Audi continued its domination of endurance racing in 2006, by capturing the victory at the Petite LeMans race at Road Atlanta this past weekend. In seven races this year the R10 has not lost yet. The R10s won all three of the biggest endurance races of the year at LeMans, Sebring, and Petite LeMans. Audi has conclusively demonstrated this year that diesels can perform, and and their extra efficiency helped them overcome the 143 lb weight penalty that ALMS organizers gave them. Right now only Audi is running diesels but they will be joined by Peugeot and others beginning in 2007. If the ALMS had more exposure in the US, and more Americans were aware of what the R10 has accomplished this year, diesel cars could start making some real in-roads in the American market. The Audi race report is after the jump.
BRASELTON, Georgia - For the first time, a diesel-powered sportscar has won the American Endurance classic "Petit Le Mans". With their victory at Road Atlanta, Audi prematurely clinched the Manufacturers' Championship in the LM P1 "top class" of the American Le Mans Series having already won the Drivers' and Teams' titles. The new Audi R10 TDI remains unbeaten in the seventh race of its début season, having now won the third most important Endurance race of the year after the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Audi triumphed at Road Atlanta despite its gasoline-powered LM P1 prototype competitors being allowed to race with 143 pounds less weight making them faster than the two R10 TDI prototypes. The key to success was the reliability of the revolutionary diesel sportscar which ran throughout the 1000 miles without the slightest technical problem. Consistent lap times, a good strategy, fast pit stops and the low consumption of the V12 TDI engine made the Audi success possible.
In front of a record crowd of over 90,000 spectators, the Audi drivers had to fight hard with the gasoline-powered prototypes, especially in the first half of an incident-packed race. The lead kept changing before the two Audi R10 TDI cars finally settled themselves in the top two positions at the beginning of the seventh hour and looked set for a commanding 1-2 result.
Thirteen minutes before the end of the 9-hour plus long race, however, contact with a slower GT car ended the race of the R10 TDI of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Marco Werner. Running in second position, Werner had to pit with damaged front left suspension. The repairs were completed exactly at the moment when Allan McNish crossed the finish line as the winner in the "sister" car.
Biela/Pirro/Werner were classified 7th overall and 4th in the LM P1 class. It was the sixth overall victory in nine races for the new ALMS Champions Dindo Capello and Allan McNish. Audi celebrated its seventh "Petit Le Mans" victory in a row - and the first one with the new R10 TDI.
Quotes after the race
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Due to the situation regarding the regulations we did not have the speed to control this difficult race. But we were consistently fast enough to be at the front in the end, thanks also to a good strategy, and the problems of others. We have earned this victory yet again with great reliability, team work and consistency."
Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #2): "We struggled a little at the beginning but from the second stint we got better pace. Both Allan and I were consistently fast - we needed to be because the Zytek and Creation were very quick. I had some anxious moments lapping slower traffic but managed to keep out of trouble in the traffic which was very important. It is an awesome feeling to have won Petit three times."
Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #2): "It was an extremely hard race from the start with a very fast pace of the Zytek and Creation. The race came to us as the ambient temperature dropped and our car got quicker and quicker. It feels good to have scored a diesel's first 'Petit' win - like we achieved in another of America's sportscar 'classic' races at Sebring. I'm very proud to have achieved a record seventh LM P1 class win in a season but obviously disappointed for the 'sister' car."
Frank Biela (Audi R10 TDI #1): "It looked pretty good for us for quite a while. I was happy with my stints, I was running at the front. Emanuele (Pirro) and Marco (Werner) also did a great job and were fighting hard. At the end we simply had bad luck. You can't blame anybody for this."
Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI #1): "This has been a very competitive race from lap one to the end. We tried everything we could. Marco was very strong at the end and stayed in the car for a long time. He did what a race driver should d Not to sit for second place. It was tough luck. But we support him 100 percent."
Marco Werner (Audi R10 TDI #1): "The race started with a good first stint. But then somehow things did not continue as good, neither for Emanuele (Pirro) nor for me. During the final Safety Car period a Panoz suddenly braked extremely hard in front of me. I tried to avoid him, but spun over the curbs and hit him. That sent me to the back of the field. When I tried to catch up a Panoz hit me quite hard. Shortly later the front suspension broke when I braked for the final chicane. I was able to bring the car back to the pits, but it was unfortunately too late for the repairs."
Dave Maraj (Team Director Team Audi Sport North America): "This is Audi's seventh consecutive Petit win which is a remarkable achievement. Both of our cars ran like clockwork until the dying moments when the #1 Audi suffered a problem which was a great shame because a deserved 1-2 had looked likely. Audi Sport North America once again displayed good race strategy with the entire team playing a big role."
The results at Road Atlanta
1 Capello/McNish (Audi R10 TDI) 394 laps in 9h 16m 49.835s
2 Johansson/Mowlem/Kurosawa (Zytek) - 4 laps
3 Dayton/Gidley/Meira (Lola-AER) - 5 laps
4 Minassian/Primat/Campbell-Walter (Creation-Judd) - 6 laps
5 Maassen/Bernhard/Collard (Porsche) - 8 laps
6 Luhr/Dumas/Rockenfeller (Porsche) - 9 laps
7 Biela/Pirro/Werner (Audi R10 TDI) - 11 laps