Audi Sport North America and Team ADT Champion Racing Return to the American Le Mans Series with Star Studded Driver Line-Up
POMPANO BEACH, Fl. – Audi Sport North America, five-time American Le Mans Series Manufacturer Champion, and Florida-based Champion Racing, last year’s American Le Mans Series LMP1 Champion, return to the American Le Mans Series with not one but two Audi R8 LMP1 cars. Reigning ALMS Driver Champion’s JJ Lehto and Marco Werner will pilot the #1 Audi R8. Past ALMS Driver Champion’s Frank Biela (2003) and Emanuele Pirro (2001) return as teammates for the #2 car.
Assisting Team ADT Champion Racing in their quest for victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans will be six-time Le Mans Champion Tom Kristensen (ALMS Driver Champion in 2002) and 1998 Le Mans Champion Allan McNish (ALMS Driver Champion in 2000). All drivers apart from JJ Lehto are members of the 2005 Audi works driver’s squad, a fact that underlines the importance of the American Le Mans Series for Audi of America. Lehto meanwhile is no stranger to the company and to Team ADT Champion Racing as 2005 marks Lehto’s 3rd year competing for Audi of America and Team ADT Champion Racing.
JJ Lehto (38), born in Espoo, Finland but now resides in Monaco, spent a number of years contesting the Formula One Series before coming to the United States to compete in sports car racing. Since 1999, Lehto has been competing in the American Le Mans Series driving for BMW, Cadillac, and most recently Audi. In last year’s American Le Mans nine-race season, Lehto earned nine podium finishes, six first place finishes, one pole position and a third place podium finish at Le Mans. Lehto also earned his first American Le Mans Series Driver’s Championship.
Marco Werner (38), born in Dortmund, Germany but now resides in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, started racing in 1984 and his career has included success in Formula 3000, touring cars, and GT racing. Werner has two third place podium finishes at Le Mans, the first with the factory Audi team in 2002 and his second with Champion Racing in 2004. Last year in the American Le Mans Series, Werner earned his second consecutive ALMS Driver Championship by achieving one pole position, nine podium finishes, and six first place finishes.
Emanuele Pirro (42), born in Rome, Italy currently residing in Monaco, returns to the American Le Mans Series after a two-year hiatus. Pirro, ALMS Driver Champion in 2001, was the winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2000 and has three consecutive Le Mans victories: 2000, 2001 and 2002. Pirro has teamed up with Champion Racing the last two years for both the 12 Hours of Sebring (two, 2nd place finishes) and Le Mans (two, 3rd place finishes) and spent last year competing for Audi in DTM, the German Touring Car Masters series. This year marks his first season driving for Team ADT Champion Racing in the American Le Mans Series.
Frank Biela (40), born in Neuss, Germany currently residing in Monaco, also returns to the American Le Mans Series after a year in Europe competing for Audi in DTM series. Biela, earned his ALMS Driver Championship in 2003. Past successes include three victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring (2000, 2003, 2004) and three consecutive wins at Le Mans in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Allan McNish (36), born in Dumfries, Great Britain now residing in Monaco, most recently drove for Audi Sport UK in the Le Mans Endurance Series achieving first place finishes at the 1000 km race at Silverstone and at the 1000 km race at Nurburgring. McNish also scored a victory for Audi UK at last year’s 12 Hours of Sebring Race. In McNish’s first and only year of competing in the American Le Mans Series, McNish won the Driver’s Championship in 2000 and also helped Audi to win its first Manufacturer’s Championship. McNish’s illustrious career also includes eight years as an F1 test driver, an F1 driver for Toyota in their inaugural year (2002), and a first place finish at Le Mans in 1998.
Tom Kristensen (37), born in Hobro, Denmark currently residing in Monaco, is a six-time Le Mans winner. His first victory came in 1997 and from 2000 to 2004 Kristensen earned another five wins, four with Audi driving the Audi R8 and one with Bentley in 2003. Kristensen was the American Le Mans Series Driver’s Champion in 2002 and scored a first place finish twice at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1999 and 2000. Last year, Kristensen finished 4th in the DTM Championship.
“Audi of America is very proud to be working again with Champion Racing in 2005,” commented Rod Bymaster, Manager, Audi Sport North America. “The Champion Racing Team has developed into one of the best teams in the world and this year running two Audi R8 cars, they will be even more competitive. We are also fortunate to have a great driver lineup for the ALMS, all are present or past ALMS Champions and they have seven Le Mans wins combined. As for Le Mans, Champion has proven to be very competitive with two third place finishes. However, there is unfinished business and this year we are hoping for a win. The Le Mans trophy has been out of the US for too long.”
Founded in 1994 by Dave Maraj, Champion Racing (Pompano Beach, FL) has become a formidable opponent for teams competing in sports car racing. Supported by Audi Sport North America, Team ADT Champion Racing will seek to defend their 2004 American Le Mans Championship title after winning eight times in nine starts (seven by the Lehto/Werner combination). Since scoring its first overall victory in June of 2003, the Florida-based team has recorded 12 overall ALMS race wins from 17 starts.
Audi will achieve another milestone this year as 2005 marks the sixth and final season for the Audi R8, the most successful Le Mans Prototype of all time. Since its debut in Sebring in 2000, the Audi R8 has scored 52 victories from 62 races. In the American Le Mans Series, the prototype has posted 40 LMP900/LMP1 victories, 37 pole positions, the most of any race car in the ALMS history.
Team ADT Champion Racing will compete in North America’s most prestigious and longest running sports car race, the 53rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 16-19 in Sebring, Florida. This inaugural American Le Mans Series race continues to attract the finest and most competitive sports car teams from around the world, 2nd only to the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans race in Le Sarthe, France.