October 29, 2004
Source: Audi Sport North America
POMPANO BEACH, Fl. (October 29, 2004) – In the year 2000, Audi of America and Audi AG returned to sports car racing in North America competing in its first full season in the American Le Mans Series, as well as the production based series, the SPEED World Challenge GT series. During those five years, Audi has captured five Manufacturers’ Championships and five Driver’s Championships in the American Le Mans Series as well as three Manufacturers’ Championships and three Driver’s Championships in the SPEED World Challenge GT Series. One constant throughout this successful reign has been the exceptional partnership between Audi of America and Champion Racing, a privately run sports car operation based in Pompano Beach, Florida.
In the 2004 American Le Mans Series, Audi teamed up with the “privateer” ADT Champion Racing team owned and operated by Dave Maraj, also owner and operator of Champion Audi (one of the largest Audi dealerships in the South East) and Champion Porsche (the largest volume Porsche dealership in the world). Throughout most of the year the team campaigned just one car, the No. 38 Audi R8 with drivers JJ Lehto (Finland) and Marco Werner (Germany). In an effort to heighten the competition in the LMP1 class in the ALMS, Dave Maraj opted to field a second entry for the last of the two races at Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca. In the nine-race endurance series, the ADT Champion Racing team scored seven overall wins and eleven podium finishes. Each driver earned one pole position, Lehto at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Werner at Infineon Raceway.
During the hectic American Le Mans Series season, ADT Champion Racing also opted to contest for the 3rd time the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans. Veteran sports car driver Emanuele Pirro joined Lehto and Werner and together the three-man squad placed third on the podium giving ADT Champion Racing their second podium finish at Le Mans in three years.
Another first for ADT Champion Racing was winning the Team Championship in the American Le Mans Series. That honor was previously held by the German team, Joest Racing, who competed in the ALMS the four previous years. The competition was again tough this year as Dyson Racing challenged the Audi R8 with two Lola EX 257/AER race cars. While the Dyson cars were good with their “flying laps” during qualifying, it was the reliability and durability of the Audi R8 and Champion’s unrelenting, world-class teamwork which continually gave the advantage to ADT Champion Racing.
Other accomplishments for driver’s Lehto and Werner this season include:
- Lehto’s winning ways in 2004 have placed him atop two categories in the all-time statistics of the ALMS. He now holds the series records for the most overall race wins (16) and the most LMP1 class race wins (16).
- Werner has one of the best winning percentages of any driver in any form of racing. His ALMS career consists of 17 races and he has scored wins in 11 of them, a 65 percent record of winning, in addition to winning driving titles in both seasons.
- Lehto’s win in the Petit Le Mans was his 20th career win in the ALMS, moving him into a tie with Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell for second place on the series’ all-time career wins list. Four of Lehto’s wins came in the GT class in 2001. He is only the fourth driver in series history to reach the 20-win plateau.
- Lehto has competed in 47 of the 55 ALMS races that have been held since the formation of the series, tied for third on the career starts list with Ron Fellows and Jan Magnussen.
- In his 47 ALMS starts, Lehto has finished on the podium (top three) 40 times, the most of any driver.
In the SPEED World Challenge GT Series, Audi Certified Champion RS 6 Racing returned with last year’s Audi RS 6 “competition” cars and with drivers Randy Pobst, last year’s reigning Champion, and Michael Galati, five-time World Challenge Champion. The Manufacturers’ title came down to the wire with Cadillac, but Pobst’s fourth place finish at Laguna Seca helped Audi to secure their third Manufacturers’ title, one earned in 2001 with a pair of Audi S4s, and two consecutive years (2003, 2004) with the Audi RS 6.
Despite repeated adjustments to the Audi RS 6s, the duo still managed to earn four, 1-2 finishes in the ten race series as well as three podium finishes, two for Pobst and one for Galati. In the battle for the Driver’s Championship, Galati narrowly missed out in winning his sixth Driver’s Championship falling six points short to Tommy Archer and his Dodge Viper CompCoupe.