|June 5, 2001
Lemarie and Coronel Join Johansson at Le Mans
Former Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Stefan Johansson will be joined by Patrick Lemarie, of France, and Dutchman Tom Coronel in a Gulf Oils sponsored Audi R8 for this year's round-the-clock marathon on 16-17 June. Monaco-based Parisian Lemarie (33) has been a test driver for the BAR Formula One team since 1999 while Coronel (29), from Amsterdam, has raced throughout Europe and in Japan.
Lemarie contested the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time last year, a race Audi's R8 sportscar dominated when it scooped the top-three places, while Coronel has competed at Le Mans for the past two years. Patrick drove 60 laps in the Gulf Audi at Snetterton last week (30 May) along with 1997 Le Mans winner Johansson.
Patrick said: "Being a Frenchman, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours is especially important and the combination of the Gulf Audi and Johansson Racing will give me a fantastic opportunity of doing so. I'm especially thankful to Team Ascari for releasing me - they too are a great team and I wish them success at Le Mans."
Lemarie had been due to represent Team Ascari at Le Mans but Ian Dawson, of Ascari, has kindly given his blessing for Patrick to now drive the Johansson Racing Audi. After a successful career in Formula Ford in France, Lemarie moved into Formula Three and subsequently Formula Atlantic. He raced in Formula 3000 for two years (1996-7) before becoming BAR's test driver.
Coronel contested various touring cars between 1990-92 before winning the 1993 Dutch Formula Ford Championship. He finished runner-up in the Formula Opel Euroseries the following year, won the 1997 Japanese Formula 3 Championship and the Formula Nippon Series two years later. He has scored victories in two rounds of the FIA GT Championship already this year.
"Audi has shown in the past two years that its car is consistently fast and ultra-reliable," confirmed Tom who lives in Huizen near Amsterdam. "The Gulf Audi will provide me with my best ever opportunity of winning arguably the world's greatest motor race. I'm very excited and can't wait to get behind the wheel."
Johansson, of Sweden, is contesting selected American and European Le Mans Series' races this year with a 2000-specification "customer" Audi R8 operated from Arena International Motorsport's base in Littlehampton, West Sussex. Mike Earle, who has over 30 years experience in motorsport including Formula One, is Team Director. He commented: "With Patrick and Tom joining Stefan, the Gulf Audi team has a very strong line-up and one that should put us in contention for honours. I'm extremely grateful to Klaas Zwart and Ian Dawson at Team Ascari who have sanctioned Patrick's drive with us - they've been particularly helpful and understanding."
Since making its race début at Sebring in March last year, the 3.6-litre, twin turbo-charged Audi R8 has won 14 endurance sportscar races in North America, Australia and Europe.
Johansson, a veteran of 103 GPs in a F1 career spanning 11 years (1980-91) which included spells with Ferrari and McLaren, set the sixth fastest time in warm-up trials at Le Mans last month (6 May). Indianapolis-based Stefan lapped the 8.45-mile Le Mans track in 3mins 35.124secs - exactly one second under last year's pole-position time. Stefan will be racing at Le Mans for the 10th time.
The Swede set the fastest time during the opening four-hour session and is very optimistic for a successful Le Mans. "We know that we have a very good race set-up," confirmed Stefan who has recorded a third plus two fourth place finishes in the three races the Gulf Audi has contested this year. "We were one of the few teams to conduct a long run and were able to produce consistently competitive times."
The Johansson Audi R8 appears in Gulf Oil's traditional powder blue and orange colour scheme continuing a long and successful partnership with the event that goes back some 35 years. Other support for Johansson Racing's Le Mans bid comes from Brocade, a Californian-based computer network storage company, and Audi UK.