|March 19, 2000
Audi scores one-two result at Sebring
Dream start for Audi in the USA: At the Sebring 12 Hour race - the season opener of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) - the Audi Sport North America team finished in first and second place. Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro won the famous long distance race just ahead of their team mates Michele Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello und Allan McNish.
The fascinated race fans around the track saw an exciting week of motorsport, which Audi dominated from the beginning. After setting fastest times in almost every free practice, Frank Biela took pole-position with the silver-red painted Audi R8. Alongside him on the front row was Rinaldo Capello who set second fastest time in qualifying.
During the race, which was attended by over 110,000 spectators, the two 610 bhp R8s shared the pace and only lost the lead after the pit stops. There were no major problems with the car. "Engine and gearbox worked fine", says Team Director Reinhold Joest. The mechanics just had to work on the brakes of car number 78. A tyre blew on sportscar number 77 driven by Michele Alboreto losing him time as well.
"It was a long time before the race was decided and so a bit too exciting", admitted Head of Audi Sport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, with a smile. Emanuele Pirro, who set the fastest race lap as well, took over the lead only during the last hour of the race. "But I think everybody enjoyed this race."
On 1 April, the second race of the season is held at Charlotte (North Carolina). Afterwards the ALMS moves across to Europe: It starts on 13 May at Silverstone (GB) and on 9 July at the Nürburgring (D).
Quotes after the race
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "Of course I'm very happy now. Now we have a good foundation for the Le Mans race and the entire American Le Mans Series. But still there is a lot of work to do."
Reinhold Joest, Director Audi Sport North America: "That is really a big story for us to achieve this success just after one year with Audi. We can praise each other for sure. The little problems we had are quite normal. We will have them sorted out by Le Mans."
Michele Alboreto (#77): "Now we continue the season with a lot of self confidence because we know we have a very fast car. I did not drive much today because I could not get the right feeling for this race."
Rinaldo Capello (#77): "It seemed to me as if the track was smoother than last year. But that was because we improved our set-up a lot. This victory is a great success for the whole team."
Allan McNish (#77): "That is obviously a great success for the whole team. The competition was very strong, that makes it very special."
Frank Biela (#78): "We had bad luck several times during the race but we always managed to get back on the pace. That was a great teamwork."
Tom Kristensen (#78): "I took the car over from Frank twice and unfortunately there was always a problem. So I had to take more risks to make up time. Luckily it worked out every time."
Emanuele Pirro (#78): "Normally I do not believe there are ghosts. But after today I believe in the night-ghosts of Sebring. We never gave up and fought the whole race long. That is why this victory is even sweeter."
March 18, 1900hrs
Audi leads into the night
The two Audi R8s continued to set the pace at the Sebring 12 Hour race. When the sun went down over Florida the #77 R8 with Michele Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish took over the lead from their team-mates in #78 Audi R8.
After some brake problems during Frank Biela's last stint, the team worked on the car for several minutes, dropping #78 to third position although Tom Kristensen is now trying to make up time.
Frank Biela (#78): "For the first time I did three stints in a row and it worked out quite well. I set my fastest time during the third stint. There is less traffic on the track now. At the end I had a soft brake pedal so we had to work on it for a while. It is always the same thing today: leading, dropping after our pit-stops and coming back again. But we don't do that on purpose for sure!"
Rinaldo Capello (#77): "The car is still fine. But I also had brake problems at the end. So I had to play a lot with the pedal which made my left leg hurt very much."
March 18, 1600hrs
Audi R8 defends lead at midway stage
After six hours Audi is still dominating the Sebring 12 Hour race. While #78 Audi R8 of Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro still leads the field, the second R8 dropped when a tyre blew just before the end of the 4th hour and then made up time again.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "Our lap times are very good. Unfortunately we have lost a lot of time with small things like Michele's blown tyre which destroyed the front section of the car as well. I'm now hoping the cars will go on without any problems until the end of the race."
Reinhold Joest, Director of Audi Sport North America: "The finish could be very close but right now I'm very optimistic. We have not had any problems with the gearbox or the engine so far and I cannot complain about our lap times."
Tom Kristensen (#78): "I found myself in fifth position after the bad luck we had during our pit stop. But the car was fantastic and I got the lead back. Unfortunately the safety car came out but after the re-start I could make up about 20 seconds again before handing over to Emanuele."
Michele Alboreto (#77): "My wheels locked for three or four laps. I tried to adjust the brake balance but it did not help. At the end the tyre blew and we lost a lot of time."
Allan McNish (#77): "The track is very slippery, there seems to be some oil on the track. But although we are running pretty fast."
March 18, 1300hrs
Audi R8s are early pace-setters in the race
Audi is dominating the beginning of the Sebring 12 Hour race. Pole-sitter Frank Biela handed over the number 78 Audi R8 after a good two hour stint to Tom Kristensen still leading the race. His only problem was when the German had a car spin in front of his Audi. During the driver change Biela accidentally touched a switch in the cockpit which caused the electrics of the R8 to switch off for some seconds.
Rinaldo Capello, who set the second fastest time in qualifying, handed the number 77 Audi R8 over to Michele Alboreto just a few minutes later, still in second place.
Frank Biela (#78): "At the beginning it was quite easy because the track was clear. Then I had to work hard. But the car runs very well just as I expected. I'm really optimistic, the car feels very good. Even at the end of my stint we had absolutely no problems with the tyres. Michelin gave us very nice rubber."
Rinaldo Capello (#77): "The car is working really fine. Only at the beginning the car was sliding a little bit more than I expected because we had more fuel on board. But with every lap things were getting better and I could set quite fast times."
16 March 2000
Both Audi R8s on the front row of the grid
When this year's American Le Mans Series season starts on Saturday, two Audis will sit on the front row of the grid: Frank Biela takes pole-position with the R8 while Rinaldo Capello set the second fastest time in final qualifying for the 12 Hour race at Sebring (Florida). Audi had also dominated the free practice sessions the previous days at the former U.S. airbase.
"It was simply perfect, now I'm really relieved", said Frank Biela who set his pole time early on. Now the German is optimistic for the race: "Of course 12 hours is a long time and anything can happen. But now our chances are very good." Frank Biela will share R8 number 78 with Tom Kristensen (DK) and Emanuele Pirro (I).
Rinaldo Capello improved his previous best time, putting his silver-black number 77 Audi R8 in second place on the grid. The Italian partners Michele Alboreto (I) and Allan McNish (GB).
Head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich praised his drivers but also the entire team. "The team did a great job." After Tom Kristensenīs mishap during first qualifying the Audi Sport North America mechanics had to rebuild the front section of the 610-bhp sportscar.
Team Director Reinhold Joest is now also hoping for a good race. "This is a real dream start for us. Now I have a very good feeling concerning the race on Saturday. So long as we do not have problems, both cars should be in front at the finish."
Quotes after final qualifying
Frank Biela (#78): "It worked out perfectly on my first lap. I was rather nervous because of Tom's mishap yesterday. That could happen to anyone. But I had to push very hard and now I'm really relieved."
Rinaldo Capello (#77): "The first lap was okay. But during the second one a car spun right in front of me which produced a large dust cloud. I did not know where the car was after that so I had to brake. After that I could not go any faster."
Reinhold Joest, Director of Audi Sport North America: "That is really a dream start for us. One year ago I would have never dreamt of the times we are achieving today. But during the tests we sorted out many things. That was very important for this success because you cannot find a real good setup just within one week."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "The team did a fantastic job overnight by rebuilding the front section of the car after Tom's problem. The R8 is well-balanced on the track, which is one secret of our success. We improved our time by six seconds compared to last year - even with a smaller air-restrictor."
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