Prix, a two-hour, 45-minute timed race, will be the next event on the American Le Mans Series schedule in 2003. Road Atlanta will host the race June 27-29. This event will be televised live by CBS Sports and broadcast by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web.

-audi sport-

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