September 22, 2002
With a clear start-finish victory, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro scored their second victory in this year’s ALMS (American Le Mans Series) season. Starting from pole position, the German-Italian duo never gave up the lead in Laguna Seca (California) and after 2:45 hours of racing won comfortably ahead of the Champion Audi and the fastest Cadillac. Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen recovered to fourth place with an impressive drive.
Biela and Pirro, who won their last race at the end of June in Mid-Ohio, controlled the race and led each of the 112 race laps. The duo stretched out such a large margin that they didn’t even lose their top position during the pitstops. With the victory, the three times Le Mans winners narrowed the gap in the championship to Johnny Herbert, who remains in third position behind series leader Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello.
The secret stars of the eighth round of the ALMS were the mechanics of the Team Audi Sport North America. After damage to the rear of the Infineon Audi R8 of Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, most likely the result of contact traffic, they changed the suspension’s toe-link in record time so that Capello only lost two laps. After that, a furious recovery through the rolling countryside on the Pacific coast began.
Capello caused the spectators along the trackside to hold their breath: Coming back on the track in eighth place, he sliced back up the leaderboard to achieve fourth position. Thanks to his strong finale, Capello almost made it to the podium: He reduced the gap to JJ Lehto from over 20 to less than three seconds at the chequered flag despite a lot of traffic after a spectacular recovery drive.
Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson enjoyed a perfect raceday. After searching for the perfect setup for their 2001-spec R8 of the Champion team, they repeated last year’s Laguna result with second place to earn Audi another 1-2 at Laguna Seca.
Quotes after the race
Frank Biela (Infineon Audi R8 #1): “Of course I am very happy. In the past races we were so close to victory, but did not make it at the finish. Therefore, winning this time is even more satisfying. Until the very end of the race I was concerned that something could happen to deny us our victory. A fast or a slow pace – I just did not mind. The main thing was to reach the chequered flag and to keep the Champion Audi under control which we managed to do.”
Emanuele Pirro (Infineon Audi R8 #1): “After the tough times we had in Canada and also a little bit of bad luck throughout the Championship a victory like this is really what we needed. The car was good, all weekend long everything worked well and in the race we drove without any faults. This win is also a way to thank the mechanics who built up a new car after the accident in Canada.”
Rinaldo Capello (Infineon Audi R8 #2): “After we had changed the toe-link, I resumed in eighth position. From that moment on I simply pushed like hell. When I had JJ Lehto’s car in my sight three laps before the finish line, I thought that I could probably catch him. But then there was too much traffic and my chance for the podium was gone.”
Tom Kristensen (Infineon Audi R8 #2): “For the race, we found exactly the right setup. My fastest race lap and Dindo’s great recovery showed how good our car was today. Of course it’s a shame that we had this damage at the rear. Under these circumstances, fourth position is very good.”
Johnny Herbert (ADT Champion Audi R8 #38): “Great team strategy earned us this result and it’s deserved reward for the Champion team who never stop working hard for Stefan and I. A good pit call brought us up to third then second when the no. 2 Audi had its problem. It’s a good result for me because it keeps the title race alive.”
Stefan Johansson (ADT Champion Audi R8 #38): “The car was still suffering from understeer early in the race as it had done all weekend and the omens did not look good but we got lucky when we made our stop under a full course yellow. We began the race never expecting to finish second so we’re all delighted.”
Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director Team Audi Sport North America: “The no. 1 car had everything under control during the entire race and we also got all the pitstops done at the right times. For the toe-link change, I really have to praise our mechanics as they worked so fast that we only lost two laps in the race, so Dindo got the chance to catch up again. He also did a fantastic job and almost made it to the podium.”
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: “At the front everything was quiet and absolutely trouble free today. I’m glad for Frank and Emanuele, that they can celebrate another victory. Unfortunately we had to change the toe-link on Audi no. 2 – most likely the damage was caused due to a contact in the traffic. Dindo’s recovery drive was really great. It’s a shame they just missed out on a podium place.”
1. Biela/Pirro (Infineon Audi R8) 112 laps
2. Herbert/Johansson (Audi R8) + 25.799s
3. Lehto/Angelelli (Cadillac) 1 lap behind
4. Capello/Kristensen (Infineon Audi R8) 1 lap behind
5. Magnussen/Brabham (Panoz) 2 laps behind
6. Herta/Auberlen (Panoz) 2 laps behind
7. Knight/Block/Hürtgen (MG Lola) 3 laps behind
8. Weaver/Leitzinger (MG Lola) 4 laps behind
9. J. Field/Sutherland (MG Lola) 6 laps behind
10. C. Field/Neuhaus (Lola-Judd) 7 laps behind