Champion Racing final report

A "privateer" American motor race team scored a fabulous rostrum result in the 24 Hours of Le Mans today (SUN). On only Florida-based Champion Racing's second appearance in the annual sportscar endurance race, Emanuele Pirro, JJ Lehto and Stefan...

A "privateer" American motor race team scored a fabulous rostrum result in the 24 Hours of Le Mans today (SUN). On only Florida-based Champion Racing's second appearance in the annual sportscar endurance race, Emanuele Pirro, JJ Lehto and Stefan Johansson steered their Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 to a fine third place in France.

While two 'factory' entered Bentley coupes finished first and second for Britain in the round-the-clock race, the privateer Champion Racing Audi outfit from Pompano Beach (FL) netted a magnificent result for America.

The American Le Mans Series front-runners started the race at 4pm on Saturday afternoon (local), sixth on the 49-car grid. Pirro, chasing a fourth consecutive Le Mans triumph, together with Lehto and Johansson, also previous Le Mans victors, were in contention for honors throughout.

A puncture after two hours required an unscheduled pit-stop while a battery change, a spin in to a gravel trap this morning (SUN) and a further battery change with a little over an hour remaining, were the only other time-consuming moments for the ADT sponsored Audi.

The Champion Audi was the highest-placed finisher of three "customer" 2002-spec R8s that started the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans - earning Pirro and the German car manufacturer a fifth consecutive Le Mans rostrum finish. Although running in 2002-specification, all three Audis were 60hp down on power compared to last year's Le Mans race dominating "factory" R8s due to organizer imposed rule changes regarding the air restrictor size.

Team ADT Champion Racing, having finished second in the opening 2003 ALMS race at Sebring in March, resumes its title challenge in Atlanta on 29 June with Britain's Johnny Herbert and Lehto at the wheel.

Emanuele Pirro (41), of Italy:
"It's an amazing feeling for me to be on the winners' rostrum for a fifth consecutive year here at Le Mans. We did the best job possible in the circumstances and for a privateer team to climb on to the podium here is an incredible achievement."

JJ Lehto (36), of Finland:
"It turned out to be a 24 hour sprint race, we chased the Bentleys but they had no problems. I spun on oil on Sunday morning. The nose of the Audi went into the gravel and bounced into the tire barriers but thankfully it caused no damage. "

Stefan Johansson (46), of Sweden:
"I was cautious in my opening stint, and did not have the most ideal tire on my night stint but thoroughly enjoyed my last drive. Dave Maraj's team did everything humanly possibly - they were incredibly well-prepared."

Brad Kettler, Champion Racing Technical Director:
"My crew did a fantastic job, each and every one of them. It was a little tense in the closing stages with some starter issues which required us to change the battery but apart from the that, our Audi ran like clockwork."

Dave Maraj, Champion Racing Team Owner:
"I am so proud of my team. We experienced some minor problems but conquered them and ran a perfect strategy. We may not have been the outright race winners but my 'private' team ran the best-placed Audi."

Rod Bymaster, Audi Sport North America Motorsport Manager:
"An all-round stellar job - Dave's team gave a perfect performance and could have done no better. The Bentleys were just too strong."

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Dave Maraj , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto