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  Archive of Audi R8 Race Reports/News/Photos 2002  

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

  ALMS Sears Point    

Champion Racing Supports Audi Factory at Sears Pt.


Champion Racing is set to supply the entire Audi R8 field at the forthcoming American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma Presented by Foster's Lager, in effect "competing against themselves" as the Audi factory team takes over Champion's "spare" R8 (chassis 405) - at least for one race - whilst Champion races their newer, 2001-spec R8.

The Audi factory team, Joest Racing, had planned on missing the second ALMS round at Sears Point, preferring to commit their 2002-spec R8's to Le Mans in June. But at Sebring Audi Sport North America approached Champion founder and team owner Dave Maraj with the idea of "borrowing" chassis 405 to race as a single factory entry at Sears Point. Chassis 405 is an ex-factory, 2000-spec Audi R8, which has recently been utilized for show car duties in its hugely popular "Stars and Stripes" livery, and was on display for the fans in Champion's paddock at the Sebring 12 Hours.

The Audi factory's plan would keep LMP900 points-leader Rinaldo Capello in contention for the ALMS Drivers Championship, but with four drivers the factory team would be forced to leave at least one driver out. Adding to the unusual circumstance, 2001-regular Johnny Herbert returns to the Champion R8 in California just one point off the Drivers' Championship points lead after winning the Sebring 12 Hours for Joest Racing. If the factory team missed Sears Point, Herbert could have gained a significant points lead over the factory drivers.


"We are a privateer team, and we are in the ALMS to win races and championships", said Maraj. "But we want to support the total Audi effort, so we're going to help all four factory drivers remain in points contention and we're letting them use our car to do it. We have leased 405 to the factory team for Sears Point, and painted it silver for them. We have also agreed to run factory driver Tom Kristensen in our car in California, along with Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace, and we believe 405 will be shared by the remaining three factory drivers."


The Joest team, who are preparing the car for Sears Point at their Atlanta facility, has already collected chassis 405. It had been a factory car during Audi's 2000 ALMS run, finishing second (as red #78) at the Sears Point round the same year. In 2000 it was driven by Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, who will again share the car at Sears Point with current points leader Capello.

Mike Peters, Champion team manager, comments, "At Sears Point some may think the tables will be turned because the factory will have the older car. But we are quite sure that Audi Sport will use their considerable technical resources to create a very competitive car, and we won't be taking them lightly. We are assisting the factory team, but we'll be pulling out all the stops to beat them on the race track."

Sears Point was Johnny Herbert's first American Le Mans Series race just one year ago; he and Andy Wallace struggled with tires and set-up issues throughout the weekend, ultimately finishing fourth. Champion's current R8, chassis 505, did not see service with the factory team until Mid-Ohio last season, so this will be its first trip to the demanding northern California circuit.

"I'm looking forward to Sears Point", said Champion regular Andy Wallace "It's a bit like a mini Spa (Francorchamps), an undulating course with some very quick corners. It will be nice to drive with Johnny again too after him doing his impression of a 'defector'! I haven't driven with Tom before, but we did some testing together in January; he's very quick, so it will be nice to work with him instead of against him."

Johnny Herbert agrees with Andy " It'll be a good race, and it's a very good opportunity for me personally and Champion to come away from Sears Point with a win, which in turn would also be good for the championship. Audi will be back with two cars and will once again be a force to be reckoned with at Mid Ohio so we need to take an advantage into the next round. Like Andy I have never driven with Tom before although we have known each other for many years. Tom did the F1 testing for Michelin whilst I was at Jaguar; we get on very well - it should be good fun!"

In spite of the various changes taking place for Sears Point, Dave Maraj is happy for Champion Racing to assist in any way it can to help facilitate the factory team's appearance at Sears and summarized it all in saying "I have no doubt the Audi factory would the same for us given a similar set of circumstances".

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