|August 25, 2001
Audi Second at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, Ohio -- Team Audi Sport North America learned that it is not always the fastest car that takes the checkered flag first in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). For almost two hours, the two Infineon Audi R8 sportscars of Rinaldo Capello/Tom Kristensen and Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro were the dominate cars. At half distance, the third place Panoz was already a full lap behind.
Various caution periods allowed the Panoz team to make up the lap they lost. When Rinaldo Capello had to come in for a stop-and-go-penalty because he passed the safety car, the #1 Infineon Audi R8 dropped to third. Capello managed to regain second, but was stuck behind the lapped sister Panoz in the thrilling final stages of the race. This eventually cost the team its chance at a win.
Mean while, the caution periods seemed to work for Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro in the companion Infineon Audi R8. Thanks to good race strategy, Biela took the lead at half distance. Shortly afterwards he had to come in for an unscheduled pit-stop to change the plug rail on the left side of the engine. Biela later passed the leading Panoz, unlapped himself and improved from sixth to fourth position with fast laps times.
Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace finished fifth with the 2000-spec R8 of the Champion team despite two unscheduled pit-stops and two stop-and-go-penalties.
Quotes after the race:
Rinaldo Capello (#1): "After my pit stop I followed Magnussen. I thought we lost all our advantage because of the yellows and did not realize that he was one lap behind. When he was waved by the pace car, I followed him because I thought I was third behind him and Frank. But this was not the case. In the end I tried hard to pass Lagorce, but after seven laps my front tires were completely finished."
Tom Kristensen (#1): "We did everything right at the beginning. We were even a lap in front of the Panoz. Not to change tires, was a very good decision. Even with old tires I did the quickest lap times. Obviously we were very unfortunate in the end. To lose like that is very tough."
Frank Biela (#2): "Actually, everything looked fine. Our pit stop strategy worked out perfect. After one stint we did a full service with driver change, refueling and tire change in order to have a shorter refueling during the next stop under yellow. After that I was in the lead but then we had the problem with the spark plugs. The extra pit stop cost too much time, maybe even the victory."
Emanuele Pirro (#2): "The way the race turned out we had a good chance to win it. We played a good strategy, but it did not work out because of this electrical problem. I am happy with my performance, I did all I could."
Johnny Herbert (#38): "Passing the number one car at the end of the race shows what we are capable of. We just need things to go our way. We had some bad luck. The new set of tires helped the handling a lot, but then the engine lost some power. We pitted, changed the black box and had to come in again to change the plug rail. After that the car was very competitive."
Andy Wallace (#38): "During my stint I had no grip. The conditions were changing this weekend. We started with very high tire pressure, but this did not work. When we changed, we reduced tire pressure. This seemed to work better."
Reinhold Joest, Team Director Audi Sport North America: "The overtaking of the safety car cost us the victory. Apart from that, Dindo and Tom drove a good race. I am sorry for Frank and Emanuele, who got in the lead with a clever pit stop strategy, but the electronics of the car were not a supporting player until the end. Too bad, but now we look forward to the next race at Laguna Seca."
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "Our team did a fantastic job after the problem we had in Mosport. This earns a big compliment. They built up two cars which were up to two seconds faster than the ones of our competitors. We had not much luck with the timing of the cautions, and of course you may not overtake the safety car. But in the hectic state of a race it can happen. We gave away possible victory."
1. Magnussen/Brabham (Panoz) 116 laps