American team, Champion Racing ready for Le Mans

American team, Champion Racing ready for Le Mans

American team takes on world's best in classic enduro, the Florida-based road racing outfit contest legendary 24 Hour of Le Mans. Team ADT Champion Racing sets out next weekend (14-15 Jun) to become the first American team to win the 24 Hours of...

American team takes on world's best in classic enduro, the Florida-based road racing outfit contest legendary 24 Hour of Le Mans. Team ADT Champion Racing sets out next weekend (14-15 Jun) to become the first American team to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 36 years.

Stefan Johansson at the Porsche Curves.
Photo by Champion Racing.
Not since the Carroll Shelby-run Ford team of Dan Gurney and A J Foyt in 1967 has a "true" US team conquered the legendary round-the-clock enduro in France - arguably the toughest motor race still to this day.

Depending on weather conditions in La Sarthe region, the winning car will need to achieve almost 3,500-miles at an average speed of over 130mph around the 8.48-mile track consisting of mainly closed public highways.

The Florida-based team contests the 71st running of the annual 24 Heures du Mans with its regular Audi R8 "open-top" sportscar that it campaigns in the American Le Mans Series.

Three drivers will share the duties behind the wheel of the 3.6-liter, bi-turbo Audi R8 which has been de-tuned by 60bhp due to a race organizer imposed power reduction for the Le Mans Prototype 900 class contender this year.

Triple Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro, plus JJ Lehto and Stefan Johansson who are also both previous Le Mans victors, will share driving duties in the round-the-clock encounter.

Each will normally drive in "stints" lasting between two and three hours, at speeds in excess of 200mph, in a capacity, "invited" 50-car entry that caters for four different categories which in itself will keep the Champion Audi drivers focussed in terms of frequently lapping slower cars.

Given a clear, problem-free run through day and night, the Champion Audi will remain stationary for approximately 30 minutes during scheduled, hourly pit-stops - conducted to military precision - allowing for driver and tire changes plus refuelling during the course of the 24 Hours.

J.J. Lehto.
Photo by Champion Racing.
A "factory" entered Audi R8 has won the Le Mans race for the past three years while 2003 sees no "works" entry from the German manufacturer. Champion Racing, contesting only its second race outside America having raced at Le Mans two years ago, is one of three 2002-specification "customer" Audi R8s.

Stefan Johansson (46), of Sweden:
"This is my best chance to win at Le Mans again. We have a great driver line up, the team is better than ever, the Audi R8 is superb and this year, equal to the other two Audis we're racing against. We will have to rely on good reliability -- a proven aspect of this car - and making sure no one makes any mistakes. Bentley will no doubt prove a very tough competitor and I believe the race this year will become an epic battle between all the three Audis and two Bentleys - just as Sebring showed."

JJ Lehto (36), of Finland:
"I don't believe that we will be the fastest car in qualifying or at certain times in the race but that doesn't mean we cannot win. We have a proven race winning car that has an engine offering fantastic fuel economy combined with exceptional reliability. The team did a good, solid job in the pre-test when we focused in finding a set-up that gave us a fast, consistent race pace that we can achieve throughout the race."

Emanuele Pirro (41), of Italy:
"After Sebring and the Le Mans test, my evaluation has not changed. We have a good chance of winning at Le Mans but we face very tough opposition -- especially in the form of Bentley. Our team proved to be able to work in a really professional and efficient way and I'm confident that we will be able to use all the potential of the R8. If we do that we'll be looking pretty good. At the test we concentrated on achieving consistently fast laps during a stint as opposed to one-off lap times. We gathered extremely useful data for race.

Emanuele Pirro in the Audi R8 of the Team ADT Champion Racing.
Photo by Audi Sport Press.
Brad Kettler , Champion Racing's Technical Director:
"Our R8 has undergone an extensive "refresh" since the test. An inspection of all of the vital systems was performed. Parts subjected to mileage limits were inspected and replaced as necessary. We have also worked extensively on our spares and have assembled all of our final race parts for the event."

Dave Maraj , Team Owner & President of Champion Motors:
"It would be a dream come true for me if Champion could win Le Mans as a 'privateer'. It would also be a tremendous achievement for an American team to win arguably the world's toughest motor race. I believe we have a fantastic opportunity this year - we've a great driver line-up, an excellent team and of course a superb car in the Audi."

Rod Bymaster , Audi Sport North America's Motorsport Manager:
"Le Mans, is one of the greatest motorsport events in the world and the 71st will not be an exception. The battle between Audi and Bentley will be very dramatic and the family rivalry between Audi Japan, Audi U.K. and Audi of America will add more entertainment. Le Mans requires as much preparation and puts as much stress as a complete racing season into one race for the teams and the one best able to handle these conditions will win the race. Audi of America is proud of Champion Racing and their accomplishments and wishes them the best of luck at Le Mans. "


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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Stefan Johansson , J.J. Lehto , Dan Gurney , Dave Maraj , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto