The American Le Mans Series ran half of its annual flagship race this past weekend at a rain-saturated Road Atlanta track in Georgia. The race marked the first anniversary of the inauguration of the ALMS Green Challenge, and in spite of the truncated race length, organizers announced winners in both the prototype and GT categories and the winners all came from the Volkswagen Group.
Among the prototypes, the No. 1 Audi R15 TDI led for more than four hours until shortly before the race was red flagged. However, the combination of the diesel's fuel efficiency and performance gave the Audi sufficient points to be declared the Michelin GreenX Challenge winner. Among the GT cars, several problems hurt the performance of the cellulosic E85-fueled Chevrolet Corvettes. Thus, the Flying Lizard team's Porsche 911s had the best combination of carbon footprint and performance. With only one race remaining at Laguna Seca, the Porsches look like strong contenders to win the season-long Green Challenge championship. Galleries below, official press releases after the jump.
[Sources: Audi, Porsche]
Audi R15 TDI wins efficiency trophy in the U.S.
- Rain brings "Petit Le Mans" race to an early end
- Classification after less than five of the scheduled 10 hours
- Audi R15 TDI winner of the "Michelin GreenX Challenge"
A note from Audi of America Communications: Please visit audir15tdi.com to see extensive highlights of the Petit Le Mans endurance race, including facebook, twitter, and video viewing possibilities (fb.audir15tdi.com, tw.audir15tdi.com, yt.audir15tdi.com). All videos also available on YouTube.
INGOLSTADT/ATLANTA, Sep 27, 2009 - Audi Sport Team Joest's test entry in the 1000-mile "Petit Le Mans" race at Road Atlanta (U.S. state of Georgia) had an unexpected outcome: The American endurance classic had to be red flagged just before half-time due to torrential rainfall. Although Audi had led almost entirely, the two R15 TDI prototypes were only classified in third and fourth positions. Small consolation: The Diesel-powered racing car won the efficiency award "Michelin GreenX Challenge" – a trophy awarded to the most environmentally friendly car.
The technically innovative Audi R15 TDI had also been the fastest car on race day. At the start in wet conditions, Allan McNish and Marco Werner immediately passed the two Peugeot 908s which started from the front row of the grid, pulling further and further away from their competitors. Then on a drying track, the superiority of the R15 TDI was even more impressive: Only a caution period prevented Allan McNish putting the second of the two Peugeots a lap down after one and a half hours.
In the following hours, drizzle and a total of seven caution periods ensured that the leaders stayed close together. Despite this, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello kept the lead for more than four hours before McNish spun behind the Safety Car on the extremely slippery track at the start of the fifth hour dropping behind the two Peugeot 908s.
When heavy rain started shortly afterwards, Audi Sport Team Joest was quick to react and brought the two R15 TDI cars into the pits for a change to rain tires a lap earlier than the competition from Peugeot. The rain, however, became so torrential that more and more cars spun off the track due to aquaplaning, including the two Audi R15 TDI cars.
When the prototypes could not even follow the Safety Car anymore, the race was red flagged after 4h52m of the scheduled 10 hours. At this point, the two Peugeot 908s were running slightly ahead of the two Audi R15 TDI cars. As the weather did not improve, the race was not re-started with Peugeot declared the winners although less than half of the distance had been completed.
For safety reasons, Audi also voted not to re-start the race although the two Audi R15 TDI cars would have been hard to beat on this day – a positive feeling with a view regarding Le Mans 2010.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Except for the result, we can draw a positive conclusion. We wanted to use the race to gain experience with the R15 TDI, and we have seen that the car has the basic performance. That was very important for us. We've always been faster or at least on the same level as our competitors in the rain, on a drying track and in dry conditions. Unfortunately, Allan (McNish) spun behind the Safety Car. When the heavier rain started, we brought our cars back into good positions with good strategic decisions. But then the red flag came out. The fact that the race was not re-started was a shame for us but absolutely right for safety reasons."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "We came here to learn and we learnt a lot – among other things that a race can be very crazy ... The early stages were amazing: Allan (McNish) was impressive in the rain. Peugeot had nothing to oppose, surprisingly. But later Peugeot had an awful lot of luck. They were about to be lapped by us when the first yellows came out. It was very unfortunate that Allan spun behind the Safety Car and lost the lead due to this mishap. Nobody could know that this would transform into the final result of the race which was really a shame for us. For me personally, this race has no result and I see us as the moral winners. Until the red flag it was definitely a good show."
Dindo Capello (Audi R15 TDI #2): "This was a crazy race. Unfortunately, the weather conditions have destroyed a possible big show, because I think it would have been a great fight with Peugeot until the very end. But we already had to stop before half-time. We had an awful lot of bad luck with the yellow flags and lost the lead just a few minutes before the red flag. That was really bad luck! On the other hand, it was very nice to be back in America, especially at Petit. And it was good to see that we can more than match the pace of Peugeot – unlike at Le Mans."
Allan McNish (Audi R15 TDI #2): "Obviously the end – having the race stopped due to bad weather – was very frustrating because we were in such a strong position at the beginning. We had a good and drivable car. I was able to pull quite a gap which was slashed by the yellows. I lost the lead because of a spin behind the Safety Car when the track had very little grip due to the drizzle. We would have had another shot on it when the red flag came out. We still had 650 miles or so of a 1,000-mile race to run. It was sad for everybody but the track conditions made it impossible to continue."
Lucas Luhr (Audi R15 TDI #1): "This was a very short-lived pleasure. Since I've only contested three races this year, I obviously would have liked to race for longer. I think we would have had a really good chance here. But safety comes first. It really would have been too risky to re-start the race. Therefore, the decision was entirely reasonable. The outcome of the race is not a happy one for us. But we have to live with that."
Marco Werner (Audi R15 TDI #1): "If the conditions would have been a little bit better we would have really been looking for a re-start. We were one lap down, but we would have had a chance to come back onto the lead lap. We had a small advantage over Peugeot under these conditions. On the drying track, our cars were much more gentle to the tires than the Peugeots. We had a clear 1-2 lead at the beginning and a 1-2 victory would have been possible. It's a shame that Audi has been beaten for the first time at Petit. But I don't see it like this: Under real circumstances the result would have been different. This was no real race."
1 Sarrazin/Montagny (Peugeot) 184 laps
2 Minassian/Lamy (Peugeot) + 2.011s
3 Capello/McNish (Audi R15 TDI) + 3.465s
4 Luhr/Werner (Audi R15 TDI) - 1 lap
5 Panis/Lapierre/Dumas (Oreca-AIM) - 3 laps
6 Brabham/Sharp/Franchitti (Acura/Honda) - 4 laps
7 Dyson/Smith (Lola-Mazda) - 7 laps
8 Melo/Kaffer/Salo (Ferrari) - 14 laps
9 Müller/Milner/Müller (BMW) - 15 laps
10 Henzler/Werner (Porsche) - 15 laps
- Ends -
Porsche wins manufacturers' title and environmental award
Stuttgart. Porsche claimed the first championship title in the American Le Mans Series already before the season final at Laguna Seca: At the spectacular 1,000 mile race of Petit Le Mans on the Road Atlanta circuit, Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner (both Germany) clinched third in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to secure the fiercely-contested GT2 manufacturers' title for the Zuffenhausen-based sports car manufacturer. Porsche also won the "Michelin Green X Challenge" environmental award.
Halfway through the ten-hour event in the US state of Georgia, the race was stopped due to torrential rain and was not restarted. "We really couldn't compete under these conditions. Water was everywhere on the track. It's a shame, because we were doing so well," said Wolf Henzler, who early on led the race at times in his 911 GT3 RSR run by Farnbacher Loles Racing. "But we are happy with our podium result and that we were able to contribute to Porsche winning the title with our performance."
The drivers' classification will only be decided at the final. However, Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) travel to the last race as the clear points' leaders after claiming fifth with their Flying Lizard Motorsports 911 GT3 RSR. "We didn't really want it to be so exciting and would have preferred to secure the championship right here," said title defender Joerg Bergmeister. "Our speed was very good and we sat in the top three most of the time. It would have been hard to catch the leading Ferrari, but still the red flag came out at exactly the wrong time for us."
Indeed - shortly before the race was stopped, Patrick Long ranked third, but lost two positions in the pits while changing over to rain tyres. Marc Lieb (Germany), who supported his works driver colleagues for this race, had profited before from the fast work of his Flying Lizard pit crew and at times led the race. "Had the heavy rain started at that point, Joerg and Patrick would be champions now," he said. "Today it was very difficult to find the right strategy. Nobody knew how long it would stay dry and when the rain would come. The Ferrari boys risked a lot and went for rain tyres when the others were still on slicks but they had the luck that eluded us today."
As well as securing the manufacturers' championship before the end of the season, Porsche celebrated another success at Road Atlanta. The second Flying Lizard Motorsports 911 GT3 RSR of Americans Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek finished seventh and won the "Michelin Green X Challenge". This environmental award goes to the race car with the best overall efficiency in the ratio of lap times and fuel consumption.
In the LMP2 class, the Porsche RS Spyder continued its successful comeback in the American Le Mans Series. Supported by Porsche factory pilot Sascha Maassen (Germany), Klaus Graf (Germany) and Greg Pickett (USA) finished in position three and climbed the podium for the third straight time.
"Today it was difficult not to make a mistake," said Klaus Graf, who spun off the wet track in the opening phase of the race with the Weissach sports prototype fielded by Cytosport. But the ensuing 37-lap stop in the pits had nothing to do with this excursion off the track. The reason for this lengthy hold-up was water in the fuel. "We have no idea how this happened," said Sascha Maassen, "but without this problem we would have had a good chance to finish even further up the ranks. We were on a very good way." The Cytosport pilots were unable to finish their promising charge: After an interruption of almost four hours due to the rain the race control decided against continuing the penultimate round of the season.
Round 10 of the American Le Mans Series takes place on 10 October at Laguna Seca in the US state of California.
Statistics: 9th of 10 races of the American Le Mans Series at Road Atlanta, GA
Result GT2 class
1. Melo/Kaffer/Salo (BRA/D/SF), Ferrari F430 GT, 170 laps
2. Müller/Milner/Müller (D/USA/D), BMW E92 M3, 169
3. Henzler/Werner (D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 169
4. Berretta/Gavin/Fässler (MC/GB/CH), Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 169
5. Bergmeister/Long/Lieb (D/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 169
6. Magnussen/O'Connell/Garcia (DK/USA/E), Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 168
7. Law/Neiman/van Overbeek (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 162
Points' standings GT2 class
1. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Porsche, 156 points
2. Jamie Melo, Pierre Kaffer, Ferrari, 137
3. Dirk Müller, Tommy Milner, BMW, 89
4. Wolf Henzler, Porsche, 84
5. Dominik Farnbacher, Ian James, Panoz, 80
6. Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell, Chevrolet, 65
7. Seth Neiman, Porsche, 63
1. Porsche 163 points
2. Ferrari 137
3. BMW 107
1. Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche, 156 points
2. Risi Competizione, Ferrari, 137
3. BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, 104
Facts and Figures
This is the American Le Mans Series
The American Le Mans Series was created in 1999 for sports prototypes and GT vehicles. The regulations correspond to those of the Le Mans 24 hour race. Ten races in the USA and Canada make up this year's calendar. Traditional highlights are the Sebring 12 hour race and the 1,000 mile "Petit Le Mans" at Road Atlanta. Most races run over 2:45 hours.
The starter field is made up of two different race car categories: Sports prototypes and standard sports cars. These are divided into four classes:
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 750 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms. Power to weight ratio: ca. 1.2 kg/hp.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with around 440 hp (normally aspirated engine) and an 825 kilogram minimum weight. Power to weight ratio: ca. 1.8 kg/hp.
GT1 class: Heavily modified standard sports cars with up to 650 hp and a minimum weight of 1,125 to 1,325 kilograms.
GT2 class: Slightly modified standard sports cars with approx. 450 hp and a minimum weight of 1,125 – 1,325 kilograms (e.g. Porsche 911 GT3 RSR).
All race cars start together but are classified separately. Points are awarded only for placings in each class. After 2006 and 2007, Porsche again won the championship titles in the LMP2 class last year for Drivers (Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas) as well as for Chassis and Engine Manufacturer and for Teams (Penske Racing) with the RS Spyder. In the GT2 class, Porsche secured the championship titles for Drivers (Joerg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler) as well as for Manufacturers and Teams (Flying Lizard Motorsports) in 2008 with the 911 GT3 RSR.
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