Lehto in 'must-win' scenario in American Le Mans Series points race BRASELTON, Ga. - JJ Lehto knows that time is running out and that he is in a "must-win" scenario in the battle for the American Le Mans Series driving championship. The...
Lehto in 'must-win' scenario in American Le Mans Series points race
BRASELTON, Ga. - JJ Lehto knows that time is running out and that he is in a "must-win" scenario in the battle for the American Le Mans Series driving championship.
The Finnish driver scored his second win of the 2003 season with partner Johnny Herbert in this past weekend's Road America 500. The two drivers of the ADT Champion Racing Audi won the race in convincing fashion, allowing Lehto to whittle away some of the points deficit he is in to LMP 900 class co-leaders Frank Biela and Marco Werner, drivers of the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8.
Biela and Werner, who have won the LMP 900 class in four of the six races held this season for the American Le Mans Series, lead the class driver standings with 115. Lehto is third with 104, while Herbert is fourth with 101. Herbert drove for another team in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and scored fewer points than Lehto, thus the difference.
Three races remain in the season, the finale being the Oct. 18 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The 1,000-mile endurance event will carry extra points because of its added length. If Lehto and Herbert win all three races, and Biela and Werner finish second each time, the championship will belong to Lehto by one point.
"The fight is on," said Lehto. "It will be a tough fight the next three races; these last three races we have to win all the time basically. The car is getting better and better and the team is getting better and better. If you want to win championships, you need to have everything 110 percent."
Lehto, who formerly raced in both Formula One and CART, has been a strong performer in the American Le Mans Series since the formation of the series and holds the distinction of winning the first series race ever held, the 1999 Sebring 12-hour event. The Road America event was his eighth overall race win and 12th class victory in the series.
Class wins in the past two races have helped Chris Dyson open some breathing room in the LMP 675 driver point standings. The driver of the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG now leads the class point standings by 23 points over Jon Field and Duncan Dayton, co-drivers of the Intersport Lola-MG. Andy Wallace, Dyson's co-driver, is fourth, three points behind Field and Dayton. Dyson and Wallace drove separate cars at Sebring earlier this year and are therefore in different positions in the standings.
In the GTS class, Corvette drivers Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell have built a 28-point lead in the driver standings over fellow Corvette racers Kelly Collins and Oliver Gavin. The drivers were in a four-way tie after the fourth race of the season, but the Corvette driven by Gavin and Collins has had two consecutive races of poor racing luck, while the Fellows-O'Connell car has finished first and second in class in the past two events.
"We're trying to win this championship for us and for General Motors, so you can't get caught up in each battle," said O'Connell. "You have to think about the war."
Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, the defending champions of the GT class of the American Le Mans Series, have a commanding lead of 32 points despite two straight uncharacteristic non-podium finishes. Their teammates on the Alex Job Racing Porsche team, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister, are second in the driver standings.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series will be the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., Sep. 5-7. The series then moves to Miami for a Sept. 26-27 event prior to the finale at Road Atlanta.