Monday, October 3, 2005
CHAMPIONS CROWNED AT PETIT LE MANS
Courtesy The American Le Mans Series
Braselton, Ga. - Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela won the battle and the war Saturday. The Champion Racing duo won Petit Le Mans and captured their first LMP1 drivers championship together in the American Le Mans Series with a convincing victory at Road Atlanta.
Each have each won previous ALMS titles: Biela in 2003 with Marco Werner, and Pirro in 2001. The No. 2 Champion Racing Audi R8 won for the fourth time this season and has finished in the top three of each ALMS round this year, a model of title-winning consistency.
"All we had to do was keep it on the track," a joyous Pirro said after climbing out of the winning car. "I want to thank our mechanics for a great job. Winning this championship is an absolute dream."
The No. 2 Audi was a 12-lap winner over Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in the No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola. They finished second, followed by the No. 1 Champion Audi of Lehto and Werner. The car was involved in a first-lap accident that collected Lehto and the pole-sitting No. 15 Zytek of Hayanari Shimoda and Tom Chilton.
James Weaver, in the No. 16 Dyson Lola, also was involved in the incident and lost significant time, as well. That left Pirro and Biela up front by themselves.
"For us, its not so easy with such a big lead," Biela said. "Sometimes it's a little bit easier when there's a lot of competition. You're not concentrating on not making mistakes, but having to overtake and keep them behind you. Our guys did a brilliant job. Finally we won it. When we came to Audi this season, all we wanted to do was win. We didn't think we could win here (then), but we did it."
Clint Field is on the verge of becoming the youngest American sports car champion ever as he, father Jon Field and Liz Halliday won in P2 with the No. 37 Intersport Racing B05/40. That victory, combined with a DNF by Miracle Motorsports' No. 10 Courage, launched the 22-year-old into first in the drivers championship standings by 22 points over B-K Motorsports' Guy Cosmo and Jamie Bach, who finished second with Elliott-Forbes Robinson.
Field is four months younger than when John Paul won the 1982 IMSA GTP championship.
"With all that was going on out on the track, it was very satisfying to finish and cross the finish line first," Field said.
Field posted his fifth class victory of the season and fourth in the last five events. Finishing third Saturday was the No. 7 BAT Competition Lola of Mike Johnson, Georges Forgeois and Bob Woodman.
B-K Motorsports' No. 8 Mazda-powered Courage placed second in class. Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo moved up to second in class past Jeff Bucknum and Chris McMurry from Miracle Motorsports. Finishing third Saturday was the No. 7 BAT Competition Lola of Mike Johnson, Georges Forgeois and Bob Woodman.
In the highly anticipated third meeting between the two, Corvette Racing bested Aston Martin Racing in GT1. Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen won in class for the second straight year in the No. 4 Corvette C6-R. A valiant effort by the No. 57 Aston Martin DBR9 of David Brabham, Darren Turner and Jonny Kane resulted in a second-place finish. The car was heavily damaged during practice Thursday.
"This team is unbelievable. All the pit stops they have done since the beginning, and they've never failed," Beretta said. "They did a fantastic job in preparing the car. Jan and Oliver are very fast and very clever. They know when it's time to push and when it's time to save the car. We want the same thing on the car, and that makes for an easy life on the car."
Third was the No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen of Terry Borcheller, Johnny Mowlem and Ralf Kelleners.
Gavin and Beretta now take a 15-point lead into the final round in two weeks at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which pays 23 points to the winner. Their closest challengers, Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 Corvette C6-R, lost drive and finished sixth.
"The championship is looking good," Gavin said. "We didn't want to get in this position with having something bad happening to the sister car. You want to win it on the track."
In GT2, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister drove the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche to its third victory in a row and fourth of the season. They now lead Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche, by 22 points heading into the season finale.
Bernard and Dumas started on the pole but lost significant time repairing the lower control arm assembly just past the four-hour mark. That left Long and Bergmeister to run their usual consistent race to a victory.
"I can't say enough about this Porsche," Long said. "This car is indestructible. (The points race) is never over until it's over, and we don't talk about it until it's over. Winning Petit Le Mans is a big feather in my cap and the rest of the team."
The final round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships on Oct. 15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The race is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. PDT Oct. 15, with SPEED TV broadcasting the race from 3 to 7 p.m. EDT Oct. 16. Qualifying scheduled for 2:10 p.m. PDT. Oct. 14. American Le Mans Radio, and IMSA Live Timing and Scoring, will be available at www.americanlemans.com.