Audi’s seventh ALMS win


Champion Racing’s Audi Sport North America team finished the American Le Mans Series season in style at Laguna Seca last weekend by winning its seventh race of the year and scoring a one-two sweep with the team’s pair of R10 turbo diesels. Lucas Luhr/Marco Werner took their sixth win this year after Werner passed Emmanuele Pirro on the race’s final restart and edged away to win comfortably from Pirro/Marcel Albers.

The Audis qualified ninth and tenth in California so that they started the race behind eight P2 cars – four Acuras and four Porsches. The leading P2 cars set the pace for most of the four-hour race, but the Audis took full advantage of the many full-course yellows which occupied almost half the race’s distance using their horsepower advantage to work their way past the Acuras and Porsches. Come the final restart with about forty minutes to go the Audis were at the front and were able to race away on their own.

Laguna Seca was Pirro’s last race for Audi after a very successful fifteen-year run aboard the company’s touring and Le Mans cars. Pirro, 46, has not decided whether he will continue working for Audi as a technical consultant and test driver or move to another team and keep driving.

“I was really happy about the race,” Pirro grinned. “Unfortunately, the effort required to move up on every restart and take the lead took something out of the car so that at the end it wasn’t really the same as the car we had at the beginning.

“And on top of that I was really sleeping at the last restart,” he added. “Normally I’m quite good on restarts but I was sleeping for the last restart of this year. But I really enjoyed it and Marco deserves the win. It’s a great day for Audi and I’m really, really happy.”

Chasing Pirro across the line in third and fourth overall were the Andretti-Green and de Ferran Racing Acura P2 cars. Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud duelled fiercely over the race’s closing laps with Kanaan holding off Pagenaud to take first and second in the P2 category. Kanaan shared the Andretti-Green Acura with Franck Montagny while Pagenaud as usual partnered team owner Gil de Ferran.

But both the Highcroft and Fernandez Racing Acura P2 entries hit trouble. The Highcroft car suffered a power steering failure and the Fernandez car ran into electrical troubles which allowed P2 drivers’ champions Romain Dumas/Timo Bernhard to finish third in class aboard one of the three Penske/Porsche RS Spyders. That in turn enabled Porsche to beat Acura to the P2 manufacturer’s championship by just one point.

Thirty-six cars started the ALMS season finale and a similar field, bolstered by a Peugeot or two, will be on the line when the ALMS’s 2009 series kicks-off next March 21 with the Sebring 12 hours classic.

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