Audi has dominated the early stages of the 2002 Le Mans 24 Hour race. After four hours in warm and humid summer weather, the three Infineon Audi R8 sportscars hold the first three positions. Customer team Audi Sport Japan Team Goh improved from their 15th position on the grid up to 3rd spot and were placed 5th at 20:00 hrs local time.
In front of an impressive crowd, Johnny Herbert (Infineon Audi R8 #2) and Frank Biela (#1) took the lead from the start of the race swapping the lead various times amongst themselves in the opening four hours. A stop-and-go-penalty against Tom Kristensen due to overtaking under yellow flags opened the gap between the two leading Audis to about 30 seconds. "Of course I accept the stop-and-go-penalty, despite not seeing any yellow flags on the track," explained the Dane.
Johnny Herbert proved that the Infineon Audi R8 is not only fast but also comfortable to drive: The former British Formula One driver completed four stints in a row before handing over the leading R8 after three hours to his team-mate Christian Pescatori. "I feel well, the R8 is such an easy car to drive - that is what you want in such a race like Le Mans," Herbert explained after his marathon drive.
The number 3 Infineon Audi R8 made an unscheduled start: Michael Krumm collected a slow puncture on the formation lap. The subsequent tyre change dropped the Audi to the 50th and last position at the end of the opening lap. Within two hours, however, Michael Krumm and Philipp Peter had moved up to third position.
Shortly before the end of the fourth hour, race leader Christian Pescatori also suffered a puncture which cost the number 2 Infineon Audi R8 a lap and dropped him to third position. "There is a lot of debris on the track which cause the punctures. At the moment, we have to change the tyres more frequently than planned," explained Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport.
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