Sebring: Champion Racing preview

Team ADT Champion Racing Returns To Sebring To Avenge Last Year's 2nd Place Result SMYRNA, Ga. (March 14, 2004) -- Team ADT Champion Racing is gearing up for a challenging season as they get set to contest nine American Le Mans Series races ...

Team ADT Champion Racing Returns To Sebring To Avenge Last Year's 2nd Place Result

SMYRNA, Ga. (March 14, 2004) -- Team ADT Champion Racing is gearing up for a challenging season as they get set to contest nine American Le Mans Series races beginning with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 20th at Sebring International Raceway.

In 2003, 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. This unexpected pit stop ultimately put them in 2nd place. The team eagerly returns to Sebring to vindicate last year's finish.

Champion Racing's driver line-up is strong and experienced having re-signed veteran driver JJ Lehto, the "Flying Finn", and acquiring factory driver, Marco Werner. Partnering with Lehto and Werner for the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be veteran driver Emanuele Pirro.

Finland's Lehto drove for the Champion team in 2003 and finished a close second in the series standings behind the Infineon Team Joest duo of Marco Werner and Frank Biela.

"It's nice to be back with Champion and it feels nice to race in America," said Lehto. "I've raced in America for so many years that it feels like home."

"I knew very early last season that I wanted to continue with Champion," he said. "It will be a nice setup. Marco is a very good driver and he did a good job last year. He won the championship, and I haven't won it yet, so maybe now it will be my turn. We always try to be better than anyone we race against, whoever that is."

JJ Lehto, 37, a former driver in Formula One competition as well as in CART Champ Cars, has been racing in the American Le Mans Series since the formation of the series and was part of the overall winning team in the inaugural series event in 1999. He has 14 wins in the series, 10 of which were overall wins, and stands in a tie for fourth on the series' all-time wins list. He drove for the factory BMW team from 1999-2001, then spent the 2002 season with the factory Cadillac team before joining Champion for 2003.

Marco Werner, also 37, had a successful history of racing in F3000, touring cars and GT cars but very little Prototype experience before joining the Joest team for the 2003 season. He won in his first ALMS start, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and he and Biela then went on to score a total of five LMP 900 wins. In addition to his championship, Werner was also presented the first Rookie of the Year Award in series history.

Emanuele Pirro, 42, born in Rome, Italy but now resides in Monaco, is a three time Le Mans, winner, a former American Le Mans Series Champion (2001), and has been on the podium at Sebring every year with an Audi R8 since 2000. Pirro started his career racing go-karts in 1976. Throughout most of this year, Pirro will be steering an Audi A4 DTM in DTM, the German Touring Car Series.

Driver quotes:

JJ Lehto: "I am really looking forward to Sebring this year because last year, we were leading by so much and then we lost the race in the last hour. We have a strong line-up this year with Emanuele and Marco so I believe we are stronger than last year. I am happy to be back with Champion Racing as I know the car has progressed from last year. The team has done a lot of preparation on this car. It's nice to start the season again--be back in business again!"

Marco Werner: "I am very happy to be back at Sebring and driving for Champion Racing this time. It was a good first race for me last year so I am hoping it will be the same. JJ and Emanuele will be great teammates so I think we have a very good chance. I would like very much to be on that podium in first place again, that is my goal."

Emanuele Pirro: "I am really excited about next Sebring. I enjoyed last year's race- except for the end! JJ and Marco are very strong teammates and I am really looking forward to driving with them. I enjoyed a lot driving for team Champion last year in both Sebring and Le Mans. They are very professional and extremely motivated and they made me feel at home from the very first minute I joined them. It's a great team made of great guys. They definitely deserve a 'home race win!!"

With the restructuring of the two Prototype classes of the American Le Mans Series for 2004, what had been known as the LMP 900 class has become LMP1 and will contain all of the cars that previously raced in both the LMP 900 and GTP classes. In addition, the more-sophisticated cars that had been in the LMP 675 class are now in the LMP1 class.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is the oldest sports car endurance race in the United States, having started in 1952. The Sebring International Raceway was built on the site of a World War II military training airfield. The list of previous winners is a "Who's Who" of international racing history. The race has taken on added importance on the international racing scene because many European teams are using the event to "audition" for an invitation to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, and will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

For more information on Champion Racing, please visit www.championracing.net. For more information on Audi's motorsport program, please visit www.audiusa.com.

-cr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Frank Biela , Marco Werner , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto