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  Archive of Audi R8 Race Reports/News/Photos 2002  

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

  ALMS Sebring 12 Hours  



Sebring (16 March, 2002) It was a grueling and hard-fought race from start to finish at the 50th Anniversary Sebring 12 Hours. In the end, ADT/Champion Audi R8 drivers Andy Wallace, Stefan Johansson and Jan Lammers finished in second place overall, also winning the Sebring LMP900 IMSA Cup for Privateers, as the highest-placed privateer entry in the LMP900 class.

After a week of warm and clear weather in the Sebring area, race day dawned humid and much warmer than any day during practice or qualifying, so in addition to being a tough endurance test for the cars, the Sebring 12 Hours would be a real test of driver fitness as well. A recent record 59 cars took the flying start at 10:30am, and Andy Wallace (who had qualified the car) made an excellent move from his fifth-place starting spot to move into third place on the first lap, and then promptly set out after the two leading Joest Audi R8's. Unfortunately, the technical advances of the factory Audis meant that even our latest-spec 2001 R8 was falling back some three seconds per lap to the two lead cars, despite the best efforts of driver and crew. If this race was to be ours, it would have to be won in the pits, but even that would not be possible unless the factory cars hit trouble at some point.

Wallace did a double stint to open the race (staying in the car at the first fuel stop), but was over a lap down to the leaders when he turned over to Stefan Johansson just after noontime. Johansson's experience was just the same as Wallace's, and it remained a struggle to keep within one or two laps of the factory cars. A tired Wallace exclaimed after getting out of the car, "It's just bloody difficult. We simply can't match the factory cars on speed, much less make up time, particularly when we're having to pass seven or eight slower cars every lap."

As the day wore on the ADT/Champion Audi R8 held on to third place as the factory cars traded the lead back and forth during pit stops. Johansson, and then Lammers were able to remain within the same 1-2 lap margin from the leaders, but could not make up ground. Whenever the Champion drivers set a quicker lap time, the leaders would pick up their pace to match, keeping the gap from closing. Of great help in the fight were our fantastic Michelin tires, which were able to be double-stinted, and which actually performed better in their second stints than their first! Every driver set his fastest times of his double stint in the second half, when the Michelins were already more than a full stint old. This allowed the team to keep pushing to the maximum extent, despite track temperatures exceeding 118 degrees F.

The #1 (red) Joest Audi was forced to pit several times to replace the car's nose bodywork after on-course contact with another car. Late in the afternoon it pitted again with its front tray full of steering fluid. These stops allowed Champion to move into second place, but only just. Then the #1 Audi had a very long pit stop to fully replace the steering rack, which effectively dropped them far enough down the standings that it was a straight fight between Champion and the #2 (yellow) factory Audi for the win.

Through the supreme efforts of drivers and crew alike, including some effective pit strategy by Crew Chief Brad Kettler during the long full-course caution near sunset, the ADT/Champion Audi R8 was able to regain the lead lap as the field raced into nighttime, and hold onto the lead lap position, staying in contention for the finish. All the drivers were using the car's maximum capabilities just to stay on the lead lap though, and were again unable to make any headway from there to close the gap to the lead car. But despite making two fewer pit stops than the lead car, and despite a mechanically flawless run for the full 12 hours, the lead factory Audi did not falter, and we were simply unable to catch them despite our best efforts. In the end Champion had to settle for a "best of the rest" second place finish, but the whole team was upbeat nevertheless.

"We did everything we could", said Champion Racing team owner Dave Maraj. "All of our careful preparation and the work of three great drivers were just no match for the factory cars today," Maraj continued, "I am proud of Andy, Stefan and Jan, and my whole crew for their tremendous work under these conditions. We are very pleased to be on the Podium here at Sebring, a race which has such an important place in the history of sportscar racing, as well as being a home race for Champion with all our friends and family here. And we are proud to take our new primary sponsor, ADT Security Services, to the Winner's Circle in just their first race with us."

With the postponement of the ALMS Miami race from April to October, the next event for the ADT/Champion Audi R8 will be at Sears Point, on 19 May.

ADT/Champion supporters line Sebring's front straight
Jan Lammers recovers from a hot and hard-fought double stint, which saw some of the fastest lap times of the race
Wallace works hard to stay in touch with the leaders in the early going...
Over 150,000 fans saw one of the hardest-fought battles in Sebring history
Keeping a close eye on the opposition's pit stops
Lammers out and Wallace in, plus fuel and tires...
Staying close to the leaders while working heavy traffic was a challenge all three drivers had to meet throughout the 12 Hours
ADT/Champion Audi R8 - flat out for 12 Hours...
Stefan Johansson leads the Caution-slowed field into the warm Sebring night...
Fuel, tires and a cool drink for Johansson
Lammers (r) prepares to take the ADT/Champion R8 to the finish
The late race message to Lammers was simple..."GO"
The huge field takes the green flag to start the 12 Hours
Andy Wallace in the Race Day warmup
Our ADT guests enjoy the race action from pit lane
We welcome ADT as Primary Sponsor for Champion's Audi R8 ALMS challenge
Second Place overall and Winners of the IMSA Cup at the Golden Anniversary 12 Hours
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