March 16, 2003

Audi Takes Fourth Sebring Victory in a Row
Text and photos courtesy of Audi Sport Press

Audi has won the Sebring 12 Hour race for a fourth time in a row. Infineon Team Joest and Team ADT Champion Racing battled with their Audi R8 sportscars for the entire 12 hour distance. While the "American" R8 was leading most of the race, Infineon Team Joest was luckier when a caution period and an unscheduled pitstop of Champion Racing helped the German team to take the lead just 90 minutes from the end and finally victory. Frank Biela/Philipp Peter/Marco Werner finished just 13.493s ahead of JJ Lehto/Stefan Johansson/Emanuele Pirro.

The race at a glance
- #1 Biela took lead ahead of #38 Pirro and #9 Salo at the start
- #38 Pirro passed #1 Biela in traffic on lap 5
- #1 Biela lost windscreen on his car during second hour
- #9 Salo dropped to 4th during second hour
- #9 Kane had various contacts during third and fourth hour resulting in replacement of nose section
- #1 Werner briefly took lead from #38 Johansson during fourth hour when doing a triple stint without changing tyres
- Loose wastegate sensor of car #9 McCarthy fixed after five hours
- #9 Salo had contact with another car in hour seven damaging right rear bodywork extension
- #9 Kane had rear part of car changed at the beginning of ninth hour. Lost 18 minutes and dropped to 6th
- #38 Pirro has severe cramps with 90 minutes to go and needs to be replaced by Johansson, losing his 10-second lead to #1 Werner
- #1 Werner defended lead until the end and won by just 13.493s from #38 Johansson
- It was the fourth consecutive Sebring victory for Audi and Joest Racing
- Second Sebring victory for Frank Biela after 2000, first for Marco Werner and Philipp Peter
- Champion Racing finished on the podium at Sebring for a third time in succession

Quotes after the race

Marco Werner (Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 #1): "I've won in Daytona and in Monte Carlo. But this victory puts everything into the shade. Sebring is unique. I am especially proud that I've become a part of the historic fourth Sebring victory in a row for the Joest Team and was able to be in the car for such a long time. I simply tried to do a good job. The crew worked perfectly well, the strategy was as good as you would expect it from Joest Audi. Wie tried triple stints and this worked out. It was not easy to drive so long with the same tyres, you had to be very careful. But it worked - the rest was done in the pits. Thanks to the team!"

Emanuele Pirro (Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 #38): "The seat was not located properly during my second stint and it caused me back pain but JJ helped me adjust it during the next stop and after that it was fine. During my last time behind the wheel, I had to stop a little early as I suddenly got severe cramps in the calves of both legs."

Mika Salo (Audi Sport UK Audi R8 #9): "This was my first ever sportscar race and I loved the experience. The start was fantastic and I just loved overtaking in the traffic - it was very exciting. I felt very comfortable with the car and we looked good for at least a top-five placing so to finish sixth is a little disappointing."

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport: "A fantastic result! The two R8 cars of Champion Racing and Infineon Team Joest battled for the full twelve hours. Both had the chance to win the race. The Joest Team was a little bit luckier. Until one hour before the end, Champion Racing looked likely to take a narrow victory. They simply were a bit unlucky. I feel happy for the whole Joest crew and the three drivers. For Philipp Peter and Marco Werner it was the first Sebring race with a sports prototype. In Frank Biela they had a very experienced teammate, but the team effort was really great."

Results

1. Biela/Peter/Werner (Audi R8) 367 laps
2. Johansson/Lehto/Pirro (Audi R8) + 13.493s
3. Herbert/Brabham/Blundell (Bentley) - 4 laps
4. Kristensen/Capello/Smith (Bentley) - 5 laps
5. Beretta/Jeannette/Papis (Panoz) - 15 laps
6. Kane/McCarthy/Salo (Audi R8) - 16 laps
7. Theys/Lienhard/van de Poele (Dallara-MG) - 31 laps
8. Fellows/O'Connell/Freon (Chevrolet) - 35 laps
9. Leuenberger/Graham/Maxwell (Panoz) - 43 laps
10. Luhr/Maassen (Porsche) - 47 laps