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  Archive of Audi R8 Race Reports/News/Photos 2001  
   
 

Audi R8  2001  -  2002  -  2003  -  2004  -  2005  -  2006

 
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Champion Racing -  ALMS Sebring 12 Hours
 
     
  Champion Audi 3rd place overall  
     
 

It was a long, hard day, but a good result for Champion Racing's Audi R8 at the 49th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Drivers Andy Wallace, Dorsey Schroeder and Ralf Kelleners brought the colorful 2000-spec #38 Le Mans Prototype home to third place overall after twelve grueling hours on the demanding 3.7-mile roadcourse at historic Sebring International Raceway. The 2001-spec Audi Factory entries from Joest Racing took first and second places overall.

After a week of preparation, testing, practice and qualifying under threatening skies, Sebring raceday dawned mostly clear and the day turned sunny and very warm over the course of the 12-hour enduro, which was run without a single incident requiring a full-course caution period, resulting in the second-highest total milage covered by a winning car in Sebring's storied history.

Our Audi Prototype had set practice times consistently in the top three throughout the race week's official practice sessions, headed only by the newer Audi Factory entries of Joest Racing. Andy Wallace subsequently putting the Champion car third on the starting grid in official qualifying. All throughout practice and qualifying, the choice of Michelin tire compounds was a key issue, the Champion team choosing to run the harder compound with an eye toward longevity of the tires during the race itself. Running a single set of tires through a "double stint" (two series of pit stops) was a key to minimizing time in the pits, and thus maintaining a high position on the race leaderboard.

Although the sunny and hot raceday weather would have seemed to favor our choice of the harder compound, it turned out that the other three Audi R8's in the race were having better success with a medium compound, which caused us to lose ground to the leaders in the opening stages of the race. A first pit-stop tire change to the softer compound was complicated by the car's radio having gone dead in the opening minutes of the race, meaning when Wallace made his first pit stop, the team had no idea of the tire problem and had hard compound tires ready to put on, which had to be quickly shuffled out of the way and medium compound tires fitted. This over-long pit stop, on top of having lost track position in Wallace's first stint due to the tire choice meant Champion was laps down to the leaders from early in the race.

The tire compound issue was resolved after the first stint, however, and the lack of radio contact was ably managed by the Champion pit crew and our ace signal-board man, Tom Morgenstern, who kept the drivers fully informed through pit board and hand signals. This, in addition to regular telemetry from the car, meant the crew as fully aware of the car's condition and fuel situation even though no radio contact was possible.

Our lack of time/experience with the new Audi showed itself during the race, however, when twice during the race the car's telemetry antenna (the tall, whip antenna)
was knocked off during driver changes. Each time this meant the car ran a full stint with neither radio nor telemetry contact, which was quite worrisome to the crew but which was ably handled in both cases without incident. After the second time the telemetry antenna was replaced, no further problems were encountered.

Due to the high loading on the left-front corner of the car while running through the very fast Sebring Turn 17 (connecting back straight to front straight), the left-front brake pads and rotor had to be changed late in the race, but this was accomplished without problems. Similar brake changes on the #18 Johanssen Audi did not go as smoothly, allowing Champion to capture and hold onto third place overall.

A major loss...

Even as the Champion Racing Speedvision GT team was celebrating their second-place showing in Sebring's Victory Lane Friday evening, the day before the 12 Hours, came word that 57-year old sportscar racing legend and long-time Champion driver and friend, Bob Wollek, had died just two hours earlier when his bicycle was struck by a car, not far from the track. Wollek's career is the stuff of legend, but his loss is particularly deeply-felt by the entire Champion family, who were privileged to know and work with Bob during the past few years as part of Champion's Porsche racing program, most recently at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Known to the team affectionately as "Uncle Bob", Wollek's untimely death left everyone at Champion reeling as Sebring race week drew to a close. Bob will be sorely missed by the entire Champion family, and by racing enthusiasts worldwide. Saturday's 12 Hours just wasn't the same without Brilliant Bob...

 
     
  Top Five Finishers Overall:

1. (#2) Capello, Alobreto, Aiello, Audi R8, 370 laps

2. (#1) Kristensen, Biela, Pirro, Audi R8, 370 laps

3. (#38) Wallace, Kelleners, Schroeder, Audi R8, 366
laps


4. (#18) Johansson, Smith, Audi R8, 362 laps

5. (#37) Field, Dayton, Sutherland, Lola-Judd, 332 laps

LMP900 Teams' Points after Sebring:

1 Audi Sport North America.....55

2 Champion Racing..............41

3 Panoz Motorsports..............36

LMP900 Drivers' Points after Sebring:

1 Rinaldo Capello.........59

2 Tom Kristensen... .....54

3 Emanuele Pirro..........50

4 Frank Biela................49

5 Andy Wallace...........42

6 Dorsey Schroeder.....41

7 Michele Alboreto.........31

Laurent Aiello..............31

9 Ralf Kelleners...........24

10 Guy Smith................23
 
     
   
  Andy, Ralf and Dorsey Celebrate Tribute to Uncle Bob Remembering B.W. and #3 Glowing Colors - Dorsey at Hairpin  
     
   
  Champion Audi - Ready for Takeoff Tech Inspection Setting up at Sebring The Pilots discuss setup  
           
   
  Ralf finishes his run Dorsey works on setup Early Race pitstop for Wallace Rob Dyson pays us a visit  
           
   
  Tuesday Testing     Kelleners and Kettler  
     
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