Audi 1-2 at Infineon Raceway
ALMS: Round three of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) will go down in history. Not only did the spectators see the first overall victory of an LMP675 sportscar, but also one of the most exiting races that remained undecided until the last of its 102 laps.
The lighter prototypes of the 675 class took full advantage of their 225 kilogram weight advantage over the LMP900 sportscars for the first time on the hilly and twisty circuit in the vineyards of Sonoma Valley close to San Francisco. The two MG Lolas of the Dyson team secured the front row of the grid for themselves ahead of the Audi R8 sports cars of the Joest and Champion customer teams.
Although ALMS points are only awarded in the various classes, the Audi teams did not surrender victory to the MG Lola so easily. “We are not driving for class wins, but for overall victories,” declared Ralf Jüttner, Infineon Team Joest Technical Director. The Audi drivers followed his words: Initially, during the opening stages of the race, it was JJ Lehto in the Team Champion Audi R8 who put the MG Lolas under pressure. The Finn split the leading pair as early as on lap seven. He followed pole sitter Butch Leitzinger like a shadow till the first full course yellow.
Frank Biela was also able to reduce the gap to Leitzinger and Lehto. During the first of a total of four caution periods, the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 took the lead. “The boys did a fantastic job in the pits,” enthused Biela after handing the R8 over to Marco Werner. Werner rapidly was able to open a gap of over ten seconds before the sensor of the left rear tyre alerted a loss of pressure. The Joest crew was able to change the punctured tyre during another caution period, despite that the Joest R8 dropped to fourth.
Johnny Herbert in the Champion Audi took advantage of the Joest team’s bad luck only for a very short time. Also the Briton thought he had a puncture and came into the pits. “However, it transpired it was only ‘pick-up’ on the tyres,” explained Herbert, who lost almost a lap due to the unscheduled pit-stop and also his chances to win the race. He was still able to bring the Champion R8 back from fifth to third capturing the place on the podium for Team ADT Champion Racing with a stunning overtaking manouvre on the very last corner.
Meanwhile, Infineon Team Joest once again took advantage of the economic fuel consumption of the FSI engine in the rear of the Audi R8. By saving fuel, Marco Werner was able to avoid a third pit-stop and to take the lead again. However, another caution period in the thrilling closing stages of the exciting race, again cost the advantage. 15 laps from the finish, James Weaver squeezed his MG Lola past Marco Werner. “I put pressure on until the very end and hoped for a chance in traffic, but it did not come,” said Werner, who crossed the finish line just 3.708 seconds behind Weaver after 2:45 hours of exciting racing.
By winning the LMP900 class, Audi drivers Marco Werner and Frank Biela are now leading the overall classification of the ALMS. JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert, who made it an Audi 1-2 in the LMP900 category at Infineon Raceway, are just behind them. The next race will take place as soon as next Sunday on the street course in Trois-Rivières (Canada).
Audi driver Mattias Ekström on the podium
DTM: Six races of the 2003 DTM season have taken place so far, on five occasions the Audi drivers have placed in the top three. At Donington, at the British DTM round, Mattias Ekström stepped on the winner’s podium for the third time. The Swede started the race from third place, but then lost two places during a bumpy start. “I did not have a good start. Thanks to the brilliant work of my crew, I was able to get my third place back,” explained Ekström. The Abt-Audi mechanics brought him ahead of the two cars in front of him with fast pit stops. In the final stretch of the race, the 25-year-old compensated for a 10-second lead that Bernd Schneider (Mercedes), who finished second, had on him, but in the end was unable to pass him. “It was such a shame, as soon as I was close enough for an attack they waved the checkered flag,” recalled Ekström. With 23 points Ekström is on the sixth place overall, the best among his Audi teammates.
The sixth race of the DTM through the spectacular natural course, filled with hills and valleys was a turbulent one that did not leave the Audi drivers undamaged. Christian Abt, Lauren Aiello and Martin Tomczyk suffered the most. Tomczyk was spun around during a chaotic start and hit by another car. Already after one lap the Audi Junior was sentenced to spectating. “My TT-R wouldn’t go straight anymore. And then that was it,” said the aggravated German. Two laps later, after having received several touches to his Abt-Audi TT-R, Laurent Aiello experienced damage to one of his tyres. At that moment, Christian Abt also passed the scene and was hit on the tail despite trying to avoid the accident by going wide on the grass.
While Aiello was able to battle until the 28th lap, before the damage to his car forced him to steer into the pits and give up, Christian Abt had to stop immediately. “That was so frustrating, because I had a fast car and would have really liked to have fought together with Mattias (Ekström) for the lead,” explained Christian Abt.
Audi Junior Peter Terting and Karl Wendlinger finished 14th and 15th. The 19-year old Terting was forced to work hard. Just after the middle of the race his Abt-Audi TT-R braked only on one side and the interior began to fill with smoke. “However, giving up was not an option,“ Terting added for the record.
Team manager Hans-Jürgen looked back upon the day’s events in a positive light, despite the retirements. “We are closer to Mercedes. After a racing distance of approximately one hour, we were 1.8 seconds behind – I can live with that. Our team is highly motivated. We’ll deliver the next pieces of evidence to prove this at the Nürburgring.”
Puncture cost Randy Pobst the lead
SPEED-GT: A puncture cost Audi driver Randy Pobst the lead in the GT class of the North American SPEED World Challenge. At Infineon Raceway, Pobst was running in sixth place with the Champion Team’s Audi RS 6 Competition, as he was forced to pull into the pit due to puncture three laps before the end of the race. This threw him back to 15th place. Title defender Micheal Galati finished sixth in the other Audi RS 6 Competition. The next race of the SPEED World Challenge takes place already next Sunday at Road America. “This track should suit our car much better,” said Pobst, who is now nine points behind Bill Auberlen in the overall points ranking.
Tom Kristensen tries out Aution Union Type C
Le Mans: It was a premiere for Audi works driver Tom Kristensen. At the “Ennstal Classic” in Austria, the five-time Le Mans winner had the chance to take out a 1936 Auto Union Grand Prix race car Type C for a spin. “It was very impressive,” raved the Dane after his drive in the 520 hp 16-cylinder race car. “It’s amazing how far along the technology of that time already was and what sort of awesome ideas the engineers had.”
Audi Motorsport in numbers
Infineon Raceway (USA), 27 July, Round 3 of the American Le Mans-Series (ALMS)
1 Weaver/Leitzinger (MG Lola) 102 laps in 2h 45m 57.739s
2 Biela/Werner (Audi R8) + 3.708s
3 Herbert/Lehto (Audi R8) + 39.750s
4 Auberlen/Theys (Dallara-MG) + 39.878s
5 Beretta/Jeannette (Panoz) - 1 lap
Positions after 3 of 9 rounds: 1 Biela and Werner, 62 points; 3 Lehto, 58; 4 Herbert, 55; 5 Theys, 36.
Next race: Trois-Rivières (CDN), 3 August
Donington (GB), 27 July, Round 6 of the DTM
1 Jean Alesi (Mercedes) 36 laps in 55m 8.354s
2 Bernd Schneider (Mercedes) + 1.466s
3 Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi TT-R) + 1.841s
4 Marcel Fässler (Mercedes) + 4.497s
5 Christijan Albers (Mercedes) + 5.459s
Positions after 6 of 10 rounds: 1 Schneider, 43 points; 2 Albers, 40; 3 Fässler, 34; 4 Dumbreck, 26; 5 Alesi, 25; 6 Ekström, 23.
Next race: Nürburgring (D), 17 August
Infineon Raceway (USA), 27 July, Round 6 of the SPEED GT World Challenge
1 Bill Auberlen (BMW) 25 laps in 46m 21.830s
2 Boris Said (BMW) + 6.750s
3 Hans Stuck (BMW) + 7.786s
4 Justin Marks (BMW) + 23.234s
5 Phil McClure (Chevrolet) + 46.459s
6 Michael Galati (Audi RS6 Competition) + 53.455s
Positions after 6 of 10 rounds: 1 Auberlen, 162 points; 2 Pobst, 153; 3 McClure, 151; 4 Stuck, 124; 5 Marks, 106.
Next race: Road America (USA), 3 August
Coming up this week
Frank Biela and Marco Werner will present the Audi R8 at the Audi Dealership Park Avenue in Montreal (Wednesday) … Fourth race of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Trois-Riviéres (Sunday) … Seventh race of the SPEED World Challenge at Road American (Sunday) …